London Marathon 2017: Letchworth and Baldock runners share their stories – including a ‘Love Heart’ Guinness World Record attempt

Serial marathon runner Richard Kell is hoping to break the Guiness World Record for being the fast p

Serial marathon runner Richard Kell is hoping to break the Guiness World Record for being the fast person to run a marathon dressed as a Love Heart. - Credit: Archant

From a record-breaking Love Heart to two charities rooted in our community – read why runners from Letchworth, Baldock and Bedfordshire are taking on the 26.2-mile challenge in our third and final London Marathon round-up.

• Serial marathon runner Richard Kell, who a year ago became the fastest gingerbread man to run the distance, has set his sights on a new Guinness World Record – dressed as a Love Heart.

The 46-year-old from Letchworth, who narrowly missed out on becoming the quickest boxer in 2015, will be aiming to beat 3h28m21s while again raising money for British armed forces charity Help for Heroes.

He said: “It was a great feeling breaking a world record. Now that record has itself been broken I’m even more determined to get myself back in the record books, putting a few smiles on faces and bringing a little love to the capital along the way.

“I’m focused on the even more coveted title of the fastest marathon dressed as a Love Heart – who knew that was even a thing!”

To support Richard visit justgiving.com/fundraising/midasmarathon.

Jo Draper is running the London Marathon for Crohn's and Colitis UK.

Jo Draper is running the London Marathon for Crohn's and Colitis UK. - Credit: Archant


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• Jo Draper from Letchworth will be taking on her first marathon for Crohn’s and Colitis UK.

In January 2013 the 36-year-old was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a life-long condition that causes inflammation and ulceration of the inner lining of the rectum and colon – the large bowel.

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“I’m not quite sure what had come over me when I signed up to do the London Marathon,” said Jo.

“But I am, and I’m hoping to raise a whole load of money for this amazing charity.

“There isn’t a cure at the moment for colitis but a lot can be done with medication and surgery to help keep symptoms under control.

David Ralph is running the London Marathon for Aspire.

David Ralph is running the London Marathon for Aspire. - Credit: Archant

“Running a marathon is a huge challenge for me. I am far from a natural runner and I am by no means fast! But I am absolutely determined to do it. Anything you can donate is hugely appreciated.”

To donate visit justgiving.com/fundraising/Jo-Draper1.

• David Ralph takes on the 26.2-mile challenge in aid of national spinal cord injury charity Aspire – which helped his dad get his spark back.

The charity helped the Letchworth man’s dad, David Ralph senior, purchase a lightweight wheelchair to help him get around easier and become more independent in spite his spinal cord injury.

David junior said: “When my dad discovered Aspire his attitude and mentality changed, he became driven like he had goal again. From participating in wheelchair rugby twice a week to completing London to Paris in a hand cycle, it was amazing to see his dedication and drive again.

Paula Holm with her son Jonah, who has now fully recovered.

Paula Holm with her son Jonah, who has now fully recovered.

“Running the marathon is a lifetime achievement that I have always wanted to do, but being able to do it for Aspire who I have seen transform my dad is the best bit.”

See justgiving.com/fundraising/David-Ralph1 to donate.

• Paula Holm will be pounding the streets of the capital two years after her first to raise more money for a charity which saved her son’s life after he was found drowned at the bottom of her garden pond.

The Baldock mother-of-three is fundraising for both Great Ormond Street Hospital and HomeStart Herts – four years after an afternoon at her Chilvers Bank home which will stay with her forever.

On a Sunday afternoon in March 2011, 19-month-old Jonah was playing with his brother and sister on the patio while Paula and her friend, Helen, were having lunch.

Donna Fox is running the London Marathon for the Herts MS Therapy Centre.

Donna Fox is running the London Marathon for the Herts MS Therapy Centre. - Credit: Archant

After a while Paula went upstairs, her six-year-old daughter Ella went inside to see Helen, and three-year-old Levi followed shortly after, shutting the door. Luckily a neighbour caught sight of Jonah, who had ended up face down in the pond, which was drained but had filled with rainwater, and managed to get Paula’s attention at the window.

Linda, who is paediatric nurse, managed to pull Jonah out of the pond and resuscitated him at the scene, a feat that took eight minutes.

The toddler was then taken to Lister Hospital where he was critically ill and transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital, where he remained in a coma in intensive care for three days. Thankfully he made a complete recovery.

She said: “He lives to tell the tale and we’re forever thankful. It was a difficult time for us. In the aftermath and throughout his recovery, HomeStart came along side us to provide invaluable support while my son received daily hospital treatment for six months and as I received therapy for the post-traumatic stress disorder from which I was suffering.”

• Donna Fox from Baldock has taken an unusual approach to celebrating her 50th birthday – by running 26.2 miles.

