JUST OVER two years ago Philippa Lord, of Worcester, was told she’d never walk again following a serious riding accident which left her with three broken vertebrae in the lumber region of her back.

In 10 weeks she will be one of around 50,000 competitors taking part in this year’s London Marathon and she is determined to run every step of the way.

Philippa, now aged 38, was a very experienced rider when she was involved in the accident at an indoor arena of an equestrian in Bromyard just after Christmas in 2015.

She started riding when she was six-years-old and her life revolved around horses and riding. Every day after work she would go straight to the stables to attend to her horse or go out for a ride.

On December 28 2015 she decided to take her horse, a five-year-old cob called Hurley, to a fun event at the centre in Bromyard. “It was supposed to be a Christmas fun show. I was doing mounted games.”

In one of the competitive events inside the arena Hurley had to pull up quickly and veer to one side to avoid hitting a wall beyond the finishing line, but Philippa went straight on and was flung into the wall.

Philippa explained: “He was trying to avoid hitting the wall and slammed on the brakes and I kept going. I twisted in the air and hit the wall with my back first. I bounced off and hit the floor. Luckily for me there was a nurse watching the show and she came running over and told me not to move.

“I have fallen off so many times and if I had got up I would have severed my spinal cord. I was in a lot of pain with my back but an ambulance was there in a few minutes and took me to A&E in Hereford.

“They did X-rays in Hereford and it was much worse than they thought. They were really worried about me. They said I was not going to walk again. The doctor who came to see me was adamant. They told my family I was not going to walk again.”

But Philippa’s X-rays were sent through to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QE) in Birmingham, which has a Major Trauma Centre specialising in the treatment of spinal and other serious injuries.

“The surgeon said he would try and fix me,” said Philippa. She was taken in an ambulance by road to the QE in time to see Consultant Neurosurgeon Spinal Surgery Mr Antonino Russo the next day and underwent an eight-hour operation on December 30.

Philippa had broken three vertebrae – one of which had also rotated and dislocated. “That was the really bad one,” she said.

The operation involved inserting two titanium rods into the lumbar region of her back held in place with screws.

“The surgeon knew immediately it was a success. As far as he was concerned my spine was stable and I could do almost anything.”

Despite the terrible pain Philippa felt when she stood up and started to move again in the first few days after the operation, she wanted to go home and, once she had demonstrated she could walk a little and also manage stairs, she was able to return to her home off the Bath Road where her partner and mum were on hand to help.

The medical staff told her she needed to keep moving but to build it up gradually. She started by walking slowly to the nearest lamppost and back home and then to the end of the road and back.

She said she walked so slowly she was overtaken by toddlers.

She was off work for about three months and had physiotherapy at Worcestershire Royal Hospital for several months as well as building up her own exercise and started doing Pilates to develop her core strength.

However Philippa had been told she could never ride again and was not to lift anything heavier than 10kg in case the screws came out of her back.

“I am not very flexible now because the whole lumbar region is affected. I can’t bend to pick anything up.

“The surgeon told me not to ride horses again. At that point, it had not occurred to me I could not ride again. I was told if I fell off a horse and damaged myself it would not be repairable. I am not allowed to do anything where I might fall.

“It was at that moment that my world came crashing down.” Philippa said horse riding had been her world.

But she knew she had been given a chance - a serious spinal injury could have left her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

She eventually sold her horse and as her mobility improved and she grew stronger, Philippa started doing dog agility with her pet cocker spaniel Dexter. “It really did something to fill the void.”

Dog agility requires the owner to be very active as well as the dog – especially with an energetic young cocker spaniel.

Just four months after the accident, Philippa asked her physio if she could start running. Although she had been a strong and fit person, which no doubt contributed to her successful and speedy recovery, she had never been a runner. “I never ran before. I always lost in races at school. I hated running.”

The physio got her on the treadmill and that was the start. “It was painful at first,” she said. She and a work friend decided to enter the Worcester Race For Life – the one with a few obstacles – and she really enjoyed it.

A few months later they completed the Worcester 10k run. “I am not the fastest but rather than going quicker, I go for longer. I used to like doing endurance events on the horse.”

By March last year Philippa had increased her distance and was able to run her first half marathon. She had been to see her surgeon for a follow-up and he asked if her back hurt. He said unless she was in absolute agony, the activity she was doing was fine.

Philippa did three half marathons last year and now runs, often with Dexter, five times a week. She and is now building up to her first marathon – the London Marathon on Sunday April 22 this year.

Her back still hurts after she has been running for a while or if it is cold but she is determined to stay active and take the chance she has been given. “I am grateful I can run and walk,” she said.

“Last year I saw the London Marathon on TV and thought I wanted to do it. I e-mailed Spinal-Research and they wanted to offer me one of their charity places for the marathon.”

She began her marathon training regime last December, is being supported by Black Pear Physio, in Barbourne, Worcester, and is determined to run every step of the 26 miles around the streets of London.

“I do not want to drag myself around the route. My aim is to run the whole way. I would like to do it in about four and a half hours I think.”

Philippa has to raise £1,800 in sponsorship and anyone wanting to sponsor her can pledge support by visiting https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=PhilippaLord&pageUrl=2

She has also secured a place in the Great North Run later this year.

Despite the huge disruption to her life due to the accident, Philippa is grasping the opportunity to make the most of her life. “I do not look back now and I do not really miss the horses.

“It all started from that first walk along the corridor at the hospital which meant I could go home.

“Taking those first few steps along the hospital corridor were the most strength sapping and excruciatingly painful part of the whole process. No one can imagine the pain I was in or the mental strength it took to walk those few yards. Running still causes me pain but it is something I enjoy and glad to be able to do.”

She said her family and friends had given her wonderful support and she felt it was more difficult for them seeing her in pain than it was for her going through it.