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Page last updated at 14:17 GMT, Monday, 7 September 2009 15:17 UK
'I'll try to walk the last metre'

Mary and her running team
Mary with members of her dedicated running team

Mary Head has Multiple Sclerosis. She can't get around without a walking aid, and on a bad day is confined to a wheelchair.

But this year she is determined to do the Great North Run, even if she only walks the last step.

Every year, Mary, from Nottingham, watches the run on TV and wishes she had the physical ability to take part - and in 2009 she will.

Eight able runners, including her daughter Elizabeth, will help push her round the 13.1 miles of road - except for the final few steps which she will try to undertake herself.

It's a huge challenge.

Warning signs

Mary Head
On a good day Mary uses her walker and doesn't need a wheelchair

Mary, a qualified nurse, was diagnosed with MS 14 years ago but, because of her medical training, she'd already suspected something wasn't right.

"About 20 years ago during an eye examination the optician told me my optic discs were very pale and they should be pink and healthy.

"But, because I'm very pale and have a fair complexion with red hair, we thought that could be the reason," Mary said.

"But I spoke to another nursing friend and we looked it up in a medical book, and it said it could be an early sign of MS. I remember thinking 'bloody hell'".

Over the years, she started to notice odd things happening to her, and when the right side of her body went numb she recognised the signs:

"When I was finally referred to the hospital, I asked the specialist, 'Is it MS?' He said 'If it is, it's the best sort' and I remember thinking, 'How can there be a best sort?'"

'I'm a star'

Mary's MS was diagnosed early and she believes she was "fortunate" that there was an MRI machine in Nottingham.

She describes her condition as "like getting old quickly", but thinks life is "too short" to dwell on the negatives - which is where the Great North Run comes in:

"I've been given this condition, there has got to be a reason, but everyone has something.

"To do something as wonderful as the Great North Run, and to be part of the atmosphere, will be magic. If I'm upright and not in my chair crossing the line, I'll think I'm a star.

"It will be difficult, but you have to seize and go for things, not hang around and wait."

A special wheelchair has been loaned to Mary so that she can take part in the event and she is hoping to raise £2,000 for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.



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