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Beckenham Half Marathon 2016

I am a runner myself, and have completed 14 marathons as well as numerous triathlons, including Ironman Wales. Whilst out training one day in 2014, I had the idea of organising a half marathon in Beckenham in aid of Action Against Cancer and so I started making plans...

Phill, my husband, was diagnosed with bowel cancer 3 years ago, and is being treated by Professor Stebbing. During this time, Phill has been on various chemotherapy cycles and had 5 major operations. He is now having immunotherapy treatment and we have had 9 months of clear scans so far.

Over the last 3 years we have witnessed first-hand how cancer treatment has developed. From the harsh debilitating effects of chemotherapy, to the manageable effects of immunotherapy, there has been so much development for cancer sufferers in recent years and this is only thanks to the relentless hard work undertaken every day in laboratories across the country.

What I love about Action Against Cancer is that you can see where the money is going. Larger charities have so many overheads that only a small proportion of the money you raise actually goes to making a difference. That’s where Action Against Cancer is different; with only one paid employee and low overheads, I knew through the Beckenham Half Marathon, that together we could take action against cancer and make a real difference.

Organising the event last year was difficult as Phill was very poorly in hospital in the months leading up to it. With 200 runners, we still managed to raise £64,000 for Action Against Cancer with the help of fundraising runners and a massive charity auction at Beckenham Rugby Club organised by Sarah Taylor, who has been a great supporter of the event and has worked with the rugby club to make it an inclusive and celebratory family day.

Phill has made great progress this year and although he is still having fortnightly treatment, he is fit and well and even managed to run the half marathon, which was the highlight of my day! The photo above was taken of us just after he crossed the finish line.

Although the event has grown considerably (we had 320 runners on the day), the ethos of the event remains the same: fun and fundraising. Obviously there is a lot of work that goes into this event behind the scenes, including liaising with the local council teams, police, England Athletics, runners, marshals, volunteers and sponsors, to make the event as safe and successful as possible. For 2016, our fundraising total is in excess of £53,000 and is still growing!

Action Against Cancer and I have decided to put all the funds from each year's event towards cancer stem cell research, which is one of their long term projects led by Professor Stebbing. It’s an incredible feeling to know we have already contributed over £110,000.

Watching someone you love suffer makes you feel helpless. But through the Beckenham Half Marathon I’ve realised there is something we can all do. That’s what research does; it gives people time, to enjoy life with loved ones and friends. I already have big plans for 2017’s event and I will continue to fundraise through the Beckenham Half Marathon so that we can get a step closer to eliminating this illness for good.

Cheryl Whitehead – Ambassador of Action Against Cancer

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Cheryl Whitehead and husband Phil ready for marathon

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