It was a staggering achievement, but rather than being the last act of a defiant woman it became the first in a series of epic feats that made Jane, from Rothwell, near Leeds, loved and admired around the world.
Despite her worsening condition she continued her sporting challenges raising £1.85m for charity by the time she finally lost her fight with cancer in 2007. Since then, her husband, Mike, and his three children, Rebecca, Suzanne and Steven, have carried on the legacy she started and this weekend Rebecca embarks on a double marathon and 600-mile cycle ride – all in the space of just eight days.
She will be joined on the Anniversary Challenge by her father as well four-time World Ironman champion Chrissie Wellington, and together they will do the Paris Marathon followed by an epic bike ride that takes them from Zeebrugge to London, via Hull, just in time to run the London Marathon.
“I’ve done a lot of running but I haven’t been out on the bike yet,” says the 24-year-old, a little sheepishly. “It’s about making sure we look after what mum started, it’s also a great opportunity for me to be able to do these challenges and to be able to raise funds for charities.”
Jane Tomlinson’s name has become a by-word for courage, but Rebecca says it’s only as she’s got older that she has come to appreciate her mother’s achievements.
“When we were growing up, she was just our mum. She used to actually bug me quite a lot,” she says, affectionately. “Looking back now I feel a bit guilty that I didn’t [appreciate all she did]. I see things differently now. But I was at school, I was a teenager, and, sometimes, it was all a bit, well, embarrassing. She was very plain speaking and said it how it was, I’ve never really met anybody else like that. Dad copes really well but he’s never been very practical.
“It used to be mum who did everything. We had this coffee machine and it broke and, while dad was watching Match of the Day, mum dismantled the machine, fixed it and put it back together. It still sits there even though it’s been broken again for about two years. Other people have this image of her through what she did, but I have a different image I remember the person who used to wear crazy leggings and tie-dyed skirts with tassels.”
Running a marathon is her way of keeping her memory alive. “I know I’d be upset if the money she raised and the events she helped put together just fizzled out, because it’s such a good opportunity to raise money especially for local charities. But I enjoy it and I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t.”
She likes it so much that she works as an event co-ordinator for children’s charity, Sparks, one of the charities her mum chose to support through Jane’s Appeal.
As well as raising money for charity, this latest challenge will give Rebecca, who now lives in London, the chance to spend time with her father and they’re both more than ready for it.
“The thing I’m not looking forward to is London because by then I know my legs are going to be really sore. But I’m looking forward to going back to Paris because they’ve got a wine stop – a mile before the end of the marathon instead of water you get a glass of wine. How brilliant is that?”
To support the Anniversary Challenge visit: www.justgiving.com/anniversarychallenge