Trainee detective is back on track with Burnley parkrun after battling bowel cancer and threat of losing his leg

Chris O’Brien is a regular face at Burnley Parkrun – closing in on 300 parkruns and he can also be heard doing the 'New Runners' Brief.'

By Dany Robson
Wednesday, 25th May 2022, 4:05 pm

And he is just glad to be here after a turbulent two years where Chris, a detective constable in crime training, has had to battle bowel cancer and the threat of losing his leg.

Chris started running in 1996 and his parkrun personal best is 21 minutes and 10 seconds. He is among the 10,000 people who have completed the Burnley parkrun which is celebrating its 10th birthday.

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Chris O'Brien is getting back on track with Burnley parkrun after facing bowel cancer and the threat of his leg amputated

He was going all out to beat that when he was suddenly diagnosed with bowel cancer in December, 2020, and had to have a major operation.

The operation took a turn for the worst and Chris almost had to have his left leg amputated.

“I had my operation on my bowel on December 17th and that was a success but the day after it was found I had a rare condition, compartment syndrome, and I had to have emergency surgery.

"Prior to going into surgery, I had to agree to have my leg amputated which was extremely scary. It felt like the end of the world, on top of my bowel cancer.

Chris O'Brien loves taking part in Burnley parkrun despite two major health setbacks

“I was glad it was there when I woke up but my physio said I may never run again….”

However, Chris is, he says himself, ‘a stubborn old fool’ and he was going to prove the physio wrong!

He returned for a couple of parkruns post-op but admitted: “They didn’t go as well as they could."

He came back as a volunteer as he went through chemotherapy and had another operation earlier this year but wasn't going to let this stop his running comeback.

"I started running again and, running and walking the course, I was getting around in 30 minutes. I am now down to 26 minutes - and looking to break that!"

There have been 440 Burnley parkruns which have taken place every Saturday at 9am, with it only ever called off for extreme weather or events in the park.

It's open to anybody - from the superfast club runners to people who walk around the course. It's about fun, friendship and keeping fit.