Neal Abbotts, a 36-year-old construction worker from Alcester, Warwickshire, completed the gruelling 26.2 mile course in 4 hours 21 minutes despite not being able to even feel the ends of his feet.
Although he came close to throwing in the towel just four miles from the finishing line, the father-of-three was inspired to push on after former World Champion hurdler Colin Jackson reached out and gave him a high five.
Neal ran the Marathon in support of The Children’s Society, which works with the most vulnerable children across the country suffering abuse, hardship and neglect. He has already raised £2,455 for the charity and says more is coming in every day.
Explaining how he came to be diagnosed with MS, Neal said: “I thought I was in perfect health when I signed up to the Marathon, but in December last year I started feeling tingling in my feet. Over Christmas I couldn’t feel anything from the waist down. I could still run but I had to look where I was going or I would have kept failing over. In January I had a lot of MRIs and treatments. I was diagnosed with MS in the middle of March but I was determined to keep going and run the Marathon. I made it clear to my doctor that I wanted to run and I was never advised not to.
“I had to quit my desk job because sitting down hurts, and walking hurts, but running seemed to be ok. The steroids they had put me on didn’t seem to work – it was only running that has managed to help. Although I get huge muscle spasms when I set off on a run it soon feels ok.”
Neal’s rigorous Marathon training led to him losing five-and-a-half stone over 18 months. But as the MS began to hinder his mobility he continued to battle on.
He said: “I had to look after myself very carefully to get ready for the race. I had my fingers crossed right up until Sunday that the MS wouldn’t give me any problems, and luckily it didn’t give me any problems.”
When Sunday came, everything fell into place for the first 20 miles. Then suddenly he was overwhelmed by tiredness.
Neal said: “I hit the wall at about mile 22. There was a long tunnel and I just stopped, my arms had gone numb. I was worried it was an MS issue but I realised it was harder and more painful to walk than it was to run.
“Then all of a sudden I saw Colin Jackson and he was calling my name – it was written on my running vest – and he reached out and gave me a high five. That’s what carried me through to the end.
“I passed my wife at about mile 25. She had been very nervous about me running and she was over the moon to see that I had a smile on my face. It was very emotional – I was almost in tears. Then I saw the markers counting down – 800 metres, 600 metres – it was a flood of emotions, I thought ‘I’m actually going to complete it’. It’s been one hell of a journey.”
Neal said he was proud to have run for The Children’s Society.
He said: “It’s great to see a charity doing something to help vulnerable children who have gone off the rails, to make sure they are not written off when they slip up. Every child deserves a decent start in life.”
The Children’s Society’s Head of Events, Stephanie Drummond said: “Neal’s inspiring efforts, determination and passion to help young people are incredibly humbling and we hope people will be motivated by his incredible story.
“Every mile relentlessly accomplished by our runners will have raised funds to help us continue our life-changing work with children who often have nowhere else to turn.”
Donate to Neal’s online sponsorship page at justgiving.com/Neal-Abbotts