Kirsty McEwen ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon to raise money for Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice which cared for her mum, Julie, in her final days. Despite the rain and the mud on the day, Kirsty knocked 13 minutes off her previous best time and succeeded in raising an impressive £1,105 for Sue Ryder.
‘I'd been running for a while, with Mother always telling me that my husband and I were odd people for getting up early to go to park runs and races! I decided to use my Royal Parks place to fundraise for Sue Ryder because the race was so soon after she died and I wanted to give something back.
‘Mother was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in June 2017, a month after I got married. Unfortunately it took ages for her to be diagnosed because it’s so rare in women and she wasn’t a typical case. Mother was a keen Morris dancer and she did a lot of yoga and had never smoked. She was 59 when she was diagnosed. When it was eventually picked up they said she might live two years with treatment.’
A difficult two years of operations, chemotherapy and long hospital stays followed.
‘My brother got married at the end of 2018, so she was able to see us both settled. Then in January 2019 they said she was free of cancer: although we knew it was always going to come back, it was just a question of when. My mum and dad were able to go on a couple of holidays and then in May last year she became really unwell again. At the beginning of August, doctors said there was nothing more they could do and gave Mother three weeks to live.
‘When the doctors came in they actually spoke to my mum and were so respectful even though she couldn’t respond’
The expert palliative care team at Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice was able to make Kirsty’s mum comfortable and support her family through her final days.
‘Everyone there was so good. When the doctors came in to talk to us they actually spoke to my mum and were so respectful even though she couldn’t respond any more. When she died the staff prepared all the documentation we would need for the registrar so quickly, which was really helpful at such a difficult time.
‘I already had a place for the Royal Parks Half Marathon and after my mum died I saw Sue Ryder was one of the charities you could fundraise for so I thought it made sense to run it for them. I was doing the race anyway so I wanted to use it to give something back.’
‘It was an emotional day but hopefully I did my mum proud and also helped other families going through something similar’
Kirsty was supported by her husband, stepson and her parents-in-law on the day of the race.
‘It was only my second half marathon and my training had been a bit erratic when my mum was so ill. The race was only a month and a half after she died so I was definitely a bit wobbly and it was really nice to have my family there for support. It had been raining so much that Hyde Park was a bit of a quagmire so getting round in running shoes was quite a challenge. As I got to the 18k mark I had horrendous blisters so when I got to the Sue Ryder support section and they all cheered it really helped.
I finished in 1:53:20 and took 13 minutes off my Brighton half-marathon time so I was pleased with that. My friends, family and colleagues were really generous with the sponsorship so I raised £1,105 in the end. It was an emotional day but hopefully I did my mum proud and also helped other families going through something similar.’
Kirsty is now planning to go the full distance and is in training for not one, but two marathons in 2020, starting with the Brighton Marathon in April.