Louise Berwin will be one of the 30,000-odd people taking part in this year’s London Marathon later this month, though she’ll be one of the few who will be walking the 26.2 mile course in the name of charity.
Registered disabled, Louise, 60, will be raising money for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research after her 28-year-old son James, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Explaining why she decided to take the challenge on, she says: “It was mostly anger, which took the place of shock on being told the news. My late mother had non Hodgkin lymphoma, and my grandfather had leukaemia, but both at the later stages of their lives. James is 28. As a parent and perhaps more so as a single mum, I felt I had to do something but of course there was nothing I could do – you can’t stick a plaster on and kiss it better. So you channel your anger to a productive end. The charity needs £20 million a year to find the research and every penny matters.”
The first time she’s competed in a challenge like this – never mind a marathon, she says: “I swim once or twice a week for 45 minutes but my walking is limited. The closer it gets the more nervous I am, the more people are supporting us, the more terrified I am.”
She’ll be walking the course with Elizabeth Shrager, whose husband Robert – who was the first chairman of JCoSS and a past chairman of West London Synagogue – died of myeloma (another blood cancer) six years ago. “Elizabeth is much fitter than me and is a fast walker but even she is getting nervous as well,” Louise says. “Elizabeth is one of my oldest friends, is a very determined woman and it was logical for her to support me and for us to walk together to raise funds for research into blood cancers.
“I think the determination of what we are raising funds for will push us through. That and we’ve been told that crowds are very supportive.”
Unfortunately, race organisers weren’t as supportive. “I did find the attitude of the marathon organisers less helpful,” she said. “They kept saying you won’t get a medal and sent an email saying I was a health and safety risk and couldn’t take part. It took three weeks of talking to them before they relented.”
Conceding training hasn’t gone as well as it should, she says: “We started off well. We’ve done what we can but if it comes down to it we will split it into two halves. We’re capable of doing 13 plus miles in six plus hours. Walking for 12 hours may not be possible but who knows on the day?As someone once said: ‘A man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what is heaven for’”.
Other words of advice she will also be able to take on board are those from none other than Paula Radcliffe, who Louise met at a business dinner. “I was introduced to her during the reception and she talked about her training, mental attitude, training, and just enjoying the day. I asked her how she keeps going, what she does to get her through and what will keep us going? She stressed training, but talked about what was as important – the determination just to finish.
“She also said something lovely to me, which was what a trainer of hers told her. Aim for the moon because even if you fail, you will still fall amongst the stars.”
• You can sponsor Louise & Elizabeth at http//www.justgiving.com/louise-berwin/
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