Health & Fitness: Go The Distance
On March 8, thousands of runners will line up on Victoria Avenue, ready to tackle Saucony Cambridge Half Marathon. Louise Cummings looks at the new route and talks to three inspiring entrants who’ll be pounding the 13.1 mile course in aid of incredible charities. . .
It may have only launched in 2012 with 3,000 competitors, but the Saucony Cambridge Half Marathon is now the UK’s fastest selling half marathon, attracting thousands of participants, who relish the opportunity to explore historic Cambridge on traffic-free roads.
This year’s race, which begins at 9.30am on Victoria Avenue, off Midsummer Common, follows an exciting new route through the grounds of two of the University of Cambridge’s most iconic colleges – King’s and Jesus Colleges – while maintaining its usual passage out to pretty Grantchester and Trumpington.
Whether you’re planning to strap on your trainers and Garmin to take part in the milestone Cambridge event or plan to stand on the sidelines cheering your support, the half marathon is a great day out, raising much-needed funds for numerous charities, including Cancer Research UK, Alzheimer’s Research UK and Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre.
Find out about race day at cambridgehalfmarathon.com
Why I’m Running
Shaun Whiter, 30, a football coach from Newmarket, lost his legs in an accident in 2016. Remarkably, he’ll be tackling Cambridge Half on his ‘funky running blades’, raising money for dementia research
“I was involved in a hit and run while helping my friend change his tyre in Newmarket. I woke up in hospital with two legs missing. I lost five pints of blood on the scene, and it was only being fit and healthy that kept me alive. It’s taken three years extensive rehabilitation to get fully up, walking and running.
Trying the running blades for the first time was emotional, as I’d gone from running three times a week to not being able to do anything. I have to be careful because my lungs feel like they can do it but I need to take care with my legs. Also because the world isn’t flat, trying to run up hills with the blades is tough – but then again, you have to think, at least I can still run. I’ve done some local 10Ks and have been pushing forward, running with friends.
I’m fundraising for Alzheimer’ Research UK, as my grandma - who lives over in Ireland - has dementia, and going through my rehabilitation, I was not able to get over to see her. Her dementia has progressed so far, sadly she no longer remember me. But I’ll have a couple of hours to remember the good times we shared when I’m running the half marathon, along with my friend, Henry Comfort, who I’ve come to know through the power of football.
When people see me running on my blades, I get a lot of comments, and see pointing and open mouths! The best thing is when I’m overtaking people, I get this little buzz as I can hear people saying ‘I’ve been overtaken by someone with no legs!’ Then usually, they’ll find you afterwards and say ‘you inspire me to go running’, which is nice.”
Shaun is hoping to raise £1,500. Help him smash his target by donating at justgiving.com/fundraising/Shaun-And-Henry
Emily Wells, 36, a medical photographer at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, is running in memory of her beloved grandad
“I’ve been running for around five years. I have done an Insane Terrain event, but this will be my first half marathon.
I’m running for Alzheimer’s Research UK because I want there to be greater understanding of dementia and for treatments to be found to help those who have to go through it. I sadly lost my dear grandad to Alzheimer’s disease last year.
It was a long and painful experience to watch him lose his unique qualities and become a shell of his former self.
I have wonderful childhood memories of him, but it was the hardest thing to see him and know he remembered nothing and that I was a stranger to him.
It was a slow and cruel illness. My nan, who is my role model, had to care for him and being in her 80s this was a lot to take on.
I’m sure I will feel a real sense of achievement crossing the half marathon finish line, proud to have raised money for a good cause, in memory of my grandad, and also grateful to my body for being able to run that distance.”
Help Emily raise vital funds at justgiving.com/fundraising/Emily-Wells11
Alex Innes, 30, who is partially sighted, will be taking on Cambridge Half Marathon with guide-runner Russ, to raise money for Essex-based charity, Support 4 Sight
“I was diagnosed with RP (Retinitis Pigmentosa) when I was seven years old, and although I had some symptoms of it affecting my life, I still had 85 per cent vision and independence.
It all changed when I had my cataracts removed aged 27. Unfortunately even with the odds in my favour of 2000-1 of something going wrong, I was left with seven per cent vision. It was such a shock.
The problem with sight loss is that there are not enough facilities and resources to help those with this life-changing experience. I had to figure this out, but it took almost three years. I carried on like nothing happened because I was in absolute denial. The reality was I was depressed, grieving, angry, frustrated, and helpless and felt like the loneliest person in the world - and I have an incredible support network from friends, family and my partner.
I reached tipping point in 2018 and finally came to terms with my reality. I have not accepted it, but I am working with it instead of fighting it. One of my biggest loves was running because I found it freeing and that was one of the things I missed during my downward spiral.
So, I reluctantly decided to get a guide runner by contacting Parkrun in October 2018 – and I haven’t looked back! Guide running has brought me hope again, makes me feel free, empowered and confident.
My guide runner Russ and I are running the half marathon to raise awareness and funding for Support 4 Sight, a small Essex-based charity which helps those suffering with partial and full visual impairment regain independence. I am a community fundraiser for the charity and completely driven to prevent people going through what I went through, because that was hell and I almost didn't make it.
I document my guide running on Instagram at #Blinded by the Run to inspire others to run or be a guide runner. Thank god for running!”
Support Alex in his endeavours at justgiving.com/fundraising/alexcinnes89
Charlie Waller Memorial Trust is a national charity partner for the Saucony Cambridge Half Marathon 2020. It has a team of 50 runners who are fundraising for the trust, while championing the #RunForWellbeing initiative, which recognises the benefits of exercise on mental wellbeing. As part of the initiative, the charity is asking people to share personal stories on social media of how endorphin-boosting activity has helped with their mental health, using the #RunForWellbeing hashtag.
The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust was set up in memory of a young man who took his own life and aims to help people recognise signs of depression, ensuring expert help is available, educating children, young people, teachers, parents, GPS and nurses. The hope is to lessen the stigma around depression, offer more treatment and support, and reduce suicide rates.
More information on the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust can be found at cwmt.org.uk
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