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London Marathon 2017: Runners share the highs and lows

Forty-three hospice heroes were among the record 39,487 runners who completed the Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday (April 23rd) and so far, they have raised more than £75,000. 
Anne Ridgwell (cropped)
After a year of training, dedication and fundraising, the day finally arrived and the atmosphere was phenomenal as thousands of supporters lined the route to sing and cheer - giving runners the boost they needed to keep on going the 26. 2 mile distance.  

The event was made even more special as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Prince William and Kate, along with Prince Harry, were at the finish line to present some of the runners with their medals.  

And while they pushed their bodies to the limit and beyond and felt aches and pains like never before, they also felt an overwhelming sense of pride and satisfaction at what they achieved.

Here's what our runners had to say:  

"It was an absolutely fantastic day, said Anne Ridgwell, 44, from Brentwood, who completed her first marathon in memory of her father Ray Reader who was under our care before he died.  Aidan Lucas

"A big thank you to Saint Francis Hospice and to fellow SFH team mates for all their support and encouragement.  

"The crowds, bands, dancers, family and hospice cheer points spurred us all on and kept us going.  

"It was a truly memorable day - seeing the royals at the finish was a bonus too.  

                      Anne Ridgwell

"The hospice is a charity very close to my heart and I was very pleased and honoured to be wearing my orange Saint Francis Hospice top."                             
Colin Wilkins, 35, from Rainham, who ran in memory of his mum Aileen and his dad Robert, said, "It was a truly amazing day from start to finish, nothing about it could have gone better!  Aidan Lucas

"The support of the crowd all around the course carried me through, and seeing the fantastic Saint Francis Hospice cheering station at mile 23 brought a wave of emotions, from why I signed up to the challenge, to the amazing support they've given me over the past weeks and months.    

"I had to put my sunglasses on to hide the tears, and managed to stop for some high-fives and a kiss from my wife and daughter!" 

                                                                                                                       Colin Wilkins

Sam Edwards, who ran alongside his fiancé Clare McPartland, Head of Marketing and Communications at the hospice, said, "Despite finding it even more difficult than I could ever imagine, it was an unforgettable experience. Aidan Lucas

Seeing my friends, family and the hospice supporters on the way round made such a huge difference to getting over that line.  

"It was an absolute honour to represent such a fantastic charity in a race I used to watch on the TV every year as a kid." 

(front) Clare McPartland, Dr Lucy Bemand-Qureshi and (back) Sam Edwards

The Thrift Green Trotters running club, which is based at the Brentwood Centre, once again manned a drink stand at mile 10 so runners stayed hydrated while a team took on the iconic race.  Aidan Lucas

Mary Lloyd, 27, missed out on her 4-hour target by just two minutes but still managed to achieve a personal best by 5 minutes.  

Chanel Lassman finished in 4 hours 15 minutes and said the heat made the challenge even tougher but she was thrilled to meet the royals and to appear on television.   

Fellow Trotter Vicki Calleja, 27, from Brentwood, completed her second London marathon in an impressive 3 hours 51.  

The social worker added, "I struggled, it was hot and seemed busier than when I did it before.

"I was pretty emotional at mile 23 when I passed the hospice supporters who were amazing."                                                                                                          Mary Lloyd

And Trotter Jess Wicks, 38, from Hutton, battled a knee injury which threatened to stop her in her tracks, but she smiled through the pain and made it to the end.   Aidan Lucas

Trotter Nimo Saeed said, "The London Marathon is an amazing experience and each one I run is very special.  

"It was a tough run but knowing you are running to help others plus the crowds give you the lift you need to get you over the line. 

                        Chanel Lassman

"I feel fantastic as I also hit my target time. That was marathon number five and I'm already considering number six!" Aidan Lucas

Our Specialist Registrar Dr Lucy Bemand-Qureshi, 39, completed the marathon in 5 hours 15 minutes and 11 seconds and was back at work the following day (24th April) looking after patients. 

Lucy said, "I am so pleased to have done it. It feels like a real achievement and it was wonderful to see my family and friends cheering along the way. 

"I stopped to give medical assistance twice - to a runner with asthma and another who collapsed - until St John Ambulance could take over. 

                                                                                                                            Nimo Saeed

"There were times along the way when it was really hard and I would think of the patients and everyone who was supporting me and it really kept me going."  Aidan Lucas

Dave Oakley, 36, David McCarthy, 46, Magdalena Mikrut-Kremiec, 43, Mitch Cornelia, 40, Steve Morton, 28, and Aidan Lucas, 20, - who all work at DST Customer Communications Dagenham signed up for the challenge as part of the company's fundraising efforts for the charity over the past year. 

