This is no ordinary Fast Friday! While, of course, it is a celebration of a personal best time, it is also a success story of overcoming many life and health obstacles.

An amazing story of someone learning to fall in love with the process of running and,  (this is key), running pain and injury-free. Which for us at CoachParry is very often as great a victory as a PB. 

Stella O’Shea started running in 2016 while recovering from stage 3 colon cancer. In 2014 she had extensive surgery and chemotherapy and due to an allergic reaction to the chemo, she landed up receiving only 30% of the proposed treatment. As a result, she now suffers from peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage in her hands and feet). 

This makes running in very cold or warm temperatures painful and difficult at times for Stella. Thankfully, she is sometimes still able to manage.

Stella recalls: “Sometimes if I played my music loud enough, I could almost forget the pain!” She said over this time she had gained weight and decided that it was important to use her second chance at life, to get fit again… 

Stella O'Shae

Here’s Stella’s story back to fitness…

She joined Tralee Parkrun in Ireland and walked the 5K as she was physically incapable of running and felt too self-conscious to run in public due to this weight gain. 

Initially, it would take Stella about 45 minutes to complete the 5K at Parkrun and she was so exhausted and fatigued afterwards she found she had to go to bed to sleep and rest after each run. With encouragement, over time, she began to jog…

…Over the next few years, her times slowly improved but never dropped below 33 minutes while running outdoors. 

“I struggled to negotiate hills, given poor core strength, hip stability and plantar fasciitis issues. I was also plagued by injuries, and so all physical activity was constantly stopping and starting as the months and years rolled by.”

In January 2021 after the long suspension of Parkruns due to COVID19 and lacking the structure of a weekly timed event, she was looking for a platform to motivate her to improve her running ability in a pain-free way.

The one positive of the lockdown in Ireland (if we can try and find a silver lining here somewhere) is this allowed Stella more time than usual to focus on herself, as her children were no longer involved in their many usual pre-COVID sporting activities. 

Finding CoachParry

Stella stumbled across the CoachParry Running Through Menopause Masterclass and started following our RTM Training Framework in February 2021.

Initially, she told Shona her goals were to run a 5k in a time of “30 minutes something” and, if possible, to run pain and injury-free.

9 weeks into her 12 week training plan Stella had a scheduled time trial. We use these time trials in our CoachParry plans every 3-4 weeks depending on which plan you are on for the purpose of “testing” where your progress is at, so as to also allow you to not test your fitness in every easy / long run forcing you to stick to the suggested paces.

Stella ran 29:59 in this time trial, 3 weeks out from her actual race day! 

So she has already beaten her previous 5km PB and her goal of “30 minutes something”, it’s clear that we’re really excited to see what Stella does on her actual race day (which is coming up soon)

Stella O'Shea Forum Post

When we asked Stella what she thinks has been the greatest contributor to her recent success she had this to say:

“Without doubt, the biggest contributor is the strength class schedule. I have much-improved hip stability and core strength and my plantar fasciitis has disappeared due to the foot core exercises no doubt…”

Stella went on to say “The pre-recorded classes allow me the opportunity to catch up on sessions that I cannot attend due to work commitments”

Consistency is key

One of the principles we as coaches believe in is CONSISTENCY. Consistency in training is where the magic happens.

Building day on days of training, turning into weeks on weeks and eventually months on months. Injuries and niggling injury concerns halt this consistency and therefore break down training progress.

In the last 9 weeks, Stella has been extremely consistent with all her training. This is largely due to the fact that she is running injury and pain-free again. 

“During the first couple of weeks with CoachParry, Devlin suggested alternative exercises to me so that I work around a hip bursa injury in the strength classes. This was new to me, as previously I had only rested, stopping all activity, when I was injured…

… now thanks to CP, I do not have an excuse to miss a session. In the past, I have been an expert excuse-finder. As a result, I have been fairly consistent and stuck to the programme designed by Shona, with my goals in mind.”

Due to all of this consistency, Stella is clearly not only well on track to beating her goals but already ahead of time!”

Adversity? Not for Stella

In most of our Fast Friday features or any of the Success Stories we read in the forums of the Coach Parry Online Training Club, there is usually some sort of adversity or something that needs to be overcome to attain this achievement.

With Stella though, she had this outpouring of positivity, and it just speaks so true to everything she has already overcome and the strength she has:

“To be honest I didn’t find it difficult. The daily emails and positive “can-do” attitude of the CoachParry team were motivation enough to allow me to improve beyond anything I had hoped when I joined.

I never thought that I would run a 5K with a “2” at the start of my time. Thank you for all of your help. I can honestly testify that if the programme worked for me, that it will work for everyone.”

Stella O'Shea parkrun

As human beings, we often don’t realise the effect our words or actions may have on an individual.

At Coach Parry we’re constantly striving to implement the understanding that coaching is more than just a science, there’s an art and a human element to coaching (which therefore obviously impacts performance as well).

When we were writing this Fast Friday feature on Stella we asked her the question “Anything else of interest for us?” and she responded with this:

“I was lucky that following the Running Through Menopause webinar, I won a 1-on-1 coaching call with Shona. I was a little embarrassed that my PBs were indicative of a woman who should really be doing better (33.04 – 5K).

Shona told me that “once you lace up your runners, and head out putting one foot in front of the other, you are a runner!” This sentence had a profound motivating effect on me… proving that the smallest thing that a coach can say, can have a huge impact on a person.” 

“Together, Shona and Devlin have restored my belief in myself that was hugely rattled by a cancer diagnosis and an incomplete treatment programme.” 

“Coach Parry has given me back confidence which I thought I had lost forever.

Now I enjoy longer runs, which is hard to believe really. Getting faster is a bonus once I can run happily and healthily for many years to come using the techniques I have learned with Coach Parry. Thank you so much!!”

Stella, your story is an inspiration! Your consistency and hard work over the last 9 weeks are a massive testament to you and your strength.

We are so looking forward to your actual upcoming race day and all you are going to achieve thereafter. 

If you’d like to discover the secret to running well to and through menopause, then register for our upcoming Running Through Menopause Masterclass below:

Strong female runner

Join us for a free online presentation of the…

The Running Through Menopause Masterclass

…and discover how you can run well (and faster) as you get olderwithout training more or harder than you currently are, all while avoiding injury. 

If it feels like you’re training harder than ever but not running the paces you’d like to be running or if you’re constantly tired, fatigued or running in some sort of pain, then this is specifically for you.

Save Your Seat In This Training Now…


Devlin Eyden has a passion for seeing his athletes grow and excel. From novice runners or cyclists across all disciplines to elite mountain bikers representing South Africa at World Championships. In addition to helping you ride faster, for longer, Devlin also has the personal touch when it comes to your bike setup, aiming at improving the overall rider experience. With his background as a Sport Scientist as well as a Strength & Conditioning specialist, performance is Devlin’s main priority, be it in the gym, the lab or out on the road or trails. Being a keen runner & cyclist and having completed the Cape Epic among others, Devlin has first hand experience in what it take to reach your goals. If you’re looking for a once-off training program or ongoing, high touch support Devlin has you covered.

Comments are closed.