FOR 10 years she has triumphed on the running track and mastered marathons, earning herself the title 'the lady who runs' among locals.

But when Sophie Carter lost her mum to cancer, grief left her struggling to carry herself to the start line.

The Woodstock mother-of-two battled to overcome emotions that threatened to thwart her talent, following her mother Auriel Drobeck-Condon's death in October.

Ms Carter said: "I suddenly couldn't run, I think it was my body's way of dealing with the upset. It is so hard to predict how it will affect you."

The 37-year-old has previously won the Abingdon Marathon, Oxford Town and Gown and was the first woman to win the Ox5 Run.

Her performance dipped at the start of last year, after her mum, 67, was told that her four-year struggle with bowel cancer had become terminal.

Ms Carter said: "Life changed for me. The worse my mum got, the less focused on my running I became.

"I remember finishing races and just crying afterwards."

Self-employed personal trainer Ms Carter was Oxfordshire's fastest runner in the London Marathon last year and among the top 20 fastest women overall.

As her mum deteriorated she developed a fear of running, but entered the Vitality Oxford Half Marathon to force her to confront it.

Through the event she raised £1,500 for Sobell House Hospice in Headington, which she said was a 'lifeline' to her mum in her final years.

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She said: "The support was amazing and gave me faith in people's generosity. Staff at Sobell were very good in looking after my mum. They were always so helpful and kind."

As a gunshot sounded the start of the race she said her 'legs and head were in battle' and she had to envelope herself in a 'protective bubble'.

Ms Carter, who lives in Westland Way, added: "I don't know where the carefree runner had gone.

"The emotions of watching someone you love die and deteriorate are just too great for some people's minds. It helped me immensely knowing I had raised so much for the charity and that I hadn't let my fear get the better of me."

Just 20 days after the race Woodstock resident Mrs Drobeck-Condon, who used to run a ballet school in Germany, died at Sobell House.

The day after Ms Carter won a 30 mile race.

She said: "I imagined my mum was running with me, I had a very strong feeling she was there."

She said road races still terrified her but her confidence is gradually growing. She added: "Running has always been my therapy and I need it now more than ever. I can't do what I used to do just yet – and that's okay."