THREE housing association employees have run up over £2,400 in charitable donations by taking part in the world’s biggest half marathon.
The trio work for Together Housing Group and found themselves among the 51,000 runners taking part in the 13.1-mile race from Newcastle to South Shields after winning a competition to take part in the event.
Daniel MacKay, 27, is a recruitment advisor based in Blackburn; Thomas Webster, 28, is a works planner based in Halifax; and Peter Jordan, 53, is a communities director at Together Housing’s social enterprise Newground based in Blackburn.
The housing organisation’s healthcare provider Simplyhealth is official sponsor of the run, and it organised a competition for places on the race, along with perks such as a pasta party before the event to load up on carbs, and physio afterwards to recover from the arduous run.
MacKay ran in aid of the Stillbirth & Neonatal Death charity (SANDS) and Team Evie in memory of his nephew Edward Rhodes who was stillborn at 28 weeks earlier this year.
“After Edward’s death we were surprised by the number of friends and family who revealed similar experiences,” he said ahead of the race. “Stillbirth is a terrible situation that no parent-to-be ever wants to face, but it happens to more couples than I realised; in the UK alone, on average nine babies are stillborn each day. These charities play an important role in supporting families at such a terrible time.”
Speaking after the race, he added: “It was one of the mentally toughest things I’ve ever done, to actually keep going. The support all the way along is amazing, but after about two miles there’s a stretch along the motorway where everyone is running in their own space and silence, that was probably the strangest part.
“It was immensely worth it, not just for the money raised for charity, but from the personal achievement aspect, and finishing in under two hours as well.
“The atmosphere was amazing. From start to finish all of the towns turn out to cheer you along and any parts where the crowds couldn’t get to, all of the runners would help each other along. Everyone was running for a reason, everyone had a cause.
“I absolutely would sign up to do it again, bitten by ‘the bug’ well and truly – will be doing more and more halfs and even trying to ramp up to a full marathon.”
Webster ran in aid of Springhill Hospice in Rochdale; a charity that is close to his heart. “My grandfather recently passed away after a battle with cancer,” he said. “The place itself is so calm and peaceful and the nurses and volunteers are wonderful people. When the worst happens, the nurses are so caring and understanding of your situation. On the night that my grandfather passed away the wonderful nurses explained everything to my grandma and made her feel calm even though the situation was horrible. They made us feel like we could grieve as a family in the awful circumstances in peace.”
Speaking after the race, he added: “The first two miles I remember thinking how hot it was. I thought I was well prepared putting sun cream on but as I started to sweat it was soon running into my eyes. After about three miles I managed to relax and settle into my run. Some of my family were stood at around eight miles so that was a welcome boost to see them.
“Up to about 10 miles I was feeling great — really strong and in the zone. Then the steady incline from mile 10 to 11.5 really hit me. I had to push myself to the limit. The last mile along the sea front felt like the longest mile I have ever ran.
“It was definitely worth it. When you see that finish line you really realise what you have done and what an achievement it is.
“The atmosphere was fantastic. All of the runners support each other and the crowds are amazing. Pretty much the entire route is filled with people cheering you on.
“I am really proud of myself. To push myself to the limit and keep going to the end shows a strength that I didn’t know I had. I was exhausted at the end but the thought of the money that I have raised made it all worthwhile! I would love to do it again next year.”
Jordan, who ran in aid of the British Heart Foundation, took on the run after completing the West Lancashire Spring Triathlon earlier this year.
“I developed a love of running at the age of 51 after being the last member of my family to take up Couch to 5k,” he said. “Two years later I’ve got 71 parkruns under my, slightly thinner, belt, have volunteered at a further 57 and am a Run Director at Skelmersdale Junior parkrun helping others to develop their interest.”
Speaking after the race, he said: “It was a personal challenge as it was a much longer distance than I’ve ever run before. It was very enjoyable with a wonderful atmosphere both amongst the runners and also the crowds of Geordies of all ages shouting encouragement and handing out ice pops and jelly babies to the runners, there was even a pub towards the end handing out free beer.
“It’s a surprise hearing the crowd shouting your name until you remember that it’s in huge letters with your race number on your chest. Hearing ‘Ga’aan Pey-ah’ for 13 miles will probably be my lasting favourite memory of the day.
“I kept pace with Olly Murrs for around six miles hoping that my kids might get to see me on telly that way. Sadly, I didn’t keep that until the end and although my wife, Jen, got a photo of Olly crossing the line she’d missed me crossing 40 seconds earlier.
“The fact that I was running for British Heart Foundation also helped keep me going knowing I was running for a worthwhile cause helping to save lives.”