Running through grief

“Running teaches us to keep moving forward, one step at a time – especially in our most painful moments.” These are the words of Sarah Riley who, five months ago, lost her dad to cancer. Since then, she has been fundraising in his memory. Now, having been accepted onto Sue Ryder’s London Marathon 2020 squad, she has decided to blog about her journey and how it is helping her come to terms with bereavement.

Sarah with her late dad, Steve
The Riley family.

Sometimes it’s hard to speak aloud how we are feeling – especially when your world has been turned on its head. With just a few words spoken, your outlook on the world changes dramatically. Well, this is me: it sums up exactly how I’ve been feeling since back in December when my world crashed. 

In December 2018, my family received the news that no family ever wants to hear. My Pops had the Big C – the type of Big C that there is no escaping – and on Tuesday 26th March he sadly lost his battle. 

I’m not at the point yet where, as people say, it’s getting easier with time. I’m sure it does; however, at this time it still hurts.

This has to be the hardest, most difficult time in my life – probably the hardest it will ever be. I was truly a ‘daddy’s girl’, a “chip off the old block” as people used to say.

“A Sue Ryder hospice has to be the best place in the world”

Most Sundays, I spend my mornings back up at the South Oxfordshire Palliative Care Hub in Nettlebed where Dad spent his last few days; I find it the most comforting place for me to be.

Me, Mum and my sister often take the dogs with us. We were lucky enough to be able to take them with us when we visited Dad; they used to lie at the side of his bed, just being there with Dad, keeping things as ‘normal’ as possible. 

Nettlebed has to be the best place in the world – I’m pretty sure all Sue Ryder hospices are. They have the most amazing, caring and honest staff who work within them. In such a difficult job, I take my hat off to them and will forever be grateful. 

My fundraising and blogging journey

Since Dad passed away, me, Mum and my sister have raised almost £2,800 through funeral donations and Facebook. Being able to raise this money gave us a sense of pride: pride in the fact that we were able to do even the smallest things to give back.

Following this, I decided that I needed to set myself a challenge to find the motivation to get me through the months ahead. 

Running teaches us to keep moving forward, one step at a time – especially in our most painful moments. 

I’ve been fortunate enough to be given a Sue Ryder charity place to run the London Marathon 2020 in memory of my Pops. 

So, I thought: what better way to keep myself motivated – and to keep family and friends in the training loop – than by writing a blog? I have created both a Facebook page and Instagram account (a whole new world for me) documenting my progress. I would absolutely love it if you would give me a little follow to see how I’m getting on.

I would love nothing more than for you to follow my journey from start to finish on my blog – here and on social media.

How running helps

On my blog, I talk about my running and training, but also how I’m coping with my grief.

Since beginning my blog, I’ve had so many people reach out to me to say that they are feeling exactly the same – how refreshing it is to know that other people are feeling the same way. 

When you begin running it’s hard, but you no longer have the capacity to let your mind wander into those dark places (mainly because you’re trying to catch your breath and not fall over!) because you’re focusing on getting to the finish line. 

I cannot wait to be stood there on the start line at the London Marathon 2020 with all my family and friends around me, knowing how proud my Pops would be. 

Like Sarah’s Facebook blog

Follow Sarah’s journey on Instagram


Sue Ryder supporter Sarah Riley

Daughter of patient

Sarah Riley
Sue Ryder Palliative Care Hub South Oxfordshire

Sarah's father, Steve, died in March 2019. She ran the London Virgin Money Virtual Marathon 2020 in his memory and to fundraise for Sue Ryder South Oxfordshire Palliative Care Hub, who cared for him in his final weeks. She continues to fundraise for Sue Ryder and share her story through her Running Through Grief Facebook page.