WHEN Emma Smith returned to running, she could barely manage a lap of her block. Now she's taking on the London Marathon.

When Emma was promoted at work, she was delighted.

She had no idea how exhausting, both physically and mentally, she would find the role of shop manager at a high street bakers, and what a negative effect it would have on her health and wellbeing.

Emma, who had been running regularly, gave up her hobby and turned to comfort eating to help her cope with the stress.

"I felt under a lot of pressure and I turned to food for relief," says the 29-year-old from Eastleigh.

"I went on to change jobs to a completely different role with a different company, delivering apprenticeships, but that was all very new and I had to get my head around it.

"I turned to eating. I'd be sitting in front of the television at night with a giant bag of Minstrels.

"I didn't realise how I was feeling at the time. Since then, friends have said that they could tell that I was very unhappy, but didn't know how to broach the subject with me. On reflection, I wasn't at my happiest."

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Emma says that her personal life was good, with a supportive partner and friends, but that work took over.

She went from being a healthy and active 11 stones to inactive and more than 17 stone in around three years.

"I didn't really notice it at the time but at the beginning of last year, I realised that I really needed to get into a routine with my exercise again, and sort out my diet. I realised how unfit I'd got, and signed up for the Eastleigh 10K, which was due to happen in March.

"I didn't do any training for it and when t was cancelled because of the snow and rescheduled, I saw it as a bit of a second chance and started properly training."

But having run regularly previously, Emma was very down-heartened when she tried to take it up again, and found how little she could run.

"Before, I'd been able to run for hours, and now I couldn't even manage a fairly short distance. I was lucky that my weight hadn't reached the point where it was affecting my walking, but it really affected my running and I felt very dispirited about it.

"Progress was very slow at first and I thought I'd never get up to running 10k, but I kept putting in the effort and made myself go out three or four times a week, and slowly I started building up my distance and bringing down my time."

As Emma ran more, she also began to lose weight. She also joined Weight Watchers, first through a 12 week referral from her GP, and went on to become a full member.

She has gone on to lose five stone and two pounds.

"Now I can't believe how far I've come, in terms of my weight loss and running in such a short time – less than a year," she says.

"I've proven to myself that I can pick something up and develop, as long as I am consistent. It's also made me put myself first. I love my job, my partner and my friends, but sometimes I have to put myself and my needs first.

"I lost myself in work for a while."

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Emma says that she would like to develop her running further, perhaps joining a running club and getting a coach, and also wants to lose another stone in weight.

"As your weight goes down, it gets harder to lose it," she says.

"Thanks to being in Weight Watchers, I haven't been as hard on myself about that as I would have been in the past. I realise that I'm exercising and eating healthily and I can't do anymore. In the past, I would have berated myself, fallen off the wagon and gone back to bad habits.

"Weight Watchers has helped me change my relationship with food and my weight.

"I'm looking forward to taking part in more races and getting my times down. I love running again."

Emma is running the London Marathon in aid of Music in Hospitals & Care (MiHC), which brings interactive live music sessions to people who are receiving care or treatment in healthcare settings across the UK. To sponsor her, visit: https://uuk.virginmoneygiving.com/ejruns

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