When Mark’s sister, Sophie, was diagnosed with breast cancer, he ran to raise money for Breast Cancer Now. Four years later, he did the same thing for his wife.
Running is my way of de-stressing
I first started running about 10 years ago. I got some news about an old friend who had passed away, which came as a bit of a shock. I started thinking actually, I shouldn’t put it off, I should go out there and do some exercise.
I was running on my own for a few years before eventually joining a running club. It gets boring running alone, doing the same routes and finding the motivation to push yourself, so becoming part of a club gives you this camaraderie and variety.
It’s also a great way to de-stress. For the duration of the run, you’re just in your own zone. I won’t process stuff from the day or think through anything that’s happened – it's just a place where I’m not thinking about much at all.
Or – if you are running with someone else – it’s a great time for companionship and a chance to chat.
I began fundraising when my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer
I had been running for a few years before I started thinking about fundraising. The catalyst for me was my sister, Sophie, being diagnosed with breast cancer. Obviously, it comes as a huge blow when somebody who you love and are very close to gets diagnosed, and then you feel the uncertainty of what they’re going to go through.
Shortly after, I signed up for my first marathon, and I decided to fundraise for Breast Cancer Now because it was a charity that Sophie was being helped by.
It made the whole experience far more meaningful.
The experience brought us closer
Whereas I’d always enjoyed running up until then, knowing I was doing it for a good cause and that the money would help the charity help people like her meant a huge amount to me. But it also meant a lot to all of Sophie’s friends and colleagues – it provided them with a further, practical way to support her by sponsoring me.
She showed up to watch the race, which made it quite emotional for both of us. We had a big hug at the end, and I think the whole experience brought us even closer together.
So many people wanted to help
One of the things Sophie mentioned she had received from Breast Cancer Now was the information about what breast cancer is, the different types, what she may feel, different treatments and how she might respond to them. That was really useful for her, and so knowing that I was going to raise money to help part of that support, that was huge.
It was no longer about just completing the marathon and getting a time. It was about doing something that was really going to help lots of individuals going through a bleak period.
My friends and colleagues were also keen to support me once they found out what the cause was and why it had a personal significance. Just the act of fundraising creates goodwill, and that's hugely rewarding to know that so many people wanted the very best for my sister.
I ran again when my wife was diagnosed
My biggest achievement was running the Brighton Marathon for a second time in 2019; not just because of the money raised, but because the cause was even closer to home. This time, it was my wife who had breast cancer.
When you do have a family member who is diagnosed, you feel like you have to quickly become an expert in breast cancer. But, frankly, you don’t want to know anything about it at all. The hospital appointments can be really baffling at times, so the information that Breast Cancer Now provides is so helpful. It allowed us to process and understand what we were being told.
When it came to raising money for the cause, I again relied on my network of friends and co-workers.
I want people to know that you don’t have to work hard with the fundraising aspect, because I think that’s what puts people off. I was just really honest with people about what my wife and I were going through, and they wanted to support us. It wasn’t a stress or a hassle at all.
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable and not trying to hide it makes people more empathetic and generous.
If you already compete, you might as well do it for Team Now
To anyone considering it, I would say definitely join Team Now. They’re a group of people who all support one another and knowing that you’re part of a bigger team all motivated by a common goal and a concern to help others is brilliant.
A real highlight for me was when the charity got different people together who would be running marathons for Team Now, so we all got to meet one another. There were both practical and inspirational stories shared that day – from tips on nutrition to hearing about the experiences of people who have been supported by Breast Cancer Now.
I think there must be loads of people out there who already think about themselves as runners or cyclists, but who don’t consider doing it for charity. Raising money doesn’t take away from the competitive element of it – you can do both.
If you've been inspired by Mark and want to help raise money for Breast Cancer Now, consider joining the team! You don't have to do an athletic challenge, either - there are plenty of ways to fundraise.