The awe-inspiring challenge had a special significance for 28-year-old Jess Brown, who took on the task in memory of her stepdaughter Gracie Brown, who died at the age of 12 last year.
Gracie, described as ‘very loving and very funny’, had a rare, progressive condition called Leukodystrophy which affected her brain, spinal cord and nervous system.
She visited Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice regularly for respite care, which gave her mum Charlotte Murphy, dad Daniel Brown and stepparents Oliver Murphy and Jess Brown the chance to make memories with Gracie away from the 24/7 pressures of her care.
Sheffield Half Marathon in pictures: Runners tackle ‘tough’ and ‘hilly’ course on Mother's Day
Jess decided to take on the Sheffield Half Marathon to raise money for Bluebell Wood. But, because of the pandemic and pregnancy postponements, Gracie
sadly didn’t get to see her stepmum complete the challenge.
“Gracie absolutely loved babies and knowing she was going to be a big sister meant the world to her, but sadly she didn’t get the chance to meet her little brother in person,” said Jess, from Sheffield.
“She’ll always be a big part of our lives. Our baby boy Rupert has a picture of his big sister in his bedroom so he’ll always know who she is.
“If Gracie knew I was going to run the half marathon 10 weeks after giving birth, she would have called me crazy. But she would have known I could have done it. She always had that
confidence in people.”
With various pandemic related postponements, Jess initially thought the Sheffield Half Marathon would be taking place in October as it did last year.
It came as a shock, however, when she realised it was in March, but she was determined not to give up.
“I must admit there was a lot of fretting and I must have cried at least three times in the week before the event,” said Jess.
“I couldn’t do any exercise in the first eight weeks after giving birth to Rupert so I only actually managed to get to the gym once!
On the day itself, Gracie’s memory kept her going.
“It was really tough, just keeping up that momentum. But eventually my mind went into autopilot and I just kept going and going. I sort of felt like Forest Gump just running and running!” said Jess.
“I had Gracie in my head spurring me on too. She absolutely loved Abba, so I had an Abba soundtrack playing all the way through.”
Jess completed the marathon in an incredible 3hrs 14mins.
“I am so proud of myself for actually doing it. I was already amazed at my body for carrying a child and giving birth and it just shows how amazing the body can be,” she said.
“I’d like to thank everyone for supporting me and raising so much for Bluebell Wood which is an amazing place that meant so much to Gracie and to all of us.”