1969 Badminton eventer to run London Marathon aged 71

  • A former eventer who completed Badminton 52 years ago and survived horrific injuries in a 2016 fall is to run her second London Marathon this weekend at the age of 71.

    Shena Kozuba-Kozubska, who said she does “not do running”, is taking on the challenge on Sunday (3 October) 30 years after her last marathon, which raised £6,000 for the Mark Davies Injured Riders Fund.

    She told H&H she supported the charity as it had supported her after a bad fall at West Wilts.

    “Afterwards, I said ‘never again’, but here I am!” she said.

    “I had no idea how fast I should go; I did say I wouldn’t let a horse go across country unless it had done the time it had to do, so about three weeks beforehand, I ran the 26 miles, but then I had to go to Jersey to teach and couldn’t run there as it’s so narrow. So I did no training for the last two weeks but I managed. I finished in four hours, and was rather pleased with that.”

    Shena, who completed Badminton aged 18 in 1969 on Lord and Lady Hugh Russell’s Irish-bred eight-year-old mare Flamingo, said she “wrote to everyone to sponsor me” for that first run.

    “I remember John Oaksey and Brough Scott; one said ‘For God’s sake, make sure you train enough’, and the other said ‘For God’s sake, don’t over-train’, which I thought was marvellous,” she said.

    “I did think ‘Never again’, because it was ridiculous. I went to my sister’s afterwards and had a lovely Famous Grouse and American ginger, then the next day I had to move 200 bales of hay. As you do.”

    Shena went back to riding and teaching, and five years ago, had a horse in to train.

    “I knew he’d been somewhere a bit dreadful to be sold and they couldn’t sell him, so I said ‘Bring him here, he’ll be fine’,” she said. “I rode him down the village and the last thing I remember is letting a car go past. A month later, I woke up in intensive care.”

    Shena still does not know what caused the fall, in which she fractured her back, crushed ribs into her left lung, broke her breastbone, shoulder and wrist. She also now only has one functioning kidney as a result.

    “It was a bit disastrous really,” she said. “The whole of my left side was crushed, from back to front, and I’ve got one kidney that’s just sitting there, as dead as a dodo.

    “I don’t ride any more, I couldn’t put my family through it as that was terrible for them, and as I am, I wouldn’t be able to ride; I hope I used to ride well but I couldn’t like that now.

    “I’m pretty smashed up, so then you’ll ask why I’m doing the marathon!”

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    Shena explained that without the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance, she would not have survived the fall.

    “As soon as I came out of hospital, I said ‘I’m going to run the London Marathon for you’, and they all laughed,” she said. “I’ve tried for the last three years and kept getting balloted out, because I wanted to run for three charities, rather than just one. Luckily, this year, I got in through the ballot.”

    Shena will split her money raised between the air ambulance, which she hopes will also raise awareness of the service’s vital work, especially for riders, Horatio’s Garden, which builds gardens at NHS spinal injury centres, and the Motor Neurone Disease Association, as she lost her sister to the devastating disease a year before her fall.

    “I’m very lucky,” she said. “I’m not going to do it in four hours this time, I can tell you that! I’m going to totter, not really run, but the other day I tottered 20 miles in five hours. That was a killer because the stones on the canal were terrible, so I’m actually looking forward to the marathon as surely that will be better!”

    Shena said she would be delighted to equal her 1991 £6,000 fundraising total again; she has already raised over £3,000 on her Virgin Money page.

    “It’ll probably take me six or seven hours this time,” she said. “I’m in no hurry.”

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