11 inspiring stories from Norfolk runners taking on the London Marathon today
PUBLISHED: 09:30 24 April 2016 | UPDATED: 13:55 24 April 2016
Copyright: Archant 2016
On Sunday, more than 40,000 runners will be lining up for the 2016 Virgin Money London Marathon. Here, we take a look at some of those from our region taking part in the race, and the inspiration behind their decision to run what has become one of the world’s most iconic races, raising vital funds for charity.
•Friends Thomas Ginn and Gavin Fulcher, both aged 33, are taking on the London Marathon in memory of Norwich teenager Ollie Towler-Jones.
Mr Towler-Jones was aged 18 when he fell ill at the Latitude Festival in 2014 and later died in hospital.
Mr Ginn decided to raise money for Meningitis Now in memory of Mr Towler-Jones as he is friends with the late teenager’s mother Jo Towler.
“She lost her son to meningitis so running the marathon seemed a good way to help,” said Mr Ginn, of Norwich, who works in recruitment.
He said the first time he ran was in October last year, but he has since completed the Trowse 10k and the North London Half Marathon with friend Mr Fulcher, a sculptor.
Training is going well, with Mr Ginn running 40 miles per week, losing four stone in weight and targeting a sub-four-hour finish time.
The pair are aiming to raise £5,000 and have raised £4,850 so far.
To sponsor them, see tinyurl.com/tomandgavslondonmarathon
•A teacher from Thetford is running for a brain injury charity after it provided a ray of light in his mother’s last years.
Craig Skipp, 30, a father of two who works at Thetford Academy and now lives in Bury St Edmunds but was raised in Thetford, is running the marathon for Headway after it gave respite care to his mum Julie.
Mrs Skipp attended Headway sessions two days a week before she died at the age of 52 in 2012.
Mr Skipp said the sessions were a highlight of his mother’s week after she was paralysed in 1995 after falling down the stairs in her home in Thetford.
“She went there for ten years and the difference it made to her life was massive.
“Apart from seeing her children and grandchildren, it was the one thing which she enjoyed and became a big part of her life,” he said.
He is hoping to raise £2,000 for the charity and his kit has been sponsored by the Dockerill Group.
Go to www.uk.virginmoneygiving.com/craigskipp to contribute to Mr Skipp’s fundraising.
•A man who broke his neck and was told by doctors he might never walk again will be lining up to take part in his first London Marathon.
Trevor Steward, from Watton, suffered the injuries in a serious car accident near his home in 2004.
He said: “It was like having the body of a six-month-old baby.
“You have to learn how to walk and eat again; you have to start again from scratch.
“It took me a long time to get over it, but I was lucky – I got given a second chance. That was when I decided I wanted to run the London Marathon.”
The 48-year-old spent 10 years applying to enter the race, before finally being accepted this year.
However, the martial arts instructor suffered a further setback after an accident at work recently left him with three broken toes but he is determined to keep going.
He has already raised nearly £4,000 for Hounds for Heroes, which provides assistance dogs to injured and disabled members of the UK Armed Forces and emergency services, and Children with Cancer UK.
To donate go to www.justgiving.com/Trevor-Steward
•A man who died in an accident at a Norfolk sailing club has inspired two people to run the marathon to raise money for the East Anglia Air Ambulance.
Tom Gentle, who was a highly-respected yachtsman, died in an accident at Norfolk Broads Yacht Club’s headquarters in Wroxham as he was preparing for an annual race on the Broads last year.
The air ambulance attended along with other emergency services but his life could not be saved.
Just a week after his death, 24-year-old sailing coach Flip Foulds heard she had got a place in the ballot for the marathon and decided she would use the opportunity to raise funds in his memory.
Ms Foulds, who lives near North Walsham, said: “I’m running the marathon in memory of a man who was very well respected at our club and is sorely missed.
“I know the charity was important to Tom as well.”
Donations can be made at uk.virginmoneygiving.com/FelicityFoulds.
Meanwhile 22-year-old Mel Fewtrell, a fitness instructor from Norwich, is also running in memory of Mr Gentle.
Ms Fewtrell, who is group exercise manager at Virgin Active, ran a spin class that Mr Gentle regularly attended.
She said: “He was a true gentleman and thought very fondly of the charity. He is missed every single day.”