Lauren Hughes is running the London Marathon for Garden House Hospice Care. Picture: Stephen Drayton

Lauren Hughes is running the London Marathon for Garden House Hospice Care. Picture: Stephen Drayton Photography - Credit: Archant

The teaching assistant, who works at Mary’s Infant School in the town, will be raising funds for the Herts MS Therapy Centre in Letchworth.

“My step mum was diagnosed with MS 15 years ago,” said Donna.

“She stays very positive and it’s great to help a local charity who support people with MS. I’ve always wanted to run a marathon and with my big birthday coming up, I thought ‘it’s now or never’! I saw that the Herts MS Therapy Centre had places available and wanted to help them. It’s great to be able to put something back into the community.”

About the big day, she added: “I’m excited and nervous – and I can’t wait to get on with the race!”

To sponsor Donna visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DonnaFox

Andy Plummer is running the London Marathon for Garden House Hospice Care.

Andy Plummer is running the London Marathon for Garden House Hospice Care. - Credit: Archant

• Fellow Letchworth-based charity Garden House Hospice Care has four runners backing the cause, which provides support and care to those with terminal and life-limiting illnesses in Stevenage and North Herts.

Lauren Hughes is preparing for her second marathon in a month – just two weeks after completing the Brighton course.

She said: “I stupidly decided to challenge myself by running not one but two marathons – purely because I hate running but love a challenge. I wasn’t originally fundraising but decided that I would do it for my friends mum who is undergoing treatment for cancer and is also being cared for by Garden House Hospice Care.

See www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Lauren-Hughes26 to make a donation.

Jayne Dingemans, the hospice’s director of patient services, knows first hand how money raised can make a difference – and will be taking on the 26.2-mile course to do her bit.

Alex Gage is running the London Marathon for Garden House Hospice Care.

Alex Gage is running the London Marathon for Garden House Hospice Care. - Credit: Archant

“I am privileged to manage staff who directly care for patients diagnosed with a life limiting illness and their loved ones,” she said.

“We strive to provide services of the highest quality and to develop services to enable us to reach more people across North Hertfordshire and the borders of Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire. To do this, Garden House Hospice Care needs to raise at least £3.2 million per year from fundraising events and trading. Your sponsorship will really make a difference to the lives of patients and their loved ones cared for at the hospice.”

Log on to justgiving.com/fundraising/Jayne-M-Dingemans to support Jayne.

Andy Plummer, husband of hospice chief executive Sue, has also been inspired and will be using that as motivation come Sunday.

He said: “I have seen how passionately the staff care not just for the patients but for their families also, the hospice provides an amazing service to the community. It’s essential we all do our bit to raise funds to help people when it is needed most, so please give generously”

Etonbury Academy associate principal Trudie Squires with her neice Molly Ewins and friend Alison Sen

Etonbury Academy associate principal Trudie Squires with her neice Molly Ewins and friend Alison Sendall, who are both running the London Marathon with her, pictured at the Thorpe Park Half Marathon. Trudie is running in aid of Hertfordshire Community Foundation. Picture: Trudie Squires - Credit: Archant

To back Andy visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Andrew-Plummer1.

The fourth and final hospice runner is Alex Gage, who works at corporate partner Emas Pharma Ltd.

He said: “I’m running my first marathon want to make sure my pain is not in vain! Garden House Hospice is the charity supported by my workplace and provides invaluable support to patients and families in North Herts.”

• Trudie Squires and Chris Redding, who are both associate principals at Etonbury Academy in Stotfold, have captured the imagination of the student body with their marathon pledges.

Trudie – who lives in Arlesey and is originally from Stevenage – is running her third London Marathon in aid of the Hertfordshire Community Foundation, while 46-year-old Chris is taking on his seventh and last London Marathon to support Children with Cancer UK.

Etonbury Academy associate principal Chris Redding, who is running the London Marathon for Children

Etonbury Academy associate principal Chris Redding, who is running the London Marathon for Children with Cancer UK. Picture: Chris Redding - Credit: Archant

Remarkably, Trudie and Chris were set to be joined by a third Etonbury representative in the shape of primary teacher Molly White, but she has withdrawn due to pregnancy.

The 44-year-old said: “I have chosen a small local charity that raise money for local projects to ensure everyone gets opportunities, and will be running (and walking) with my beautiful niece Molly Ewins.

“Many of you have supported me through the training and will help on the day in many ways, whether it’s moral support, being part of the cheer squad or hopefully by sponsoring me. Thank you for your support.”

To support Trudie see justgiving.com/fundraising/Trudie-Squires2, or to back Chris visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/chris-redding-SAVMLMBONDS3332017-86606320.

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