Beckenham woman raises £57,134.28 for Cancer Research by completing London Marathon plus number of events

PUBLISHED: 12:27 05 May 2017 | UPDATED: 12:27 05 May 2017

Debbie after she crossed the marathon finish line

Debbie after she crossed the marathon finish line


Debbie Ward, 50, and her twin sister Linda, had hoped to raise £50,000 by their 50th birthday in February

Debbie Ward, 50, running the marathon for Cancer Research UKDebbie Ward, 50, running the marathon for Cancer Research UK

A woman from Beckenham who set herself, and her twin sister, the challenge of raising £50,000 for Cancer Research UK (CRUK) before their 50th birthday, has exceeded expectations.

Debbie Ward, 50, who ran this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon on behalf the charity for the fourth time, has managed to raise a staggering £57,134.28 so far for the chairty, and even completed the 26-mile challenge in three hours, 34 minutes and 31 seconds - a personal best.

Speaking of the achievement she said: “I’m so glad I’ve achieved it. It was really warm on the day, and I hate running when it’s hot, but I just pushed past that, paced myself, and did what I needed to do. I’ve just turned 50, so I can’t believe I’ve managed to run my fastest time this year. I’ve actually qualified to run the marathon without fundraising, for the age group below the group I should be in, which is quite funny. From now on I’m going to try and knock a minute off my team each year.”

As well as running the marathon, Ms Ward and her sister hosted a number of other fundraising events including four “massive” bake sales at her work, and a pub quiz at The Chancery in Beckenham on the night of the sisters’ 50th birthday, February 18.

Debbie's London Marathon medalDebbie's London Marathon medal

The enthusiastic runner ran her first marathon in 2014 at the age of 47 having been offered a place to run with the understanding she would raise £2,000, but after raising just shy of £9,000 Ms Ward realised she had a passion for running with an aim, and so for the past three years has continued on her mission to hit £50,000.

Ms Ward’s motivation becomes clear when she speaks about her experience with cancer.

She said: “My grandmother had breast cancer in the 1970s and survived it. My mum Marion was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and beat it. My uncle Doug was diagnosed with prostate cancer around this time. Then in 2010 my boss Emma was diagnosed with breast cancer. She beat it. In the same year my mum was diagnosed with serious lung cancer.

“But in 2011, Emma’s cancer had unfortunately retuned and had spread to her spine. During this time my mum’s health spiralled and during Christmas 2011, the cancer had spread to her brain. Although having never met, mum and Emma shared their support and experiences via me and became friends through correspondence and gifts, helping each other through their respective battles. Sadly, Emma lost hers on February 28 2012. Devastatingly, mum lost her fight on May 6 2012.

Debbie's running topDebbie's running top

“But cancer hadn’t quite finished with us yet. Tragically, just weeks before mum passed away and at the age of just 48, my brother Rob was diagnosed with incurable prostate cancer which had already spread to his pelvic bone. I was devastated. Then angry. Then hopeful. Having run five Races for Life with my identical twin, Linda, and having become a pretty keen runner for about three years, I knew I had it in me to run a marathon and do something positive after the most devastating of months.”

After her 2014 marathon success, CRUK asked Ms Ward if she would like to take on the role of social media ambassador, advising new runners on fundraising and running, and having agreed without hesitation it’s a role that she continues today and “enjoys immensely”.

In November 2015, she reduced her working week from five days a week to four days so she could have a better work/life balance and devote more time to training and fundraising, and of course spend more time with her brother. Four and a half years on, despite the cancer spreading further, Ms Ward’s brother still enjoys a good quality of life and that is her incentive.

Ms Ward says she won’t stop her fundraising efforts at 50, and plans to continue raising money for Cancer Research.

Debbie with fellow Cancr Research ambassadorsDebbie with fellow Cancr Research ambassadors

She added: “God yes, I’ll keep going. Cancer has played such a huge part in my life, I will never stop trying to help Cancer Research.

“Each year I have a new theme - last year’s being £50,000 for 50 years - so I just need to think of my next fundraising campaign name. Maybe I’ll run the marathon in fancy dress this year, who knows.”

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