A seven-year-old Rustington girl with coeliac disease is celebrating after completing the Cancer Research UK Mini Mile, her first race on her own.
Two years ago, before Daisy Akehurst’s illness was diagnosed, she was tired all the time and falling behind at school.
Now, she is a regular at Bognor Regis junior parkrun every Sunday with her parents, Jon and Kaylee Akehurst, and a keen swimmer.
Kaylee said: “She just really goes for it and it’s so lovely to see. If there are other kids going through this, I want them to know they can go out and achieve things.
“This was her first race running on her own. Despite a rough start to life and being diagnosed with ceoliac disease, she has come on so far. It was a big achievement for Daisy.”
Before she was diagnosed, Daisy had no energy and was struggling to keep up with friends at Georgian Gardens Primary School in Rustington.
Kaylee said: “It was holding her back at school because she was so lethargic.
“She was eating ice and cucumber, licking stones down the beach and eating salt in restaurants. We narrowed it down to pica, like pregnant women get, craving substances with no nutritional value because they are lacking something.
“We thought she was anaemic and she had a blood test, which confirmed it. She has to have iron regularly, or her energy levels can go down quickly, and gluten-free meals. She can’t have wheat because it makes her feel sick.
“She doesn’t get as tired now. She does the parkrun every Sunday and she swims like a fish. Her confidence has really gone up and she is on target at school.”
The Mini Mile was part of the Brighton Marathon Weekend, a big occasion for the family, as Jon was running his first marathon.
He said it was tough but there was a lot of support along the way.
“It is a completely different level to anything else I have done,” he added.
Jon has been running for three or four years, starting with 5k and building the distances to 10k, then his first half-marathon last year, in Windsor.
Jon, paramedic practitioner at St Lawrence Surgery in Worthing, ran the Brighton Marathon with a friend and raised around £800 for Guide Dogs.