WHEN Claire Gearie laces up her running shoes for the world’s largest half marathon there will be someone special on her mind.

Claire’s son Axl died in March - three days before his third Birthday - and taking part in the Great North Run - the 13.1 mile route between Newcastle and South Shields on September 9 - has given her a focus to help her cope with her grief.

The 37-year-old from Bradford recalls enjoying running when she was a little girl. After taking a break from it during her teens, she picked it back up later in life and says it helps with her health and well-being.

“It has been my saviour going for a run,” explains Claire.

Running also gave her a focus while caring for her little boy who suffered from congenital dyserythropoietic anaemia (CDA), a rare blood disorder resulting from a decrease in the number of blood cells (RBCs) in the body and a less than normal quantity of haemoglobin in the blood.

Axl’s family were holding on to the hope that a bone marrow transplant would improve his quality of life.

When his father, Ian, was found to be the perfect match, it was the best news they could have wished for.

Axl underwent the transplant operation last year at Leeds General Infirmary but, sadly, the transplant failed.

“He had been doing really well,” says Claire.

But regular blood tests revealed Axl’s red blood levels were low indicating the transplant had failed.

Axl’s family were devastated but they weren’t defeated and decided to see if they could find another bone marrow match through the Anthony Nolan Trust, a UK charity working in the areas of leukaemia and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

Claire recalls they talked it through as a family and while they didn’t want Axl to have to go through the operation again, they knew it was the only option to improve his quality of life.

Through the Anthony Nolan Trust a bone marrow match was found and Axl underwent the operation in January.

After being told the operation was a success, the family were entering a new year with fresh hope.

But within weeks of undergoing the operation Axl was in intensive care after a virus affected his chest and lungs.

The little fighter passed away on March 7.

“Every morning you wake up and you cannot control your emotions,” says Claire.

“It is heart wrenching.”

“It like your soul has been ripped out of your body because he was my little man. I was his full-time carer. The house is so empty.”

Axl’s death has also been felt by his brother, Lucas, who is also struggling to come to terms with the fact that his playmate is no longer by his side.

“He has no-one to play with and you can tell he is not his usual bouncy self,” says Claire.

Now she is keen to keep her little boy’s legacy alive through fundraising. Participating in the Great North Run with her running pal, Louise Foxall, who she met through their sons’ friendship, is her first major fundraiser.

For their training the pals are currently running three times a week. They have also taken part in 10K races.

“I have always wanted to do the Great North Run,” says Claire, who managed to get a place through the charity Candlelighters.

As well as supporting the children’s cancer charity, Claire is also hoping to participate in other fundraisers to help raise money for the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust and the toy fund which was inspired through and christened after Axl.

It was through Axl’s treatment in Ward 17 that he became involved in the Bradford Hospitals Children’s Charity.

The idea behind Axl’s Toy Fund was for people to make donations instead of toys so staff were able to purchase the toys and equipment needed within the children’s wards.

“I will carry on running and raising money,” says Claire.

She says wants to continue fundraising for Candlelighters, the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust and Axl’s Toy Fund. I want to give something back to the three charities that have helped us over the years.”

“It makes you feel positive and it makes you feel your are still doing something attached to Axl because whatever I do in all the races I will be doing it with him in mind.”

Visit https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/clairegearie1.