Marathon mums running virtual London Marathon after sons’ battles with cancer

Four mums, all with sons’ who have survived cancer, have formed a unique bond through their shared experience of childhood cancer and passion for running and are taking part in the virtual Virgin Money London Marathon on 4 October for Children with Cancer UK.

2 October 2020

Marathon mums

Marathon mums Tamsin Sharland, Claire Everett, Kerry Brown and Liz Fell had planned to run the Virgin Money London Marathon together this April for childhood cancer research charity Children with Cancer UK. However, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19 pandemic), the mums are now running the marathon virtually on October 4 – with two of the four mums planning to celebrate together at the end with their sons. 

The four mums have supported one another throughout months of training and fundraising, after initially bonding over their shared experiences of having sons’ who had faced, and beaten, cancer and passion for running. Prior to lockdown restrictions being introduced, the group met for a training session in London’s Greenwich Park.

Tamsin’s son Sam, 12, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) aged five and finished over three years’ treatment in 2017. She used running as a coping mechanism throughout Sam’s cancer journey.

Commenting on running the Virgin Money London Marathon, Tamsin, from Woking, said:

I started running shortly after Sam was diagnosed with leukaemia. Running has a huge impact on my mental health, both positive and negative. Running helps me clear my head, gives me space to think and feel. However, the negative to this, is that once Sam finished treatment, I couldn’t put my trainers on. I associated running with Sam being ill. I got a complete mental block.

I am hoping by running the marathon, a lot of these trapped emotions will be dealt with and I will come out the other side, mentally and physically strong. I think I can speak for us all and say just how much it’s meant becoming friends through our training.

Seeing your child go through treatment changes you and it’s amazing to have a group of friends who understand that and you can be honest with. COVID-19 restrictions have led to our plans changing but Claire and I plan to try and celebrate at the end together, social distancing measures allowing.

Claire’s son Luke, 12, was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma, a rare liver cancer, in 2007, at just six months old. He is now eleven years in remission and is a competitive gymnast.

Commenting on the London Marathon and her bond with the other mums, Claire, from Surrey, said:

We have an unspoken bond…I feel like I’ve known the marathon mums for years. I wish I had those sort of friendships when Luke was going through treatment as it can be a very lonely place, even with lots of friends and family support. It’s important to have people in your life who have been through the good times and the bad – I wish I’d met them 12 years ago.

Obviously the pandemic disrupted our plans and we’ve ended up training through the winter, through the pandemic and then through the summer. Even with all the added uncertainty and knowing that marathon day is going to look very different, I’ve really enjoyed keeping up my fitness and new friendships and am hoping to be able to celebrate with Tamsin at the finish line!

Kerry’s son Felix, 14, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL), aged 10. He finished more than three years of treatment and rung the end of treatment bell in April 2019. Talking about the group’s friendship through running, Kerry, from Bournemouth, said:

As parents of children with cancer, it can be quite isolating so finding friendships with other women who understand the demands and challenges faced has been a lifeline for me. These friendships offer support, guidance and strength when times are tough but also humour and celebration when we need it.

To have the opportunity to virtually train for the marathon with mums who are powered by a similar experience has been both empowering and encouraging. Our daily check-ins monitor and celebrate our combined progress and successes.  We boost each other up when we need it and catch each other when things are tough. We run to recognise the strength of our boys and give others the hope that we live with day by day.

Liz’s son Isaac, 14, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) in February 2016, aged nine. His three years of treatment finished in May 2019. Liz, from Stamford, also ran the 2018 and 2019 London Marathons for Children with Cancer UK.

Talking about the 2020 Marathon, Liz said:

I’d got the time I wanted in 2019 and hadn’t planned to run another marathon, but then I became connected with the other marathon mums through social media over our shared experiences and connections with the charity. They were so kind saying how I had inspired them and they were all signed up for 2020. How could I not run it with them?! Despite the miles between us we have become good friends throughout the journey of our training.

With the delayed race and niggling injury Liz had a break in training so says this virtual race will be done in parts over the course of the day but with the added motivation of knowing her fellow marathon mums are running too.

Editors’ Notes

Children with Cancer UK’s press office

E: media@childrenwithcancer.org.uk

T: 0207 404 0808 M: 07 795 956 342

About Children with Cancer UK

Children with Cancer UK is the leading national charity dedicated to research into childhood cancer.

We fund research into the causes and treatment of childhood cancers and provide support for families affected by childhood cancer. We have accelerated breakthroughs to improve childhood cancer survival rates and find kinder, more effective treatments with fewer toxic side effects. This ground-breaking research, which would otherwise go unfunded, saves the lives of children with cancer.  Children with Cancer UK receives no government funding and relies entirely on the generosity of donations from supporters.

About childhood cancer and Children with Cancer UK’s impact

Every day in the UK, 12 children and young people are diagnosed with cancer.

Fifty years ago, only 30% of children with leukaemia survived, and for most other forms of childhood cancer survival rates were even lower. Today, thanks to our supporters and the dedication of visionary researchers like those we fund, more than 80% of young patients can be successfully treated. More vital research is needed though as there are still a number of cancers affecting children and young people with low survival rates and life-limiting side effects. Cancer remains the single largest cause of death from disease in children and young people in the UK.

LtoR Claire Everett, Tamsin Sharland, Kerry Brown & Liz Fell