Friday, 13 April 2007

Marathon Task......

The London Marathon is soon to be upon us, so here is an article I wrote for the Daily Express about three people's reasons for running.

3 April 2007
The Daily Express

Thousands will be taking to the streets for the London Marathon later this month.

SARAH EBNER talks to three of the runners

MILLIONS of us will watch in admiration as fun runners and professionals alike pound the London Marathon course on April 22. While we look on from the sidelines or our sofas, 46,000 will be sweating away, determined to finish the 26.2-mile course.

Professional athletes may be desperate to win this prestigious race but thousands of amateurs run for personal pride, in memory of a loved one or to raise funds for good causes.

The London Marathon is the world's largest annual fund raising event. Since 1981, £315 million has been raised, with £41.5 million added last year alone. Here, three runners talk about their reasons for taking part and their hopes of raising money for their chosen charities.

NICKI FORSTER, 33, lives in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, with her husband Matt, 35, and daughters Beth, seven, and two-year-old Alexa. Nicki recently lost nearly 10 stone. To crown her achievement, she is running her first London Marathon in aid of Children with Leukaemia

"I'VE ALWAYS been in awe of people who did the marathon. I watch it every year and always wanted to take part. I never thought I would actually run it one day. I've always been very overweight. I was a size 18-20 when I met my husband 11 years ago but I just got bigger and bigger until I weighed over 21 stone.

I was morbidly obese but I loved eating.

In everyday life, my weight didn't bother me and I've always been happy and bubbly. But after Alexa was born I began wondering how my girls would cope if I became ill because of my weight. I realised that if I didn't do anything, I might not see my daughters grow up.

I began my diet in January 2006 when I was 20st 6lb. I didn't go to classes because I didn't want other people to look at me but I followed a sensible eating plan and workout DVDs. I lost four stone in four months and thought that if I had the determination to do that, then I could run the marathon. One of the girls in Beth's year at school had been diagnosed with leukaemia, so I decided to run the marathon for Children with Leukaemia.

I now spend an hour or two on the treadmill at the gym twice a week, walk a lot and run two evenings as well. I've got so much more energy and confidence now and feel totally different, fit and happy. I'm a bit nervous about the marathon because I haven't ever done anything like it before but I really want to finish the course. That's my aim and I'm determined to do it."

To make a donation to Children with Leukaemia, visit leukaemia. org or tel: 020 7404 0808.

Nicki's personal fund-raising page can be found at bmycharity. com/ nickiforster

SUSIE HEWER, 49, from East Sussex, will be running in memory of her late mother Peggie Walton and raising money for the Alzheimer's Research Trust. Along with the running, Susie will be "extreme knitting" her way around the course

"I STARTED running five years ago in memory of my friend Caroline, who died of leukaemia, aged 44. I saw an advert for the 5km Race for Life and it seemed like a good memorial. I had never run before. At that time I wasn't working because I had given up my job to look after my mother.

She was suffering from vascular dementia and needed constant care.

My husband Mike said that he would take care of my mum for an hour each day to give me time to run. I started on the treadmill and soon became hooked.

By 2004 my mum was really deteriorating and it was extremely difficult for us to cope. She was incontinent, aggressive and couldn't feed herself any more. She didn't know who we were and needed 24hour care. Also, she wouldn't sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time, which was exhausting. Eventually, after seeing a specialist, she was put in a home. I was racked with guilt but know she would have been horrified by what we went through.

Living with dementia is so awful.

That's why I'm passionate about raising awareness of the disease.

When I saw an advert asking for people to run in the London Marathon for the Alzheimer's Research Trust, I decided to do it for mum. I ran the 2005 London Marathon in four hours 56 minutes. I raised £3,000 and loved it because there was such a tremendous atmosphere. It was also incredibly emotional. Mum died two weeks before the event and it was a real rollercoaster. I was crying and smiling when I crossed the finish line.

I've run other marathons and half marathons since but I'm 50 in June and decided that I should really go for it in 2007. I am doing the Kent 50mile challenge in July but before that I'm running my third London Marathon.

This year I decided I wanted to do something different and I decided to become an "extreme knitter". It was mum who taught me to knit and I love creating something from nothing. It's so relaxing and satisfying.

I run five days a week, for 50 miles in total, and for two hours of that I knit. I'm determined to knit a scarf during the marathon and a number of local knitting groups have promised to hold a Knit Out while I run. They're going to make me a silver blanket for when I finish.

Mike's really proud of me and I'm sure that mum would be, too. This is such an emotional year for me - I actually try not to think about it too much."

The Alzheimer's Research Trust is the UK's leading research charity for dementia. With no Government funding, the trust relies entirely on voluntary donations to fund its work.

Visit alzheimers-research. org. uk
Susie's fund-raising page is at justgiving. com/extremeredhead

DAVID REDGATE, 39, lives with his wife Karen, 35, and daughter Emma, six, in Nottingham. The London Marathon will be his first and he is running in aid of the Children's Liver Disease Foundation (CLDF). Emma was born with liver disease and has had two liver transplants

"EMMA was born on January 18, 2001.

Karen had pre-natal scans but none of them picked up on the catalogue of conditions she was born with. It was all a complete shock.

She was born with oesophageal atresia and a tracheo-oesophageal fistula. Basically, her oesophagus was closed off, which made it impossible for her to swallow. Her oesophagus and windpipe were also joined, which meant that anything she swallowed would enter her lungs.

Midwives and nurses didn't notice the problem for several hours but once they did, Emma was rushed to the operating theatre. She had her first operation at 12 hours old and, luckily, it was successful.

She also had a problem with her liver. The doctors should have picked up on it, not least because she was so jaundiced, but we were assured that there was nothing to worry about. A few weeks later, a health visitor noticed that, as well as the jaundice, Emma's stools were very pale.

She was convinced Emma should have some blood tests and contacted the hospital for us. Emma was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a condition in which inflammation develops within the bile ducts and causes scarring of the liver. It's vital to have a corrective operation, called a Kasai, as soon as possible but Emma's didn't work.

That left us with the horrific prospect that Emma needed a liver transplant. It was a hugely stressful time and I remember wondering if the phone would ever ring with news of a donor. But the first transplant took place in October 2001 and went smoothly. Three days later, Emma was sitting up in bed cuddling a teddy bear.

But liver disease is a life-long condition and we knew that Emma's body would always try to reject her new liver, however long it had been there. It was like living with a timebomb and in November 2003 we were told that Emma would need another transplant. All the fear and horror came back.

Emma had her second transplant in July 2004. Everything settled down reasonably well, and although it hasn't been easy and she will always be on medication, we now live for the day and enjoy Emma as much as we can.

I started running after Emma's first transplant. I was going through a very black time and a friend said that I should run to put me in a positive mood. It worked.

I'm determined to run the marathon and hope to raise a lot of money for the CLDF because we've had so much support from them.

You can't comprehend something like this until you've been through it and we wouldn't have managed so well without the help of the foundation."

The Children's Liver Disease Foundation is the only organisation in the UK dedicated to eradicating childhood liver disease. It can be contacted on 0121 212 3839 or see childliverdisease. org

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