GMR 20 Stories – Freya Lewis

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The AJ Bell Great Manchester Run in 2023 will be the 20th staging of the event. In recognition of this incredible milestone, we’re looking back on 20 unforgettable stories from two decades of running in the capital of the North.

20-year-old Freya Lewis, from Holmes Chapel in Cheshire, was just three meters away from the terrorist who detonated the bomb at the Manchester arena on the night of 22nd May 2017.

Her best friend Nell was tragically killed, but Freya – thrown forwards by the blast – somehow survived. She suffered 29 separate injuries, was in a coma for five days, and was wheelchair-bound for three months.

Just 12 months later, she was on her feet, running the Junior Great Manchester Run for the first time, raising £60,000 for the hospital that saved her

Freya reflects on that first experience, “I first did the run when I was 15, 6 months after getting out of a wheelchair after being injured in the Manchester Arena attack.

“I took part in the Junior 2.5k race, after doing a bit of training at a local gym. I was obviously beyond nervous, but I’d never felt an atmosphere like it! Manchester was buzzing and I felt the support of a community around me.

“I remember lots of great music and meeting great people! It felt wonderful to have people cheering me on to complete such a huge achievement for me.

“Thanks to the run, we’ve managed to raise about £70,000 for Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital who saved my life.

“I wouldn’t be here without them. All the staff are superheroes and helped to keep me and my family smiling in the darkest of times.

“The atmosphere of Manchester on the day of the run is always magical. I just love being amid the crowd of runners and supporters.

“I’m pleased to say the running has gotten easier! In 2019 I did the full 10K, prior to my major back surgery; I was in pain for the majority of the way round.

“But in 2022, after lockdown, I had properly trained and was healthy and fit, managing to run a full 10k, I felt so proud of myself.

“It’s a very special day in the year to me and one I always look forward to. It’ll be extra poignant as it’s the 20th anniversary. It’s an honour to even take part.

“Hopefully I’ll be taking part for many years to come. I will help out the hospital charity for the rest of my life – it’s the very least that I can do.”

Be part of a spectacular running celebration in the heart of Manchester on Sunday 21 May 2023, celebrating 20 years of the AJ Bell Great Manchester Run.

Whether you take on the 10k or Half Marathon challenge, you’ll line up on the iconic Portland Street start line and feel the goosebumps as you and 25,000 other runners follow the famous route, pass Manchester landmarks and set your sights on Deansgate for a grandstand finish.

With live music and entertainment zones at every turn, roaring charity cheering squads, plus the incredible local support who line the streets to cheer you on, it’ll be a party from start to finish.

This year’s event takes place on Sunday 21 May and entries are open now. Click here to sign up.