Jo works for Telford & Wrekin Council and has recently run the Berlin Marathon on behalf of her daughter Erin. Erin sadly passed away shortly after her second birthday as a result of a seizure- she had been diagnosed with Epilepsy aged five months old.
Jo has organised and participated in a number of events to raise money for the Epilepsy Society, to hopefully avoid another family having to experience the same loss as she has. On April 26th this year, Jo is running the London Marathon on behalf of the Epilepsy Society, and has also been running a ‘Virtual 5k’ throughout February. A virtual 5k means you can donate to the Epilepsy Society and then take as long as you want- run it all at once or take several walks with the family-to build up enough walking or running until you have done your own 5k. Let Jo know, and you get a medal for taking part!
To meet Jo is to be inspired- not least because of her dedication and determination to raise funds for and the profile of the Epilepsy Society, but because her story is one that demonstrates the power of connecting with the people around you. Jo credits the support of her partner, family, friends, work colleagues, running club, local community in Market Drayton and even total strangers as helping her to complete marathon and marathon training as well as the range of additional events that have been hosted in Erins name.
What made you want to do the Berlin Marathon?
I didn’t find the Berlin Marathon- it found me! I was online looking for maybe a 10k to do when I found an advert for the Berlin Marathon and it was to be held on the date that would have been my daughter Erin’s 18th birthday. It hit me like a tonne of bricks that I just had to take part. I went home that night and spoke to my partner and family and they all said they would support me. The next day I signed up.
Why did you choose to run a virtual 5k as well?
A virtual 5k is quite a new concept. After asking everyone for money when I was running the Berlin Marathon, I wanted to try to do something for charity that people that sponsored me would get something out of too. When you take part in the 5K you donate a bit of money which goes to the charity, and you get a sense of achievement when you have done it- as well as a medal. Anyone anywhere can take part at their own pace and be proud of themselves when they complete it!
Why running? Have you run before? Did you consider yourself ‘fit’ or ‘a runner’?
Not at all. I first started running three years ago when I was three stone overweight and approaching my fortieth birthday- I wanted to be ‘fit at forty’! I started to lose the weight through dieting and then asked a neighbour to join the local running club with me, who were hosting the NHS Choices ‘Couch to 5K’ programme for beginners. I was so worried that I wasn’t going to be able to run for 1 minute that I got a little trampette out in the kitchen at home and had a practice just to make sure I could! The programme builds you up to a 5K and by then I was hooked.
People don’t realise that running clubs, unless you are an elite runner, are not about racing or winning. They are very supportive and its all about personal achievement. I love the club and having a gossip while we run on a Saturday. I’ve even gotten to the point with my other friends that if someone needs a chat we say ‘shall we go for a run and talk about it’ now!
What did you expect to gain for yourself when you decided to do the Berlin Marathon?
I didn’t have any expectations. I just wanted to do something to mark the date of what would have been Erin’s 18th birthday, increase awareness of Epilepsy and raise some money for the charity so that hopefully I can help prevent what happened to us happen to other families.
Training for a marathon requires hours and hours of running, and much of your training has been during this cold and wet winter- what keeps you motivated?
The support of people around me has been phenomenal and this is my main motivation. At the start of the Berlin Marathon I had raised £1,800 and while I was running my friends and family campaigned online to raise the extra £200 to bring the total to £2000 as a surprise for me once I finished.
Another friend has text me on the rainy mornings that I don’t want to get out of my bed and go for a run, to remind me that she wants to see me and to remember why I am doing it. I’ve even had people queue at my house to take it in turns to go for a run with me when I have my very long runs to do!
While I was running the Berlin Marathon I had an app that tracked me and automatically updated facebook so every time I reached a signal point and an update was sent, I felt like I was sending messages to everyone back home. I had people run with me at the Berlin Marathon and other people ran on their own at the same time that I was running- I wasn’t on my own!
Some people think ‘I’m only one person, if I do something that raises £50 or £100 for charity, how much is it really going to help?’- what are your thoughts on this?
I would say that you need to look beyond the money. Its not just about fundraising for charities, the awareness generated by talking about them is very important too. Increased awareness helps to reduce stigma too- I have been surprised at how many people have approached me to say they have been affected by epilepsy as well and I want people to know its ok to talk about it. People are scared of epilepsy, having a fit or watching someone have a fit can be very frightening but it isn’t something to be ashamed of.
If you would like to take part in Jo’s virtual 5K for the Epilepsy Society, sign up here: http://runwithjo.weebly.com/
To sponsor Jo for her London Marathon, visit her ‘Just Giving’ site here: http://www.justgiving.com/prettysunshine/
For information about Epilepsy and Epilepsy support, visit the Epilepsy Society: http://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk
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