Ella faces challenge head on

Ella Reilly (8) trains in Dunedin yesterday for the children's marathon challenge next month....
Ella Reilly (8) trains in Dunedin yesterday for the children's marathon challenge next month. Photo by Craig Baxter.

A Dunedin girl is defying doctors' expectations that she would never walk and is training for an endurance running race.

When Ella Reilly (8) was born, nobody was aware she had had a stroke in the womb, her mother, Kim, of Waverley, said.

''I had no idea. She was 10 pounds [4.5kg] and it was a completely normal birth. It was just a random - 1 in 10,000 - event.''

Five months later, an MRI scan revealed the stroke and her daughter's lack of development.

Ella had since had several operations on her hands, arms and legs and intensive physio and occupational therapy sessions.

The ongoing treatment had been ''petrifying'' for the family, Mrs Reilly (41) said.

Ella had a metal pin inserted during hand reconstruction surgery in February. She had a pronounced limp and had worn a large leg brace until she started at St Brigid's School in Andersons Bay, but after each operation she had exceeded everyone's expectations, Mrs Reilly said.

Ella was a determined child and had entered the upcoming children's marathon challenge. To complete the challenge, she needed to run 40km in six weeks and then a final 2.195km at Logan Park and Forsyth Barr Stadium on September 8.

She ran 3.4km at school on Monday and then another 2km after school.

''She got home and wanted to keep on running,'' Mrs Reilly said.

She had been ''chronically shy'' but had found ''confidence and strength'' in running.

Ella said she had run 33km and would easily complete another 7km by race day.

On September 8, she planned to run the first lap with father Kieran and then break away to run her own race.

The secret to running a good race was maintaining a ''steady pace'' and suppressing the urge to sprint, Ella said.

Older sister Caitlin (9) usually sprinted too early and then struggled to keep up with her later in the race, she said.

shawn.mcavinue@odt.co.nz

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