Norwich PhD student’s epic challenge to raise money for cancer

Katy Owen of Norwich, who is preparing for a fundraising triple challenge, the London marathon, then

Katy Owen of Norwich, who is preparing for a fundraising triple challenge, the London marathon, then cycling 5000 miles across Canada, then finish with a Polar Bear Plunge in Vancouver. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant 2013

Completing the London Marathon is a great achievement in itself, but for Norwich PhD student Katy Owen, it is just the start of an epic transatlantic triathlon she is doing to honour the strength and courage of three special women and their battles with cancer.

Twenty-nine-year-old Katy's epic challenge will also see her cycling 5,000 miles across Canada and plunging into the freezing cold Pacific Ocean in January, and every step of the way she will be thinking of her mum Jacqueline Owen, who has a currently incurable blood cancer, as well as her aunt Janet Jarvis and her friend's mum Sue Stanley, who both died from cancer.

Miss Owen, of Unthank Road, hopes her international fundraiser will raise £10,000 to be split between Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support. So far she has raised an impressive £7,000, and she is now appealing for individuals and local organisations to help her raise the final £3,000.

'My mum has multiple myeloma, an incurable type of blood cancer. My lovely Auntie Janet recently lost her second battle with cancer, and just over two years ago breast cancer took my best friend's wonderful mum,' said Miss Owen.

'There are too many families missing their mums and too many mums who didn't get to see their children get married and who will never get to meet their grandkids.

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'I can't cure Mum, and I can't bring back Janet and Sue - but by raising money I can help other people struggling to cope with the devastation of cancer; and at the same time honour the strength, spirit and unrelenting positivity of these three amazing women.'

Miss Owen, who is in her final year of a PhD in marine biology at the UEA, said she was inspired to take on the mammoth triathlon challenge after her friend Michael Godard ran the London Marathon to raise funds for the hospice which helped his mum Sue Stanley.

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'I have never done anything like this before. I am not an athlete or a gym member. I cycle a little bit and I just thought I should go for it,' said Miss Owen.

'What inspired me was my friend Mike who ran the London Marathon to raise money for the hospice that helped his mum. I thought that was really inspirational and thought maybe I could do the London Marathon too, and it has snowballed from there.'

Miss Owen starts her challenge on April 21 when she runs the 26.2 mile London Marathon.

Then this summer, with just her bicycle and tent for company, she plans to cycle 5,000 miles across Canada from Victoria, on Vancouver Island, to St Johns in Newfoundland, before flying home to visit her mum in Rotherham.

Miss Owen will then return to Canada to take part in the annual Polar Bear Swim on January 1 next year, donning fancy dress to take the plunge into the freezing Pacific Ocean from English Bay in Vancouver.

About her epic fundraising challenge, Miss Owen said: 'This triathlon will be a huge challenge, but nowhere near as tough as the battles Janet and Sue fought and my mum is fighting. These three brave women are my inspiration and will be in my thoughts every mile that I run, cycle and swim. Cancer has had a huge influence on my life, and I want to turn these experiences into something positive - a tribute worthy of a mum.'

She added: 'I want to raise serious money and I think if you are going to ask people to donate you have to do something that pushes you out of your comfort zone.

'I have chosen to support Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support which are both very important in different ways. It is very important to push as much money as possible into developing cures, but also Macmillan provides such a vital service looking after people in their own homes when they need it most, and helping their primary carers too.'

Miss Owen said all the money donated would be going directly to the charities and that she was funding all her own travel costs.

• To sponsor Miss Owen visit or email

Are you doing something special for charity? Call reporter Emma Knights on 01603 772428 or email

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