Sarah’s 34,000 mile marathon to help fight teenage cancer

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When two of her close friends died from cancer in their 20s Sarah Wood decided she needed to do something to try to make a difference. Catherine Scott reports.

Sarah wood was just 18 when she ran her first marathon to raise money for cancer charities

Now she is using her savings and all her holidays to run the world’s six major marathons in the world to raise thousands for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Sarah, 26, from Bridlington decided to take on the challenge after two of her close friends died of cancer in their twenties.

She has already completed London, New York and Tokyo and will be running the Chicago, Boston and Berlin Marathons this year.

The challenge will see her travel more than 34,100 miles before even running a step.

“It is quite unusual for people to be travelling the distance I will be travelling,” says Sarah who recently returned from her third marathon in Tokyo.

“But I wanted something that was going to be a physical and mental challenge. Tokyo was definitely a challenge as it is such a long way away and then there’s the jet lag as well as the humidity and the language. I was on my own with no support which made it even more of a challenge, but the organisers were great and the atmosphere was amazing. I feel very proud of myself.”

Despite the jet lag Sarah completed the marathon, regarded as one of the hardest of the six, in a respectable 3hrs 43 mins, although her personal best in 3hrs 24 mins.

Sarah explained why she wanted to take on such a challenge which will personally cost her thousands of pounds.

“My childhood friend Tom died on October last year from cancer,” says Sarah who works in aftersales for a caravan company.

“He was a big rugby player before he was ill. He’d had cancer a few years ago but then it came back and he was told it was terminal. He decided to bring his wedding to Danielle forward and died a month later.”

Tom Keeping had been in remission from cancer for three years, but sadly the cancer returned last year and he faced a terminal diagnosis.

Sarah and Tom had been friends from the age of five and he was treated at the Teenage Cancer Trust unit at Castle Hill Hospital, Hull.

Another of Sarah’s close friends, Stephen Phelps, died in February this year aged 24, from cancer after being treated on a Teenage Cancer Trust unit in Leeds. He’d fought the disease for a year.

“The Teenage Cancer Trust is amazing in the work it does with teenagers and young people,” says Sarah who visited the units and said she was amazed by the staff and the facilities and the support that both Stephen and Tom received.

“In 2011, I was lucky enough to be invited to the opening of the Teenage Cancer Trust Unit at Castle Hill, and was amazed by the unit and staff, I wanted to play my part in helping teenagers who are suffering from the horrible disease.”

Around seven young people aged between 13 and 24 are diagnosed with cancer every day in the UK. They need expert treatment and support from the moment they hear the word ‘cancer.’

The Teenage Cancer Trust was founded in 1990. Its key service is providing specialist teenage units in NHS hospitals.

It also trains and funds staff who are teenage cancer specialists. The units are dedicated areas for teenage and young adult patients, who are involved in their concept and creation. Medical facilities on the units are equipped with computers, TVs and game consoles.

To date, the charity has built 28 units in cities including London, Leeds, Liverpool, Birmingham, Sheffield, Newcastle, Manchester, Glasgow, Southampton, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Bristol, Cambridge, Hull, Leicester, Nottingham and Wirral.

The charity also serves as an advocate for teenage cancer needs, promoting related research and national and international forums. It also provides support services and education related to teenage and young adult cancer.

“I love running marathons and I thought the six majors were a big enough challenge. I decided to fund all the travel and expenses myself so that all the money I raised went directly to the Teenage Cancer Trust units.”

Sarah has been working six days a week to save enough to fund her trips although that leaves less time for training.

“I have an 18 week training plan and I run six days a week for a total of about 70 miles a week.

“Sleep is a bonus” she jokes.

“As soon as I get home from work I go out for a run.”

Sarah has set herself a target of raising £5,000 and has already hit £1,500.

She took up running when she was just 15 when she took part in the Bridlington Race for Life.

“My uncle had been diagnosed with cancer and fought it for five years. When he passed away I wanted to do something, to make a difference and so I started running.”

She did her first London Marathon in 2012 aged 18 and has had the bug ever since.

She is planning to run the London Marathon again next month even though she has already done it last year as part of her six marathon challenge.

“I think I will always try to do the London Marathon, there is something special about it as it was my first.”