Ms Fewtrell has been fundraising through work and has an online sponsorship page at uk.virginmoneygiving.com/MelFewtrell.
•Tackling the marathon distance for the first time is Mustard TV sports presenter Michael Bailey who will be raising money for Alzheimer’s Research.
Despite becoming a father to a baby boy just 11 weeks ago, Mr Bailey has managed to find the time to put in the training, thanks to a very understanding wife.
His chosen charity is one close to his heart.
“I have known a number of people whose families have been affected by Alzheimer’s and seen the effect it can have,” he said.
“I have also come across it in the line of my work with a number of top footballers affected.”
Mr Bailey is hoping to raise £3,000 for the charity and has already managed almost £1,500 which he hopes will be matched by his employers.
Although he has completed a number of half marathons, this will be his first time going the full distance and his wife and son and parents will be in London to cheer him on.
To donate, go to www.justgiving.com/mrmichaeljbailey
•Two midwives will take a break from delivering babies to raise money for a charity close to their hearts.
Georgia Hegarty, from Pulham Market, and Lou Read, from Wymondham, were colleagues at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital before Mrs Read moved to community midwifery.
The pair will be running for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.
Mrs Read’s sister Kelly was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) when she was 23 and was forced to give up work to focus on her health.
The 33-year-old said: “The run is to raise money and to raise awareness. I think it is more heard of now but I still think there needs to be more knowledge of what it is.”
Mrs Hegarty’s friend Sarah inspired her to raise money for the charity.
Mrs Hegarty, 50, said: “Sarah ran and managed riding stables my daughter went to even though she was really ill with CF. She was such an inspiration. She just kept going and I think if she can do that then I can do what I am doing.”
Neither of the midwives has run a marathon before but will use each other’s encouragement and the occasion to get through the 26 miles.
To sponsor the pair visit www.uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/GeorgiaandLou
•It was a visit to a children’s hospice that prompted Robert Ledger to enter the London Marathon for charity.
This will be the first marathon for the 51-year-old who works at Aviva in Norwich and he is hoping to raise £1,500 for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH).
“I chose EACH because I wanted a cause I believed in and one that would help local families,” he said.
“As a parent myself I feel so fortunate that all my children have been healthy.
“I live fairly near to the Quidenham hospice and recently went on a tour to learn more about the charity.
“I was amazed by the vast amount of work EACH does in the community and how much this specialist work costs – this tour has motivated me even more to raise money for them.”
Mr Ledger, from Attleborough, was persuaded be a friend to enter the ballot for the race.
“I’ve been a runner for a few years and have taken on several half marathons.
“I was lucky enough to get a place. I didn’t want to waste the opportunity so wanted to raise money for a good cause at the same time.”
Mr Ledger has been training hard for the big day, running regular long distances and taking part in the Wymondham AC 20-mile race earlier this month.
He said: “As I’ve discovered, training for a marathon gives you lots of time to think, particularly on cold, dark, winter evenings.
“I pondered long and hard about which charity to support and finally decided on EACH.
“I will have lots of family and friends there cheering me on so the thought of seeing them all at the finish will keep me going.”
Donations can be made at uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RobertLedger1
•A doctor is planning will be swapping his stethoscope for a pair of trainers after seeing first hand the effects cancer has on people.
Attleborough Surgery GP Dr Simon Vavasour, who lives in Norwich, is raising money for research charity Breast Cancer Now,
He said: “My sister has been diagnosed with breast cancer and a friend of mine has been diagnosed with it as well.
“I’ve also seen quite a few breast cancer patients lately, so it struck a chord and I decided to sign up.”
Dr Vavasour said he had seen the difference research into the disease had made over the course of his career.
He said: “Research is amazingly important when you look at the advances that have been made over the past 20 years.
“Breast cancer used to be a terminal diagnosis for a lot of people, but patients’ life expectancy has got a lot better now due to improved treatment.
“They do constantly need funding to keep the research going.”
Dr Vavasour finished his first marathon 18 years ago in 4:20:00, but he said he wouldn’t try to break any records this time around.
He said: “I’m hoping to enjoy it a little more this time, and I’ll just be concentrating on getting around.”
Donations can also be made online at uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SimonVavasour.