Magdalena, who finished in 4 hours 49 minutes, said, "I loved every second of it.   "Berlin marathon next!" 

Dave Oakley, passed the finish line at 4 hours 30 and described the day as "truly amazing" and Aidan summed his first marathon experience up in one word - "awesome." 
                  Dr Lucy

Dave McCarthy, who completed his third London marathon, finished in 4 hours 20 and was helped along the way by fellow hospice runners.   Aidan Lucas

And for Steve, the event was made even more special when he was presented with his medal by the Duke of Cambridge Prince William, who was there with his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge and his brother Prince Harry. 

Front: L-R Steve Morton and Claire Pond. Back L-R Dave Oakley, Alfie Dunsdon, David McCarthy, Mitch Cornelia, Aidan Lucas and Colin Wilkins.

"I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would," said Steve.  "It really makes such a difference having your name on your top as people call out your name and it really spurs you on." Aidan Lucas

Ilford firefighter Perry Whitlock, 29, ran in memory of family friend Rob Mottram who was cared for at the hospice in August last year.

He stopped at mile 23 to hug Rob's wife Teresa, who now works with the charity's fundraising team, before making his way to the finish line.

"It was a great day," said Rob.

"I was doing fine up until 22 miles and then the heat got to me but I slowed down and make it to the finish line.
              Perry Whitlock

"I was really glad to be raising awareness of Saint Francis Hospice which gave such wonderful care and support to Rob and Teresa.

"I did not get to know Rob that well but I know he was an amazing guy.

"The least I could do was give something back so other families will get the help and treatment they need."
Aidan Lucas
Police officer Spencer Littlechild, 40, from Hornchurch, said, "It was an amazing experience, I enjoyed every minute of it.     

"I looked up to the sky with a tear in my eye wishing mum and dad could have seen me cross that line."    

Spencer, whose mother was supported by the charity before she died, said it gave him a real buzz to see his family and friends along the way and he passed the finish line with fellow hospice runner Alan Daly.     

Alfie Dunsdon, now 22, was just 15 when his dad died but the care he received at the hospice inspired him to take on the      challenge.                                                                                                   Spencer Littlechild

"It was harder than I ever could have imagined, even with all the training it was such a difficult task," said Alfie. Aidan Lucas   

"I was running fairly well then my legs completely seized up just before the half way point.

"Then at around 14 miles my recurring knee injury popped back up and it was a massive struggle from that point to even lift my legs and finish.     

"The only thing getting through was making sure I finished to make my Dad proud, get my medal and to get all the donations for the hospice."       

         Alfie Dunsdon
Claire Pond, 41, from Stanford-le-Hope, was running for her mum Sheila Rozee and her cousin Zef. 

Claire said, "I am over the moon. I finished in six hours, 14 minutes and 37 seconds.   "I have had one of my best days ever, a fantastic experience. 

"I felt very honoured to be running for Saint Francis Hospice and feel absolutely great to support and give something back to the charity." 

Anne Brown, Head of Fundraising at Saint Francis Hospice, said, "London Marathon race day was an amazing experience.

"Forty-three incredible people ran for Saint Francis Hospice and all did superbly well on what turned out to be a very warm day.  

"We are so proud of our wonderful #TeamSFH 2017 and grateful for all they have done - training, fundraising, challenging themselves to make sure that end of life care is available for those who sadly need it.  

"Many of our runners took part in memory of loved ones cared for by the hospice, making the day very special and filled with emotion.  

"Our runners are an awesome bunch, and it's been a privilege to take this journey with them." 

Anne also thanked all the staff, volunteers, families and friends who turned Mile 23 orange on marathon day, giving out sweets and encouragement in equal measure to all who needed it. 

More photos of our runners!

Aidan Lucas 
Mitch Cornelia

Aidan Lucas
Alan Daly and his mum

Aidan Lucas
Clare Sidebottom

Aidan Lucas

Aidan Lucas
Charlotte Gane

Aidan Lucas
Dave Oakley

Aidan Lucas
Steve Jones

Aidan Lucas
Jamie Finan

Aidan Lucas

Aidan Lucas
Jess Wicks

Aidan Lucas
James Morris

Aidan Lucas
Lewis Payne

Aidan Lucas
Steve Morton

Aidan Lucas
David McCarthy

Aidan Lucas
Aidan Lucas