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“It gave me back the childhood I was in danger of losing”

22 March 2022

“I’m running the Cardiff Half to try, in some small part, to recognise and contribute to the heroic work of Cardiff University. I was raised by my mother, who suffered severe neurological injuries when I was very young. The cutting-edge research undertaken by Cardiff University saved her life and gave me back the childhood I was in danger of losing. It’s a privilege to be able to repay that by running in their honour, and in my mum’s.”


When Sian McCarthy (BA 2005, PGCE 2006) was a child, her mother was the victim of a hit and run accident.

Years of misdiagnosis and chronic pain followed, until a neurosurgeon at University Hospital Wales (UHW) Cardiff discovered that her mother had fractured her skull. The fracture was causing severe cranial nerve damage and trigeminal neuralgia – a condition that causes sudden facial pain.

Since then, Sian’s mum has benefitted from ground-breaking neuroscience and mental health research undertaken by academics at Cardiff University.

Now, to raise funds for the research that helped her mum, Sian is running the Cardiff Half Marathon as part of #TeamCardiff, a group of Cardiff University staff, students, alumni and friends who are aiming to raise £70,000 for neuroscience and mental health research, and cancer research.

“I want to give something back to the very team that are continuing to treat my mum today and others who are suffering,” said Sian, who works as a Library Assistant at the University.


Sian’s journey to running a started a few years ago: “I occasionally dabbled in the couch to 5km, but I always seemed to give up halfway through”, said Sian.

“After giving birth to my second child, I felt determined to complete the couch to 5km. It was the one thing that I could do around caring for my young children that was free, right on my doorstep, and more importantly gave me the headspace and time I needed to focus on me and hopefully drop some of the baby weight. And you know what?... I completed it in nine weeks and my love for running was born.

“I can now admit to myself and others with confidence that I am a runner. Running has given me the chance to achieve something I never thought possible. I’m in awe of my body and the fact that I am fitter now than I ever was.”

Sian will be one of 350 members of #TeamCardiff who will line up for the race on Sunday 27th March – Mother’s Day.

“This run is for mum and acknowledging her brave journey through illness and survival. It’s also a way to finally give back to Cardiff University research – a cause which has impacted myself and my family so personally. Small blocks make big towers and together we can support vital research that may provide the cure for someone or, as in my mum’s case, a way of living with less pain. That for me is priceless,” said Sian.

You can support Sian’s fundraising here.

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