Paula Radcliffe hails ‘inspirational’ women in Morrisons Great South Run
Legendary athlete Paula Radcliffe today met inspirational women who are taking part in this year’s Morrisons Great South Run.
Paula was at Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard in her role as Great Run’s ambassador for women’s running in 2015.
The marathon star, who won the Great South Run in 2008, is on a mission to encourage more women to take up running.
Since 2010 the Great South Run has been made up of around 45 per cent female competitors – and Paula is keen to see that figure rise to achieve an even 50/50 male and female split.
Among the women Paula met this morning was Gemma Blamire from the Isle of Wight, who will join up to 25,000 people on the start line of the world’s leading 10-mile running event when it returns to Southsea on Sunday 25 October.
Gemma told Paula how she founded KissyPuppy: The Sophie Rolf Trust in memory of her six-year-old daughter Sophie, who died of a brain tumour in 2012.
The charity works with the Earl Mountbatten Hospice and the local NHS to support Isle of Wight children with life-shortening conditions, and their families.
Gemma, 37, said: “This will be my third Great South Run. The Isle of Wight is full of hills so I’m always pleased to come to Portsmouth to run as it’s a flat route! The crowd is fantastic. People come out of their houses to cheer you on, you’ve got music playing in the streets and the route is lined with people all the way round. “Everyone is cheering you on – no matter who you are, you get your name called out by people supporting you. “It was fantastic to get the opportunity to meet Paula. She seemed so normal and you can relate to her – although there’s no way I could ever be as fast as her! She’s a true inspiration and it’s been a fantastic day.”
Paula Radcliffe said: “It’s an honour to meet women like Gemma whose stories are so inspiring and will encourage women everywhere to see running as an achievable goal.
“Sometimes women feel they have no time to fit in exercise because of the demands of juggling work and family life. They don’t know where to start, but it’s true that the greatest journeys start with a single step. You don’t need expensive equipment – just a well fitting pair of trainers!
“Walking, jogging and eventually running regularly is an achievable form of exercise for most people, and having an event to work towards can be a great motivator.
“I’m hoping that people will follow these women’s examples and set themselves the goal of taking part in the Morrisons Great South Run this October.
“The Great South Run is a really fast, flat course which makes it great for runners of all abilities and it has an amazing atmosphere. It’s almost like a carnival all the way round Portsmouth and the people of the city really get behind it. That’s part of what makes it so special.
“Running past HMS Victory and through the Historic Dockyard, round the city and along the seafront is inspiring – there’s a real party atmosphere.”
The 10 mile route offers a unique opportunity to run through the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and passes HMS Victory. The course is known for being flat, and has been graced by world-class athletes such as Paula Radcliffe, Liz McColgan, Sonia O’Sullivan and Mo Farah, who won the men’s race in 2009.
The event has grown into a festival of sport in Portsmouth and Southsea, with nearly 30,000 people taking part in four events across two days, including the Morrisons Junior & Mini Great South Run and the Morrisons Great South Run 5k.
For more information and to enter, visit greatrun.org/south
The Sophie Rolf Trust – Registered Charity 1156155
Sophie Rolf was a beautiful, happy, larger than life little girl. She enjoyed doing all things little girls love, especially her swimming and dance classes.
Sophie started school in September2011, joining her big brother Jack at St Saviours Primary School in Totland on the Isle of Wight.
During May 2012 we noticed a tremor in Sophie’s left arm and, after numerous hospital visits and finally an MRI scan in June, we received the terrible news that no parent wants to hear – Sophie had a ‘Supratentorial high grade Glioma, bilateral thalamic tumour’.
This is an aggressive brain tumour located in a very awkward part of the brain. We were told that the tumour was inoperable and the prognosis poor. Sophie faced things that no child or adult should have to go through. Neuro surgery to fit shunts, central line surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, a trial drug, numerous MRI & CT scans, homeopathic drugs and other tests were all met with determination, strength, courage and most of all always a smile.
She made us so proud to call her our daughter. As a family we never gave up hope and actively pursued other medical opinions from Europe and the rest of the world – however each reply reinforced the original diagnosis.
Sadly Sophie lost her fight in November 2013 at home alongside her family that adored her so much. She didn’t suffer and as always, she decided when the time was right.
‘KissyPuppy’ was originally set up to enable friends and family to fund raise for Sophie and initially was used to support Sophie’s journey through this including travelling to and from appointments on the mainland, any equipment needed and creating magical experiences and memories.
We chose the name ‘KissyPuppy’ as this was a word Sophie used for a very special sort of cuddle and kiss reserved only for her big brother Jack.
What this devastating process highlighted to us as a family was the limited healthcare options available for children with life shortening conditions on the Isle of Wight.
There is no specialist children’s hospice on the Isle of Wight. Families are offered the option of travelling to Winchester for respite or end of life care, which is a three hour journey each way, relying on Ferries. Travelling to the mainland at the point when Sophie was very poorly is something we did not want to be thinking about.
The Earl Mountbatten Hospice provides comprehensive end-of-life healthcare for the Isle of Wight community. They support and care for adults living with and dying from a life-shortening illness and, working in partnership with the local NHS, they are extending these services to children.
Sophie said early on in her treatment that she wanted to help other children as they have helped her………so that is what we have pledged to do. We have joined forces with the Earl Mountbatten Hospice and the local NHS to help support and develop services on the Island for children and young people, and their families, with life shortening conditions.
Over a period of time a range of services will be developed offering flexible, individualised care and support, in the place of choice, built around the unique needs of each family.
Services will be coordinated centrally, and delivered by a multi-professional team, working together with each family to support their wishes and care choices. Sophie’s first project was to provide an area within the existing hospice building that will be suitable for use by children and their families.
The area was to provide the equipment needed to fulfil the medical requirements of the individual whilst at the same time recognise the needs of the family as a whole.
From day one Sophie was an inspiration to all. She never once complained or grumbled about what she was going through. She greeted each and every day with a smile and her attitude and spirit made her fundraising such a success that within a few months she had raised the £10,000 target set for the first project.
At the beginning of November 2013 Sophie, just a few weeks before she passed away, opened the children’s rooms at Earl Mountbatten Hospice, a massive achievement of which we are so proud of her for. Sophie had already started on her next project, a Playground, within the grounds of the Hospice.
In her short life, Sophie has changed Children’s services here on the Island. We, as Sophie’s family, recognise there is so much more to be done. Kissypuppy – ‘The Sophie Rolf Trust’ is now a registered charity.
We are committed to helping the Earl Mountbatten Hospice, local NHS and other interested parties in the continued development of services for children and their families with life shortening illnesses on the Isle of Wight.
We hope we can continue Sophie’s good work and make a legacy she would be proud of.