Brain surgery, the risk of paralysis and dying was the catalyst for Corinne Tilleyshort to take a fresh look at life.

Not only has the Auckland customer experience manager come through those horrific circumstances, but she is now chasing a sub two-hour time in the New Zealand Sotheby's International Realty Half Marathon at the Air New Zealand Hawke's Bay International Marathon next month.

Tilleyshort remembers the day vividly, eight years ago, when her life changed forever.

"Without warning, I had a major seizure just as I was going to bed, I was raced into hospital and they found a tumour the size of a tennis ball in my head.

"They immediately identified it as being benign, but it was life-threatening, so they operated," she said.

"Surgeons gave me a high chance of being paralysed, that was scary. But two days later they operated, and I came through it well.

"It was only then that I thought, gosh, life is really short, and when you have no idea of anything like that going on in your body, you have to make the most of it."

The journey to running had begun but was itself fraught with danger when training for her planned first attempt at a half marathon, Tilleyshort ended up with two broken arms.

"I'd always walked but the whole experience gave me a new depth for wanting to do something different and a half marathon sounded kind of cool. But I didn't go hard out until about three or four years ago and that didn't end up going too well.

"I was training for the Auckland half and it was going really well, I was looking at doing that in 90 minutes. But I was running with my dog and he tripped me over, I broke both my arms two weeks out from race day.

"My cousin Steve Drummond ended up taking over from me and running for me on the day. As a team, we raised over $2000 for Starship.

"That was a real bummer and since then I've done two walking halves in 2 hours 45 minutes, and two running in 2 hours 4 minutes. I have set my sights on dipping under two hours before I am fifty, so the Air New Zealand Hawke's Bay event provided the perfect answer to my motivation."

Very much reluctant to be in the spotlight, the Grey Lynn resident won't be doing the event on her own, finding her own inspiration from a source close at hand.

"My friend Serena Walker is also doing the half in Hawke's Bay. She has made big changes in her life, going from a corporate environment to becoming a highly qualified psychologist.

Corinne Tilleyshort (right) and good friend Serena Walker. Photo / Supplied.
Corinne Tilleyshort (right) and good friend Serena Walker. Photo / Supplied.

"She has incredibly done the Oxfam 100k walk from a base of doing nothing, she does lots for charity and has a heart of gold.

"My husband, Gerard, will also be there as we enjoy a long weekend away in a wonderful part of the world."

That new lease of life has included plenty of exercise, with the New Zealand Sotheby's International Realty Half just the end result of a huge amount of hard work.

"Exercise is what I do for myself, and to get out with the dog, I do around 40km a week just walking with the dog (Dante) and to and from work most days.

"The last two halves I have worked on by myself, this year is the first time I have trained for it, so hopefully I have nailed it."

While Tilleyshort is living life to the full and can't wait to have a crack at that two-hour mark in Hawke's Bay this May, she faces regular checkups as a reminder of what she has been through.

"There is always a chance of the tumour returning, the biggest chance was in the first five years, I had an MRI every year throughout those first five years.

"But now, eight years along I get those checks every second year.

"I am just so thankful to have had the support of Gerard, our daughters Charlize and Kassidy and so many friends and family through both situations."

She will take her inspiring attitude and story to the start line at the Air New Zealand Hawke's Bay International Marathon on May 12.

A marathon for everyone

Thousands will take part across the event's four race options, from the Kids Run, Cigna 10km, New Zealand Sotheby's International Realty Half Marathon and the full Air New Zealand Marathon.

The event courses are flat, easy running.

They each offer a unique mix of running terrain, with a combination of running on-road, bike trails and through vineyards.

The courses take in the highlights of the Hawke's Bay region which overall include running along the waterfront in Napier, Hawke's Bay cycle trails and quiet country roads, with the last 10km of the courses running through private vineyards.

All events finish in the beautiful surroundings of Sileni Estates Winery.