•A Taverham man whose wife endured a frightening cancer battle will be raising funds for Cancer Research UK and has already reached almost £1,000.
It was two years ago when mother-of-two Anita Wilson had a feeling something was wrong and was diagnosed that summer with lobular breast cancer.
Dave, her husband of 25 years, said: “The initial response is shock, upset and fear.
“The fear is probably the hardest part. As a spectator you are scared about what is going to happen. As soon as anyone says cancer you automatically jump to conclusions, but we had to deal with it as best we could.”
After surgery and chemotherapy Mrs Wilson was told there was no more evidence of the disease.
“That was a huge relief because any negative result is a good one, but the horrible part of it is you can never say it is over,” added Mr Wilson.
To donate visit: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DaveWilson-Norfolk
•Taking part in the event for the second year running is Angela Bell from Norwich, who is raising money for the Papworth Trust.
The 41-year-old injured herself during last year’s race but battled on to reach the finish line, raising £4,000 for the charity which runs a range of care, support and work services in Lowestoft.
The member of Norwich Road Runners, said: “I suffered a slight knee injury after 10 miles last year – it hurt all the way around but I still made it. This time, I want to rewrite the memory of that experience.”
Ms Bell has previously completed marathons in Dublin, Bournemouth and Bungay and her dream is to fly to the USA and complete the New York marathon.
She said: “The atmosphere in the London Marathon is wonderful. I love running and certainly have the bug, but I enjoy any form of exercise.
“It is something about the adrenalin that kicks in at the finish line when you have tired legs but you cross that line and get your medal.”
To sponsor Ms Bell, visit: https://www.justgiving.com/LondonMarathonx2.
•On the outside you would not know little Amelia Lily Clough was different from any other three-year-old.
She bounces around the room with the exuberance of youth.
But the youngster struggles with a rare disease which means that every night she must be hooked up to a machine to stay alive while her parents must check on her every two and a half hours.
Now her parents are campaigning to fund research which could help treat others like her.
Amelia has congenital hyperinsulinism (CHI) which means her body produces too much insulin, depriving her of blood sugar which is vital for the brain.
Fortunately her condition was diagnosed when she was very young as, having been born weighing a hefty 10lb 6oz, her blood sugar levels were checked right away.
However, while this might have saved her life things have not been easy for parents Leanne and Alan Clough.
Mrs Clough, 30, said: “We didn’t know that there was anything amiss.
“They [the hospital] check their blood sugars if they are over a certain weight and she was showing nothing, no sugar at all.
“At first they thought the machine was broken.
“She wasn’t responding to the medication Great Ormond Street Hospital recommended so at three weeks she went to Great Ormond Street.”
It was not until she had reached four months that Amelia was able to come home to be with her family but she still had to receive four injections a day as well as being fed every four hours.
At six months old her condition landed her in intensive care and the decision was made for her to have a gastrostomy operation, so she can be fed directly into her stomach through a tube.
An operation to remove the pancreas has been the main treatment for the condition, although this is a highly invasive procedure and is not without complications.
A crowdfunding bid has been launched to attempt to raise £30,000 for the development of a drug called Sirolimus which, it is hoped, would prevent the need for having the pancreas removed. The drug could make a big difference for Amelia as she currently has to have four injections a day and it would reduce this to one a month.
Mrs Clough said: “She knows she is different. At nursery she has to have one to one care and eat at different times to the other children.
“It is hard because I feel a lot of anxiety about her and I always want to make sure I am close in case she is ill.
“If Alan is away I never get a full night’s sleep as I have to wake up to check on her every few hours.
“To an outsider she might look well but she has to be plugged into a machine for 13 hours of the day and she depends on us every two and a half ours, that definitely is not well.”
Mrs Clough will be running the London Marathon in aid of Great Ormond Street’s CHI fund and despite being hampered by injury she is determined to finish to help raise awareness about the condition.
She said: “It is about informing people, because a lot of people don’t know it exists and it goes undiagnosed in some children which is dangerous.”
Amelia lives with her parents and her sister, Eliie-Rose, 10, in Marham where her dad, 28, is an armourer with the RAF.
For details of the campaign or to donate visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/cure-kids-with-chi#/ and for Mrs Clough’s marathon run visit https://www.justgiving.com/leanne-clough