Leeds woman who drank four bottles of wine a day now competes in marathons after transforming life

A Leeds woman who used to drink four bottles of wine a day and lost two jobs is now competing in marathons after turning her life around.

By Daniel Sheridan
Monday, 14th March 2022, 4:30 pm

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Mum-of-three Kathryn Blackburn, 54, started drinking when she was 14.

By 2017, Kathryn told the YEP she was a "barely functioning dependent drinker" - with her relationships falling apart and employment suffering due to her drinking.

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Kathryn has transformed her life

Kathryn sought support from Forward Leeds in 2015, free confidential alcohol and drug support for people in Leeds.

With the help of their team, Kathryn has now not had an alcoholic drink in more than six years.

Astonishingly, Kathryn has now gone full circle to manage the Criminal Justice team at Forward Leeds - a role she took up in 2018.

Her story features in a new book - Running for Our Lives by Rachel Cullen - that tells the stories of people from around the world who have used running to overcome adversity.

Astonishingly, Kathryn has now gone full circle to manage the Criminal Justice team at Forward Leeds - a role she took up in 2018.

“I started drinking when I was 14, it got worse in college", Kathryn explained.

"It really got a hold 25 years ago when I was on maternity leave with my first child.

"By 2007 I was a barely functioning dependent drinker. My relationships were falling apart, then my two eldest daughters left home as they couldn’t cope with me. I lost two jobs through drinking.”

After stopping drinking, Kathryn did a period of volunteering then started work back at Forward Leeds in 2018, supporting people with their issues around alcohol and drugs.

Astonishingly, Kathryn has now gone full circle to manage the Criminal Justice team at Forward Leeds - a role she took up in 2018.

She now uses running to help her recovery and "pay" her body back after years of drinking.

Kathryn - who has completed two iron distance triathlons - continued: “I’d started running when I stopped drinking to pay my body back.

"I was overweight, I had high blood pressure and I also wanted something to keep myself busy to replace the drinking.

"It was all about improving my general health and wellbeing.

Astonishingly, Kathryn has now gone full circle to manage the Criminal Justice team at Forward Leeds - a role she took up in 2018.

“My routine, and this is what got me through stopping drinking, was going to the gym three times a week and running on the treadmill.

"Six weeks later, not only was I still sober, I ran 5K so the two went hand-in-hand.

"Next thing I applied to run the London Marathon and won a place, even though I had never run more than 5K, and that was the start of me becoming a runner."

Kathryn - who lives in Oulton - said running was her "therapy".

She added: "I don’t run with a club or with other people.

"I just run, it’s my me-time, my happy place.

Kathryn struggled with her drinking before the help of Forward Leeds

"Running for me is quite spiritual, it connects me with nature.

"It allows me to process the challenges, the hard times and the bad days. Everything disappears in that hour of running.”

Kathryn's next big challenge is the Manchester Marathon.

Rachel Cullen’s book Running for Our Lives is due out on the 5th of May but people can pre-order it now from Vertebrate Publishing.

If you have concerns about your drinking or drug use you can contact Forward Leeds on 0113 887 2477 email [email protected] or refer yourself online at www.ForwardLeeds.co.uk

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