Losing her son-in-law to a brain tumour gave Ruth Murney the impetus to pull on her running shoes.
Mathew Geaves was only 28 when he lost his three-year battle with the illness in May last year. Ruth, a supply teacher from Clayton, recalls how Mathew’s positive attitude inspired her and the rest of the family to fundraise in his memory.
Mathew’s widow, Zoe, who is Ruth’s step-daughter, had already begun fundraising for The Brain Tumour Charity and the day after Mathew died Ruth set out on her own challenge – to run 1,000 miles in ten months.
“I used to be in the RAF years ago so I always did a little bit of running,” says Ruth, who did the Great North Run with Zoe last September.
Having completed half-marathons, Ruth decided to challenge herself. “I came up with this wacky idea to run 1,000 miles in ten months,” she says.
Initially, Ruth hoped to complete the challenge before the New Year, but her schedule was disrupted by an achilles injury and a chest infection which meant she was often having to catch up, averaging up to 40 miles a week.
Charting her progress on her run-keeper, an app on her phone which tracked her distance and time, and a spreadsheet, kept Ruth on course for completing her challenge last month.
Ruth admits turning out on a winter’s night and facing the harsh weather was often a struggle, but thinking of Mathew and how bravely and positively he dealt with his brain tumour kept her going.
“Looking back, I don’t know how I did it considering it was windy, raining and hailing. I had to keep going whatever,” she says.
Running around her home village of Clayton and neighbouring Thornton and Queensbury, elevated areas which are often bare the brunt of the weather, Ruth also completed part of her challenge in a contrasting environment across the sea.
She ran six miles up the Col de Manse, the top of the French mountain which forms part of the Tour de France route.
Pounding the pavements, Ruth became a familiar face and, when asked about her challenge, many would put their hands in their pockets.
During one run, around Ogden Water, a couple handed her £10 after she told them about her challenge and, after finding a wallet in a service station in Nottingham following a day out, Ruth reunited it with its owner, delivering it to their door as they were only three miles away.
The grateful owner offered Ruth some money which she initially declined but after hearing about her challenge, the woman handed her £50, boosting Ruth’s charity funds to exceed the £1,000 target she originally set.
Since completing the challenge, Ruth has so far raised £1,150 for the Sue Ryder charity, but she has kept her Virgin Money Giving page open if anyone wants to donate. Ruth said the reason the family chose that particular charity was because Mathew spent his final days in a Sue Ryder hospice in Bedfordshire where he lived.
Morrisons has also allowed Ruth to take a collecting tin into the Girlington store to raise money for the charity which, incidentally, is the supermarket chain’s chosen charity for this year.
Morrisons are also providing groceries and refreshments for the family’s next challenge – a 350-mile fundraising bike ride from Dundee to Bedfordshire, which Zoe, her father Des and sister Angela and Mathew’s friends are embarking on next month.
Ruth says Zoe has been a “tower of strength” raising funds while coping with her own grief and raising her and Mathew’s four-year-old son Joshua.
It seems the family have all drawn some strength from Mathew and the way he coped with his condition. “The way he dealt with his illness, he was in a lot of pain at various times, he had two major brain operations but he was so positive. He refused to acknowledge he was going to die,” she says.
Ruth says on the days she felt tired and her muscles hurt during her challenge she thought of Mathew and Zoe, which spurred her on. “I was in awe of this young couple, how they coped with it. It was inspiring,” says Ruth.
Relieved she has now completed her challenge, she is now contemplating her next one.
“I am thrilled to bits to have finished it and I had lots of friends who ran with me and I want to say thank you to them as well,” she says.
“Fifty per cent of it was on my own, but for about 500 miles there was always someone with me – my husband, the dog, they ran with me.
“One of the mums at school, Gerry Riley, kept me motivated. She is a really good runner and motivated me when it was cold and dark and wet and really helped me to finish it.”
To help the family in their fundraising quest, you can donate to virginmoney giving.com/1000milesfomathew.