Bishop Auckland’s Joanne Illingworth is set to run the London Marathon after a lengthy break from any form of exercise.
Unfit and overweight is how Joanne self-deprecatingly describes herself, but if there’s anything she does have an abundance of, it’s determination and an instinct to help others.
Joanne previously ran the London Marathon in 1989 and told herself “never again”.
“But nearly every year I watched with amazement and often tears the incredible stories of runners”, she said.
Eventually, having reached her fiftieth birthday last year, she decided she would apply once more. Although she hadn’t run for nearly 27 years, she was disappointed not to be selected.
“In fact I had done no exercise at all”, she declared.
“I was so disappointed, but didn’t give up and decided to try once more. And I was filled with excitement and fear in equal measure when I received this year’s You Are In magazine.
“I still hadn’t exercised – but that was all about to change.”
It wasn’t until last October that Joanne visited a specialist running shop.
The next day she started the NHS Couch Potato to 5K running programme.
“I couldn’t run more than a minute without panting like a dog”, she said.
“I realise I have taken on a huge personal challenge, but I’m hoping to show myself and anyone else who will listen that you can get fit enough in 28 weeks to complete what most people agree is the best marathon in the world.
“The support I’ve had from my family, friends and work colleagues has been absolutely amazing.
“It has spurred me on when the going got tough and the training miles increased.”
“I’ve been very lucky that neither I nor immediate family have had to use either of these charities”, she said. “But my inspiration is the friends and work colleagues and their families who have”.
“No one should suffer the loss of a child and 4louis provides support to bereaved parents when everything seems so bleak.
“I know the upset this caused as a colleague, so can only imagine the heartache the parents and their families have to endure.
“This charity gives support at the worst time in a parent’s life and provides treasured memories.
“My mam lost a close friend a few years ago to cancer and when I found out that I’d been accepted for the marathon I found out that a work colleague had also been diagnosed.
“I’ve also had a number of other colleagues over the years diagnosed with breast cancer. Some won their fight and some didn’t.”
“It was hard to decide which charities to support as there’s so many deserving ones but I’ve chosen charities that mean something to me.”
If anyone would like to help Joanne reach her fundraising target they can visit her fundraising page at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JoanneIllingworth.