We’re in race to raise vital funds for charity in Sheffield half-marathon

Sam Sparkes before his death in 2009. His uncle, David Naisbitt, will be running for Bluebell Woods in his memory.
Sam Sparkes before his death in 2009. His uncle, David Naisbitt, will be running for Bluebell Woods in his memory.
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THE Steel City will shake to the rhythm of 7,200 runners’ feet on Sunday as Sheffield hosts its biggest half marathon in the event’s 30-year history.

Runners from across South Yorkshire are preparing for the 13-mile run from Don Valley Stadium.

Most of them have entered the event to raise money for charity.

Among those taking part are a team of five intensive care nurses from the Northern General Hospital’s cardiothoracic centre, who are running for the South Yorkshire Heart Appeal.

Heart nurses Gemma Murphy, Rebecca Scholes, Samantha Williamson, Deborah Hewitt-Clarke and Elisabeth Dale will be aiming to complete the course in less than two and a half hours.

“None of us have ever run a half marathon before,” said Gemma, aged 24, from Gleadless Town End.

“Training is going well but it has been a long, hard slog, especially with the bad weather.

“We see every day how the Heart Appeal benefits our patients, and it has funded a lot of the equipment we use, so we decided to raise money as it is so relevant to us.”

Also running is Clare Baron, 22, from Walkley, a third year geography student at The University of Sheffield.

Clare comes from a family of turkey farmers from Cheshire - so a turkey suit seemed the obvious fancy dress choice.

She said: “I guess I will get some funny looks in my turkey suit - but another member of my group might get some too.

“He’s running dressed as the tennis player John McEnroe - he cannot be serious.”

School teacher David Naisbitt, 44, from Nether Edge, is running for Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice, in memory of nephew Sam Sparkes, who died aged two.

Sam died in December 2009 after a being diagnosed with mucolipidosis II disease. He was one of the first children to stay at the hospice, which opened in 2008.

David, headteacher at Oakwood Technology College in Rotherham, who lives with his wife Jessica and two sons, said: “Sam needed 24-hour care and a variety of medication, so going to Bluebell Wood meant the pressure was taken off his parents.”

Ian Featherstone, of Hillsborough, a teacher at Ecclesfield School, is also running for Bluebell Wood.

He decided to give something back to the hospice after his niece Lauren Tranter died there, two weeks before her first birthday in October last year.

Sheffield University student, David Powell, 28, is running to raise money for the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation, in memory of his younger brother Graham who died from childhood liver disease.

David, who is studying for a PhD in Latin American Studies, said: “I have to admit that I haven’t done as much training as I should so although I would really like to complete the run in less than two hours, I will just be happy to finish the race and raise some money.”

Sandra Hill, 44, from Walkley, is running for the Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity in tribute to her dad, Dennis Southern, who died at the hospital aged 66.

She said: “When I was at the half marathon watching people older than me take part and raise money I just thought ‘if they can do it, I can do it’.”

n See tomorrow’s Star for a map of the half marathon route.