Without the Games, I don’t believe that I would have adjusted to civilian life anywhere near as easily, nor would I be where I am today.

Zoe Williams tells the Invictus Games Foundation about her experiences of the Invictus Games and preparing for the London Marathon.

I joined the Royal Navy in 2011 and soon after starting began to struggle with lower limb pain that nearly setback my training and made it difficult to continue. Nevertheless, I powered through and made it to sea, only to then suffer greatly with back pain, and more lower leg issues. It was at this point that I started undergoing extensive rehabilitation at Headley Court, with the ambition of eventually being able to continue my military career.

Finally, in 2014, I returned to sea, hopeful that my injuries were behind me. Unfortunately, after a number of months, the pain in my back was worse than it had ever been before and I had to admit defeat.

I had to resign myself to the realisation that I was not going to be able to continue the long career of service that I’d imagined I was going to have in the Royal Navy.

Taking part in the Invictus Games Orlando 2016 was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. More than the competition itself, the Invictus Games gave me a headmark to strive towards, a military community full of inspiring people to surround myself with.

Orlando was such a magical venue for the Games, with the most overwhelmingly awesome facilities, supporters, atmosphere, and competition. It made me realise that I could push myself, move beyond my injuries, and give a performance that I could be proud of.

Competing in Orlando came at a time when I was just embarking on a new career after the Navy. Being unable to continue with my service, and having to leave the military was a turbulent time for me, with a huge number of unknowns. Having the goal of competing at the Invictus Games provided me with something to strive towards, and the day-to-day victories I got through training for the Games gave me confidence that carried over into my work life.

Without the Games, I don’t believe that I would have adjusted to civilian life anywhere near as easily, nor would I be where I am today. 

I’m now looking forward to running the London Marathon on behalf of the Invictus Games Foundation. Running was my nemesis when I was injured, but since taking part in the Invictus Games I’ve sought out opportunities to prove that I do not have to be defined by injury and that if I apply myself, I can achieve things I once thought were impossible.

London has become my home since leaving the military, and having the opportunity to run for a charity that has given me so much, in a city that I hold dearly, whilst proving that I can now run, is the ultimate privilege. 

Training for a marathon is helping me realise that I’ve come so far from the depths of despair when I realised my previous military career was over. Never did I imagine that I would be running a marathon 5 years later! 

In training for the London Marathon, I’m currently struggling with a few niggles and aches. However, this has made me realise that I’ve learnt a huge amount about listening to my body and respecting it. I know that I could push through the pain, and the old, military me would’ve done so. But in order to run the Marathon for the Foundation I need to be sensible and make sure I rest so that I can do myself and all of my supporters proud and cross that finish line.

Through my training, I’ve realised that, for me, running a marathon is now an achievable feat! It has been eye opening, and inspired me to tackle bigger things next year. I’ve always wanted to complete an Ironman, so now I’ve got my eyes set on 2020 being an Ironman Year… Watch this space!

If you see me on the course during the Marathon, I would love it if you throw me a jelly baby or two, and scream my name!

Support Zoe’s journey to recovery by donating at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Zoe-WilliamsIGF

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