For many of the 7,500 runners at the start line of tomorrow’s Yorkshire Half Marathon, there will be far more on their minds than the 13.1 mile slog ahead.
As the record number of runners set off on the all-new route from Sheffield’s Arundel Gate, these athletes of all abilities may be boosting awareness of an important issue, raising money for a special cause, or overcoming a personal challenge.
Among those set to head for the hills are Sheffield men Michael Walsh and Liam Ronan, both aged 30, who are trying to raise the profile of a missing person, their All Saints Secondary School friend Zisimos Soufas.
Zisimos, known as Zis, went to Nepal in February 2012 to attend a friend’s wedding. After the wedding he stayed in Nepal and was last seen on the night of April 23, 2012.
Michael, who will be among those wearing special T-shirts with images of Zis, said: “Zis loves running, so we thought what better way to raise awareness of his disappearance by running a half marathon in our home city.”
Also heading to the start line will be Mick Waring, 45, from Dinnington, who is raising money for the Sheffield Steelers Wheelchair Basketball Club.
His son, Jack, now 20, found a lifeline in the club after a serious ear infection led to him losing his balance and being confined to a wheelchair for almost six years.
Mick said: “The club saved him. He was in his bedroom moping about and depressed. I took him along and it was an eye opener. He ended up playing for Great Britain juniors.”
And Mick’s story is even more remarkable because less than 18 months ago he had barely done any exercise in his life and weighed in at 19 and a half stone.
He is now a staggering six stone lighter and limbering up to complete both the Yorkshire Half Marathon and the London Marathon.
Another super slimmer taking on the challenge is occupational health nurse Emma Else, who lived in Broomhill and trained at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital.
Just over three years ago Emma, now 46, was morbidly obese at 24 stone. All the odds were stacked against her as her family has a history of heart disease and diabetes.Through changing her diet and ramping up her exercise, Emma, who now lives in Bedford, is a healthy 10 stone and is running tomorrow in aid of cholesterol charity Heart UK.
Fitness instructor Lee Robertson, who works at Gym Plus in Crookes, is less of a stranger to half marathon running.
The 40-year-old, of Hillsborough, has been running the half marathon in Sheffield for about 15 years.
He said: “I just enjoy it, I’m a fun runner. I never take it seriously and usually I do it in fancy dress as it’s a bonus if I make people smile.”
Lee will run in a suit decorated with colourful cartoons. He has previously completed other races dressed as a fairy and a Christmas pudding. He is raising money for The Sheffield Children’s Hospital Charity.
Jessica Halliday, 43, is raising money for Sheffield-based charity Cavendish Cancer Care after her son Lewis, now seven, was diagnosed with leukaemia. Alongside her four friends – Denise Lawrenson, Hannah Peck, Kerry Fenton and Marlene Scott – she will run as a way of saying thank you to the charity for the complementary therapy they provided to the Greystones family at such a difficult time. “Our little boy has been incredibly brave and is doing really well,” said Jessica.
Sam Mallinder, 41, who grew up in Sheffield, has made an epic journey for the big run. She has journeyed from Australia to participate in aid of the Children’s Hospital Charity, as her siblings were both treated at the hospital.
Meanwhile, a whole Sheffield community will unite to raise funds for the same charity in honour of five-year-old cancer patient Phoebe Lollar from Heeley. Members of the local church group, primary school and football club have been inspired to take part by little Phoebe, who has had surgery to remove a brain tumour the size of a tennis ball. Phoebe’s dad Matt, 29, said: “It’s amazing. So many friends, and even friends of friends, have asked us what they can do to help support us at this time of crisis, and running the half marathon is just one expression of that loyalty and friendship.”
This is the first year Jane Tomlinson’s charity Run For All has teamed up with Sheffield Council to organise the city’s half marathon.
Last year’s event descended into chaos when it was officially cancelled with runners on the start line after water supplies failed to turn up.
The organisers then pulled out of future events, leading to the new race with a new route.
Tomorrow’s weather is set to be fresh with sunny intervals – top temperature 11°C.
n For full details of tomorrow’s road closures and other traffic restrictions visit www.theyorkshiremarathon.com
JINGLES ALL THE WAY FOR DANCING DOMINIC
One mad Morris-dancing runner is getting set to jingle all the way to the finish tomorrow.
Sheffield City Morris Men’s Squire Dominic Rice will be at the start with bells on – literally.
The 53-year-old, of Crookes, said: “I first did the Sheffield half marathon in 1983 when I was a student in Sheffield and I have done it many times since.
“This year I thought I would wear the Morris kit because it’s the team’s 40th anniversary. I thought it would be fun.
“I haven’t trained with the bells on but I did the Sheffield Varsity 10k in the kit a few weeks ago and it went OK, apart from a couple of bruised shins.
“Everybody said they heard me coming!”
Speaking of hearing, seven courageous pionEARs are set to run the half marathon dressed as giant ears.
The team is raising money and awareness for a new charity called All Ears.
All Ears aims to reduce the occurrence of tinnitus in more young people as a result of exposure to loud music over a period of time.