A marathon in memory

Childhood friends Anna and Alex are running the Brighton Marathon in September to raise money for Martlets.

Anna’s dad was looked after on our inpatient 20 years ago at the end of his life, and Alex’s mum spent her final days at the Hospice last year. Anna and Alex tell us why they’ve taken on the challenge and what it means to them.

Anna’s story

“Alex and I have been best friends since school, from the age of 12,” says Anna. “Unfortunately, in September of last year, Alex’s mum passed away from breast cancer. My dad also spent his last weeks at Martlets in 2001. I was just eight years old at the time, but I still remember the support they gave us.

Talking to my mum since, I know she felt it was a great support to have Martlets there. They helped take that massive burden of care off her. It’s such a difficult thing trying to care for someone you love who’s dying whilst also being a parent. It meant she wasn’t on her own caring for my dad and bringing up two kids as well. Martlets was there to help her care for Dad.

It’s a long time ago, but I remember getting bereavement counselling from Martlets. It was the only counselling I got until later in life; it was the main support around the trauma of losing my dad. As a child, when you’re losing a parent there’s the further trauma of seeing the pain of the other parent. I really remember that, and it was so important to have some support around it.”

Alex’s story

“My mum had breast cancer and was diagnosed just over six years ago,” Alex explains. “In the last 18 months before Mum died, Martlets provided me with pre-bereavement counselling, which helped a lot. Now I’m going through bereavement counselling with them. I’m having sessions via Zoom as we can’t meet in person because of COVID restrictions. It’s with the same counsellor that I was seeing face-to-face so it’s not too alien. It’s good that these important services can continue online during the pandemic.

When Mum deteriorated, the Martlets team would visit us at home and were super supportive. They were great and answered so many questions we had. The care we received at home was ongoing day in day out which was so reassuring. Then for the last ten days of her life, Mum went into Martlets’ inpatient unit. It was important she went in to get the full amount of pain relief that she needed. This was between the lockdowns last year, so me and my brother, and Mum’s sisters, were able to go in and visit her. Though we had to wear full PPE of course.

The care was absolutely amazing. The nurses and doctors were so supportive and made Mum as comfortable as possible. The room was lovely and had a nice view on to the garden. It really was a better experience than it might’ve been because they went out of their way to put as at ease.”

Brighton Marathon

“We’re running to try and give back a bit for the support Martlets has given both our families,” says Anna. “Sadly, things have come full circle and 20 years on my best friend has also lost a parent. Alex’s mum died at Martlets, just as my dad did.

We’re not very sporty. I’m not a runner and haven’t done any running before this. Brighton Marathon isn’t till September though, so thankfully there’s time to train! We thought doing a few runs together would be a positive thing to do during lockdown. It’s been such a difficult time to lose someone. Alex hasn’t had that friendship support in person on a day-to-day basis that she would’ve had before COVID restrictions. I think, for Alex, being able to throw ourselves into something like this has helped.”

“Mentally and physically it’s quite a big challenge,” adds Alex. “But we wanted to do something positive with everything that’s going on with COVID. We’re taking it quite leisurely with a few paced runs. Then we’ll be training with a proper plan as we head towards September.”

Fundraising for Martlets

“We were originally aiming for £1000 in sponsorship,” says Anna. “But we hit that on the first day the Just Giving fundraiser page went up. I think perhaps our inexperience with running is why we’ve already raised so much money in sponsorship; everyone we know is quite shocked that we’re doing it!

Seeing that money coming in and knowing it’s going to a good cause has given us a lift. It’s kept us invested in our training schedule. Lockdown has put a stop to going to the pub or a restaurant with friends. So, it’s nice to have something like this to focus on.”

“I think we’re going to put our fundraising target up to £3,000,” adds Alex. “We’ve shared it across our social media with friends, family and work colleagues. But we’re hoping to extend our reach a bit to raise as much as possible.”

Could you take on a fundraising challenge too?

“If you’ve ever thought of raising money for Martlets,” continues Alex, “there’s no better time to be doing it than now. As their big fundraising events were cancelled last year because of COVID, Martlets need help from the community. If you don’t want to run the silly distance of a marathon, you could do something that’s more within your means.”

“You could take part in the March for Martlets event taking place soon,” adds Alex. “It’s a virtual event that you do at home or in your local area. You can run, walk or even march to raise money. You can even walk up and down your stairs at home. If you can fundraise it makes all the difference and every little helps.”

March for Martlets takes place throughout the month of March. Brighton Marathon is held in September. Find out more about both events and how to sign up here.