Meet the triathlete with a ticking time bomb in her head

Age-group triathlete Victoria Butler can suffer brain bleeds at any time, but that doesn't stop her racing triathlon...

Age-group triathlete Victoria Butler

Victoria Butler has a condition which means she can suffer brain bleeds at any time. Undeterred, she now races triathlon as often as she can and completed her first middle-distance race last year. This is her story.


I am a wife and mother to two boys. I love to paint, dance and keep fit. I was active as a child and cycled and skated, but I was terrible at running. I started running when my mum was diagnosed with lung cancer. I ran the Race For Life and slowly built up to a 10k, a half-marathon and finally with my first marathon in Brighton in 2010. I found a love for long distance and returned in 2011 and 2012, raising funds for cancer research and spina bifida.

“I finished the London marathon with a broken ankle”

I watched the London marathon religiously and swore I would take part one day. In 2013, I took a charity place but at mile 18, I tripped on a bottle. I finished but had broken my ankle in three places and spent the next 11 months in a boot repairing the ligaments. I thought that would be my last marathon.

On Sunday 14 February 2016, I felt unwell and suddenly lost consciousness. I woke up with no feeling on my right side, no taste nor feeling in my mouth. I went straight to hospital but didn’t present with normal stroke symptoms and was sent home. On Tuesday, I returned to the stroke clinic at East Surrey Hospital and after a CT scan I was diagnosed with a cerebral cavernous malformation (CCM) in the pons of the brainstem. The CCM can bleed again at any time meaning I have a ticking time bomb in my head, and due to its position it cannot be removed.

“The diagnosis changed my life”

The diagnosis changed my life. I lost the job I loved of 11 years and my fitness. It took several months for me to walk again, and I still walk with crutches. I have weakness on my right side, struggle with balance and fall over breaking bones easily. Plus, there are many other neurological issues.

My biggest challenge in the Outlaw X was the bike and balance. I never expected to complete it within the allowed time, but came in with 10mins to spare. They supported my dream from the very beginning to the finish line. I was hoping to complete the full-iron distance later this year, but due to emergency hand surgery it’s unlikely. It gives me more time
to train for 2023, though.

I raise money for the Cavernoma Society. I’ve completed many events from the 105-mile Rat Race Coast to Coast in Scotland to the Chiltern 50. I hope my story can inspire other people to take part in long-distance events from triathlons to trail running and for future events to be more accessible to disabled applicants.

Meet Victoria

Victoria Butler, 52, from West Sussex, had a haemorrhagic bleed on the brain six years ago caused by an undiagnosed brain tumour. Determined to battle back to sport, she has since completed more than 50 marathons as well as conquering her first big triathlon last September at the Outlaw X.


Top image credit: AWOL Adventure