Best foot forward in bid to raise funds for Brain Tumour Charity
Great friends are hard to come by but Emily Parsons and Rachel Cole have a special bond.
So much so that, after Rachel was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour, Emily decided to embark on the ultimate fundraiser that will push her body to the absolute limits.
It is her way of supporting her friend at the toughest point of her life.
Emily, news editor at the, could have climbed a mountain or run a marathon – but it just didn’t seem enough compared to what her friend was going through.
So she instead came up with her own challenge that will see her run almost 30 miles a day, every day, for six days.
Following two-thirds of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast route, it will take her from St Bees on the western edge of Cumbria to the opposite side of the country near South Shields.
But she won’t stop there, having decided to end her epic fundraiser by taking on the Great North Run – a half marathon in itself – on her seventh day.
Emily, who took part in both the 5k and 10k Race For Life events in Carlisle this weekend as part of her training schedule and cancer fightback, explained exactly why she has decided to do something so drastic for her friend.
“Rachel had a seizure and collapsed at home last September, while looking after her nine-month-old baby boy. She was still on maternity leave,” she said.
“Despite being left temporarily partially paralysed, she managed to raise the alarm and get help. She was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
“The hardest part, is that Rachel’s only sibling, her beloved big brother Graeme Turner, died 10 years ago last October of a brain tumour. He was 28. His loss was hard for all his friends, but especially so for Rachel and her parents Keith and Anne.
“Fast forward a decade and they face the same heartbreaking battle with their only other child.”
Friends of Rachel, a lawyer based in Newcastle, looked up the chances of two siblings contracting brain tumours and discovered it is about 400 million to one.
Two days after she was diagnosed, Emily went to visit Rachel in hospital. She was already due to run the Great North Run, for the first time, a week later, and she asked Rachel if she could collect sponsorship for the Brain Tumour Charity – raising more than £500.
A few weeks later and, just as she was about to tackle a 10k race in Galway, Emily received a call from Rachel’s husband Graham with the results of the biopsy.
“It wasn’t good news: it was a low grade tumour, but there was no cure. However, Rach was given a prognosis of a number years and they were taking the optimistic view that it wasn’t the worst news as it gave her time to create memories for her family. Unfortunately, doctors later were forced to revise that prognosis after further tests confirmed the tumour had developed and was now far more aggressive,” Emily, 32, said.
Neither Rachel nor her husband, who have two young children, has asked how long she has to live. They just don’t want to know.
It was this news that prompted Emily to go a step further than her previous fundraiser, again for the Brain Tumour Charity.
“I contemplated climbing Macchu Picchu or hiking the Great Wall of China, but they didn’t seem tough enough. If I’m going to do a big fundraiser then I want it to be the biggest fundraiser of my life and raise as much as possible,” she explained.
“I’d already got a place for the GNR 2017 and suddenly thought ‘why not run there?’. Running had played a part in every stage of learning about Rach’s diagnosis, so it seemed fitting.
“Rachel and I ran the Race for Life in London together with my mum, and being from the North East the GNR is personal to her – and she ran it for her brother. So running is something that I relate to Rach.”
Emily, of Stockdalewath, near Carlisle, has only ever completed two half marathons in her life. After the first, she didn’t run again for six months.
Emily’s week-long fundraiser, which starts on September 4, will see her run on average more than a marathon a day for six days. Her shortest day still tops 23 miles, while her longest is about 35 miles – followed by a half marathon to round off her week.
She said she is “absolutely terrified” of the challenge ahead, but her motivation is clear. “Rachel has two children – a bright, gorgeous, bubbly four-year-old girl called Jennifer, and a mischievous, cheeky little boy Leo, who is just one-year-old.
“I need to raise this money to help fight this. No other children should face the loss of a parent. No husband should be contemplating a future without his wife. No parents should be forced to watch both their children endure this,” she said.
Rachel said: “I am completely blown away by Emily’s willingness to take on such a demanding challenge to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity’s fund that we set up in memory of my brother.
“Emily and her family have provided an immense amount of support to me and my family over many years. We are moved and grateful for this latest show of support.”
Emily hopes to raise a minimum of £5,000 and is appealing for businesses – both in Cumbria and beyond – to support her with sponsorship.
She is already being supported in her training by Wayne Singleton, of south Cumbrian-based Jogging Pals.
She is also looking for accommodation at points along the route and is hoping to borrow a camper van for the week for her back up crew.