'So much positivity': North Devon's 'Topless Runner' taking part in London Marathon after mastectomy

  • We caught up with Louise before the race.

A runner from North Devon who had a double mastectomy will be running the London Marathon to raise money for charity and promote body positivity.

Louise Butcher has become known as ‘The Topless Runner’ for running without a top to normalise and raise awareness of mastectomy scars.

The 50-year-old from Braunton underwent flat closure surgery after a cancer operation in 2022 and says she’s been overwhelmed by support since she started running.

She said: "It is unbelievable. When I started doing this - I started running topless about 12 months ago - I knew I had to do it.

"There are so many reasons I had to do it and I thought ‘I really hope people get behind this’ because it’s going to empower so many women and so many people.

"People have been amazing and I’m really thankful that people have jumped on board."

Louise started running topless 12 months ago. Credit: BPM Media

"So much positivity"

The charity worker completed a virtual London Marathon last year and is set to run the in-person event on Sunday 21 April.

Louise has raised money for the Fern Centre at North Devon District Hospital which specialises in cancer and wellbeing, and has helped the mum-of-two and her family.

She says her exercise is important to help kickstart conversations among women about accepting their bodies.

She said: "I’ve just had so much positivity. It started off positive, I’d say it was around about 80 per cent positive, 20 per cent negative at the start of my topless running a year ago.

"The negativity was valid, because it opened up discussions and it started to make people think about why we think in that way, why the stigma was there, what perceptions of a woman there are when they have no breasts, why do they feel that they’re not feminine when they haven’t got breasts?

"It got people to start getting people to think why do people think that way so I wasn’t ever upset about the comments - we needed the comments to get the discussion started."

Louise raises money for the Fern Centre at North Devon District Hospital which has supported her and her family through her journey. Credit: BPM Media

"Real freedom"

In April 2022, Louise was diagnosed with lobular breast cancer, just three weeks after being given the all-clear following a mammogram.

She decided to decline the offer of reconstructive surgery and had mastectomies to remove her breasts in June and August.

A five-day course of radiotherapy followed in September, and only three days after finishing her treatment, Louise ran her first marathon.

In April 2023, she made national and international news when running the 26.2-mile distance again – this time going topless, proudly displaying the scars of her double mastectomy.

She said there are "so many positives" about being able to run topless.

She said: “When I run, I feel free.

"I remember when I was a child when I was like 10 or 11 before you develop and you used to run around with no vest on and the breeze was on your chest and you just feel really connected to nature.

"When I was a runner before and I ran you’ve got chafing and you’ve got something jumping up and down but now I love it.

"I love running without a top because it does feel like real freedom."

After the race

We caught up with Louise after the race on Sunday evening and she said: "It was amazing! It was just like, the most thrilling experience. The crowds were unbelievable. T

"The last few miles were difficult, I had sickness. 600 yards to go, I ended up being sick in the road! But then I did it!

"I did it in 5 hours 36, so it wasn’t my best time but it wasn’t about that today. It was totally enjoying it and the messages that I was giving."

In terms of the reaction she got, Louise said: "The crowd were just so positive about what I was doing, it was brilliant. The reaction was unbelievable. They just kept shouting 'It’s the topless runner!'

"I was something I’ll never forget."