“I really wanted to try and find something positive out of an incredibly sad situation.”

The December Daily Dash was started in 2015 by Jackie and Mark Smith after Jackie’s dad, Mike, was cared for at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice in the last months of his life. Growing from just 13 participants in its first year to 550 last year, the event has raised an incredible £100,000 to date.

Mark and Jackie Smith in their bright green December Daily Dash gear.
Mark and Jackie Smith.

“When my dad died, running was one of the things that gave me some head space – it always has done anyway, but especially at that point in time exercise really helped to boost my morale and gave me the time and thinking space that I needed.

“Christmas is a crazy time of year and you can be completely consumed by it, regardless of whether you are grieving, so to have that reason to get out every day and give yourself that breathing space for half an hour is really beneficial. It’s a really healthy thing.”

More important than ever

For the Dash, participants commit to run, walk or jog 5k every day throughout December and with so many people struggling with the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic, Jackie believes this year’s event could be more important than ever.

“The great thing about the Dash is that it won’t be cancelled. Even in the depths of lockdown you could still go out and exercise and this is an event that is so accessible. People can take part in it independently or with friends and choose to run, walk or jog. I think this year in particular there will be so many people who will find December difficult and will need this sort of activity and focus to help them through.”

December Daily Dash participants cheering with their hands in the air.
Participants get together for the December Daily Dash 2019.

Jackie’s mum, Brenda, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011 and sadly died in October 2013.

“About six months after Mum’s death, Dad was admitted to hospital with chest pains, which had been recurring for some time. He had a tumour in a little-known gland in his chest called the thymus gland and he was diagnosed with cancer, which we found out had already spread to his lungs. We couldn’t believe it so soon after losing Mum.”

“I remember him telling me how much he appreciated the mugs of hot chocolate that the nurses made him before bed, and how well looked after he felt”

By December 2014, Jackie’s Dad, Mike, who was still grieving the loss of his wife, was struggling to cope on his own and he was admitted to Sue Ryder’s Leckhampton Court Hospice. As the cancer spread, he lost the use of his hands and his mobility and pain worsened.

“The relief he felt to be in such an amazingly caring environment, with such great facilities and views out onto the beautiful Cotswold countryside, was amazing. I remember him telling me how much he appreciated the mugs of hot chocolate that the nurses made him before bed, and how well looked after he felt.

“The fact that he had someone there caring for him while he was grieving for Mum was a great comfort to him (and us)”

“Even though he was only in the hospice for a few weeks, just the fact that he had someone there caring for him while he was grieving for Mum was a great comfort to him (and us); Leckhampton was a massive lifeline for us.”

Jackie Smith running in the country for the December Daily Dash.
Jackie out running for the December Daily Dash.

Jackie’s Dad later moved into a private nursing home where he died in March 2015. A few months later she and Mark came up with the idea of the December Daily Dash.

“I really wanted to try and find something positive out of an incredibly sad situation”

“After losing my parents so close together, I really wanted to try and find something positive out of an incredibly sad situation. My husband is a massive runner and I run to keep fit. Someone had mentioned the idea of running every day and we thought why don’t we give it a go and try to raise money for Sue Ryder? It spread via word of mouth and that year there were 13 of us. I think we raised about £3,000 altogether and we held a little finale run from our garage and cooked everybody breakfast.

“Sue Ryder offered my Dad a haven at a very bleak time, and looked after him with care and dignity, and for that we will always be grateful”

“Each year more and more people from far and wide have got involved and each year we have raised more money. 2020 will be our sixth December Daily Dash and we hope it will be the biggest yet.

“Sue Ryder offered my Dad a haven at a very bleak time, and looked after him with care and dignity, and for that we will always be grateful. We want to raise money for Sue Ryder care centres across the country, so we can help them provide more of this care to other families who need that support.”

Find out further information on Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice, the specialist palliative care and support they provide, as well as how you can help support them to be there when it matters.

Join Jackie and Mark for December Daily Dash 2020

Help make this year's Dash the biggest yet and raise vital funds for our palliative, neurological and bereavement support.