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Porthcawl marathon runner vows to Race for Life at home

Sarah-Jane Burns

A woman from Porthcawl is inspiring people to Race for Life at Home and carry on the fight against the disease in these unprecedented times.

Sarah-Jane Burns, 43, was heartbroken when her mum Joan Watkins died aged just 59 from bowel cancer on June 21 2008.To help raise vital funds for Cancer Research UK, Sarah-Jane was supposed to be tackling the Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday April 26 but unfortunately due to the coronavirus outbreak she has vowed to continue her marathon training at home.

The learning support assistant was also hoping to mark her mother’s memory at the Cancer Research UK Race for Life 10K at Museum Green, Swansea on Sunday July 19. The event means a great deal to Sarah-Jane who recently moved back to her home town from Scotland. Sarah-Jane officially started the Race for Life in Stirling in 2018, to the mark the ten-year anniversary of her mother’s death.

The Swansea Race for Life is among events which organisers Cancer Research UK have either had to cancel or postpone this spring and summer to protect the country’s health during the coronavirus outbreak.

But as the nation continues lockdown, undeterred women and men are already vowing to carry on and complete a Race for Life at Home challenge at home, in their garden or their nearest green space.

Despite the new October date for the marathon Sarah-Jane, a long-term supporter of Cancer Research UK, has vowed to continue her daily training runs as part of Race For Life at Home, covering 180 km during the month of May around Porthcawl.

“I feel really proud to be supporting Race For Life At Home, despite everything that is going on I stay determined and focussed in my support for people affected by cancer, it is my wish that one day scientists will find a cure for the disease.”

“My mum was so passionate about making a difference for cancer patients like her, she didn’t want another person to have to go through what she did, and I feel like I am carrying on her legacy by doing whatever I can”

Sarah-Jane’s mum Joan was given six months to live after being diagnosed with cancer in January 2008.  Sarah-Jane and her dad Mike Watkins were by Joan’s side when she died at Y Bwthyn Newydd hospice in Bridgend.

And memories of Sarah-Jane’s mum were right at the heart of wedding celebrations when Sarah-Jane married her husband Gregor Burns, 41, at St John Baptist church in the village of Newton, Porthcawl on March 6 2015. Instead of wedding favours, donations were made to Cancer Research UK.

Guests were also encouraged to wear a hat to the wedding in Sarah-Jane’s mum’s honour.

Sarah-Jane said: “Mum absolutely loved a wedding.

“If any of our family or friends had a new partner, Mum would joke with them, ‘Oh do I need to buy a new hat? I got married in the same church I’d attended as a girl. The last time I’d walked down that aisle in white I’d been dressed as an angel for the nativity play, wearing a costume made by my mum so it was a church full of memories, it’s good to be back in Porthcawl with my friends and family again”

“My husband who is Scottish wore a kilt and the Welsh male voice choir which my dad is a member of sang at our wedding. It was a beautiful sunny day. We even had bagpipes at the wedding reception. It was a real marriage between Wales and Scotland. I just wish my mum had been there.”

Thanks to the generosity of people across Wales, Race for Life participants last year raised just over £650,000 to support vital research to develop gentler and more effective treatments for cancer – a disease that will affect one-in-two people in the UK at some stage in their lives.

Many of the scientists and researchers funded by Cancer Research UK are currently being redeployed to help in the fight against Covid-19, including assisting with testing. By helping to beat coronavirus, the charity can lessen the impact it is having on the care of cancer patients.

Cassandra Miles, Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson for Wales, said: “At a time when it feels like everything is at a standstill, there is one thing that hasn’t stopped, cancer.

“Our priority as a charity is ensuring that people affected by cancer are getting the support they need right now.

“But we are already getting people asking about doing Race for Life at Home because they don’t want to see the charity lose out on vital funding. It’s truly humbling to see the response.

“So, from their homes, we’d love for supporters to join us and Race for Life at Home in these challenging times. From a run or 5K walk around the garden to limbo in the living room, there is no wrong way to Race for Life at Home. With no entry fee, people might choose to twerk, limbo, star jump, squat, skip, dance, or come up with their own novel way of taking part and share it with friends. The message is very much that ‘while we might be apart, we’re doing this together’. There is no wrong way to get involved and join our community.

“Those lucky enough to have a garden may choose to make use of it but whatever people decide to do, we are immensely grateful for the support, now more than ever. If the idea takes off, we could be looking at hundreds of people in Wales stepping forward to Race for Life at Home and perhaps collecting sponsorship to do so.”

People can visit raceforlife.org and sign up free for ideas on how they can create their own Race for Life at Home challenge. And the Cancer Research UK Race for Life Facebook page will help people feel energised with weekly live workout sessions. Organisers are also inviting participants to join the Race for Life at Home community by sharing photos and videos on social media using the hashtag, #RaceForLifeAtHome.