Medical worker takes on marathon challenge for Mercy Ships

Medical worker takes on marathon challenge for Mercy Ships

A determined former GP who suffers a number of health conditions ran the Manchester Marathon yesterday (April 3rd) to bring life-changing surgery to the world’s poorest nations.

Ruth Stunell from Rawtenstall, Lancashire, says her own health issues have made her realise how crucial the work of international charity Mercy Ships is.

The 41-year-old has mild scoliosis, one leg shorter than the other and a condition that affects her joints and skin but says these things have made her even more determined to help others who cannot access the care she is able to.

Ruth said: “I used to be a GP but I stopped because of the stress and the pressure on my mental health. I was in lots of pain due to my own health and sitting in a chair was only making it worse.

“My conditions caused a big impact on my mental health so I can only imagine the struggles people with severe disabilities in Africa are experiencing when they have no access to medical care. My mild disabilities mean I am lucky and I can run a marathon and help to raise money.

“Some patients that Mercy Ships treats have been living with massive tumours for some 20 years and severe orthopaedic conditions that prevent them living their lives properly. The impact their conditions must be having on their physical and mental health must be huge and they would get no treatment without Mercy Ships to help them. I want to help people get access to this care.”

Ruth worked as a locum GP throughout Rochdale and Manchester until 2019. She is now working as a nursing assistant at Birch Hill Hospital in Rochdale while she takes her Nursing Masters with a view to becoming a mental health nurse.

“Running has really helped my mental health. I manage my conditions and get advice on shoulder pain and use a heel raiser, compression top and shoulder strap to help me with my running. I joined a gym to strengthen my knees and found knee supporters also help.”

Although she found running the marathon hard – she loved the experience.

She said: “I was running about 10-minute miles until I hit ‘the wall’ about 18 miles in. After that i was slowed down to like 12-minute miles! I got bilateral shoulder stitch at 21 miles and the last 5 miles were really hard and seemed to last forever – but I kept running! The atmosphere was great and loads of people cheered me on by name by picking my name off my bib!

“I would do it again but hope it is easier next time! Great privilege to be able to run for Mercy Ships!”

Ruth says she was more determined to help the charity as she knows a fellow Rawtenstall resident currently volunteering as a teacher onboard the newest hospital ship in the fleet – the Global Mercy.

Kathryn Dungworth has been teaching onboard the Africa Mercy since 2019 and worked to set up the latest accredited school, the Mercy Ships Academy, onboard the Global Mercy. The pair met at the Kay Street Baptist Church in Rawtenstall, which supports Mercy Ships.

It’s not too late to sponsor Ruth’s marathon challenge visit: Ruth Stunell is fundraising for Mercy Ships (

Ruth after her marathon! Thank you, Ruth!

Ruth running the marathon