In the lead up to the Great North Run taking place on September 19 from Newcastle, we thought we’d share some of the stories behind the incredible JustGiving fundraisers taking part. Michelle Nicol has been training hard for the race this year, and shares her story on why she chose to be a part of it.
It’s the 30th anniversary of the Great North Run this year and I’ll be running it in memory of a very special person, my baby sister, Ava.
Earlier this year my whole family was looking forward to a new arrival, but sadly, after a perfect pregnancy, baby Ava was stillborn, so we never got to meet her properly.
In the same week we had to deal with that desperately sad news, I found out I’d got a place in the Great North Run. So it just made sense to run it for Ava and to do something positive in her name.
That’s why I’m raising funds and awareness for Sands, a charity which supports anyone affected by the death of a baby and promotes research that could help to reduce the loss of babies’ lives.
So on September 19, I’ll be wearing Ava’s name on my running vest and taking on the challenge of running 13.1 miles alongside 50,000 other runners.
I haven’t always been a runner, so a half-marathon is quite a challenge. When I first started, I could barely manage a mile without stopping, breathless and exhausted. But encouraged and helped by fitness trainer, Ian Turrell, I gradually built up the strength and endurance to go a bit further and faster. And somewhere along the way I got the running bug. Now I actually get a bit twitchy if I don’t get out for a run.
Training for the Great North Run sometimes means getting up early to run before work; giving up time on a weekend and running in all weathers (actually, I’ve found out I like running in the rain). But it’s worth every step.
Running has brought me so much. The health and fitness benefits are obvious, and losing a couple of stones to drop two dress sizes was a nice bonus. But it’s been so much more than that.
I’ve made new friends among runners of all shapes and sizes, speeds and distances. The one thing they have in common is that they’re all incredibly supportive. When I launched my JustGiving page, the first donations came from friends I’ve made through a running site called Fetch Everyone. In most cases, we’ve never even met.
So as I run, I’ll be thinking about all the people who have supported and encouraged me along the way.
And I’ll be proud to do my bit to help the 17 families who have to deal with the devastating loss of a baby who is stillborn or dies shortly after birth every day in the UK. Since I started promoting my fundraising, I’ve had so many people say “This happened to us too. So I feel strongly that I want to raise awareness as much as money.
I know it’s hard to talk about the death of a baby, but as a big sister I feel I can do that much for our darling Ava. We will never forget her, and now you know a little about her too.
For more information on the Great North Run, visit the fancy new JustGiving GNR site for everything you need to know. Don’t forget you don’t need to be a runner to help raise money for charity – you can do practically anything! Why not set up a page now – it only takes 60 seconds and you’re on your way.