ON October 7 thousands of people will tie up their trainer laces, stretch out weary calf and thigh muscles and feel the adrenalin build through their bodies as they wait for the gun to go off for the start of the Bupa Great Edinburgh Run.
They will pound either 5k or 10k – three or six miles in old money – of the Capital’s streets, hoping to raise millions for various charities. Or they will they just do it for a sense of personal achievement in crossing the finishing line in Holyrood Park.
Over the next four weeks the Evening News will focus on a few of those running for causes close to their hearts – and give those who are only now signing up a schedule in which to get race fit.
Today two runners, linked by geography and a devastating condition, tell why they signed up.
50, from Dalkeith
THERE are few in Edinburgh who haven’t heard of Ann Maxwell – or at least the charity she and her husband Jonny founded in their son’s name nine years ago.
The Muir Maxwell Trust was launched after the couple battled to find help and information about their child’s rare form of epilepsy, Dravet Syndrome, which had left him severely brain damaged as a baby.
And Ann’s fundraising efforts since are legendary with glamorous masked balls, fashion shows and spectacular raffles.
As a result, in less than a decade, she and her team have raised around £7 million to help young sufferers of epilepsy and their families, handing out more than 2280 epilepsy alarms which warn parents if their child is fitting in their sleep, and establishing the Muir Maxwell Research Centre at Edinburgh University to improve doctors’ knowledge of the disease - and ultimately find a cure.
But, perhaps less widely known, is that for the last six years the mum-of-three has been battling ill health herself. She was diagnosed with a brain tumour, had two potentially life-threatening operations, and now has to live with the fact that the tumour will never be removed.
And what’s got her through it has been her running. Which is why when she hits the streets in the Bupa Great Edinburgh Run, she’s really doing it for herself.
“I was never really into fitness when I was younger,” she laughs. “It was only in 2006 that I discovered running. I didn’t really like it to begin with. A friend convinced me we should enter the Edinburgh Marathon, so I was training for that. I felt committed to it because we were raising money for charity, but that first run... I really wondered what I’d let myself in for.
“However, like most things, the more you do it, the better you get.”
But then, just as Ann felt she was getting somewhere, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. “One side of my face had gone numb which I realised when I was putting on moisturiser. It had lost all sensation.
By the time I did see my doctor I realised I was also suffering from tinnitus.
“They were slow to get to the bottom of it though, and to be honest I wasn’t too worried. Evenutally though I thought ‘this isn’t right’ and after a series of referrals I was given an MRI scan and that’s when they found a growth behind my ear the size of a golf ball.”
Ann was diagnosed with an incredibly rare cancer, a cranial chrondro sarcomma. And the tumour had become tangled in the cranial nerves, which was what had caused the symptoms.
“Who knows how I contracted it,” she says matter-of-factly. “It’s like a ligament cancer, which is usually in the elbow or knee or hip, if at all. There’s only been a handful of people in the world who’ve had it, so the prognosis was not good. I was told I would be kept as well as possible, for as long as possible.”
However, given Ann’s contacts in child neurology given Muir’s condition, she spoke to them, and they were able to put her in touch with experts in her disease around the world.
So in March 2006 she had her first operation in London, to untangle the tumour from her cranial nerves. Astoundingly at the end of May she ran in the Edinburgh Marathon.
“The tumour meant I really had to review my goals, so instead of running the marathon, I had to run just half. But it gave me a goal, a reason to get better quickly. Apparently I was a miraculous patient, defying the rules and doing things the doctors never expected me to be able to do so quickly after brain surgergy. But I think that was because I was already quite fit because of my marathon training. Since then running and I have had quite an affinity.” Ann had a second operation in the September of the same year, this time to remove as much of the tumour as possible. Twenty per cent of the growth was left – which has remained the same size since – but doctors also had to remove her inner ear, so now Ann is deaf on one side. That was harder to recover from because my balance was affected. Then last year I also had terrible double vision because of it, so I had to have surgery on my eye muscle. Now it only affects my peripheral vision. But it was terrible to have it – when I was out running on cycle paths I was seeing two dogs and their owners coming towards me instead of one, and I’d end up all tangled in leads as I couldn’t tell which was the real one,” she laughs.
“Having cranial nerve damage has impacted on what I’m physically capable of, but I feel I need to run to keep fit, to be able to lead the busy life I have and to stay healthy to keep the tumour under control.
“It will come back one day, but no-one can say when. So I’ll keep running as long as I can. I’m out running as often as I can, doing at least one 10k a week.
“I’m a great advocate of sport now, of keeping yourself fit and healthy to keep yourself well and to aid recovery if you fall ill. It’s very important to me. Running the 10k will bring in some money for the charity, but mostly it’s for me.”
To support Ann’s run visit the website www.muirmaxwelltrust.com
19, from Dalkeith
CURRENTLY Catherine Law’s training schedule for the 10k involves running up and down the 100 steps in her tenement stairwell on a daily basis.
“I’ve just moved in and my legs are constantly sore,” she laughs. “I probably should be doing more, so with a month to go I’ll be doing much more training.”
Catherine, a student of sociology at Abertay University in Dundee, registered for the Great Edinburgh Run after most of her friends and family cast doubt that she’d be able to complete it.
“I did the Race for Life before which is 5k so I was looking for a new challenge, and since no-one thought I could do it, that just inspired me more.”
Not that she needs to look too far for inspiration when it comes to raising money for the Matthew Law Fund. Matthew was her twin brother – younger by just a minute – who by the age of three was diagnosed with learning difficulties and severe autism.
Then in 2005, just after their 12th birthdays, he was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
Within days Matthew was in a coma, and eventually his parents, Steve and Gill, were forced to switch off his life support.
Catherine remembers a brother with a love of life and of music – particularly of the band Embrace – but who was never able to sing along, or even speak.
“I don’t know how I dealt with it all to be honest,” says the former Dalkeith High pupil. “Matthew had already been staying away from home at a boarding school near Aberdeen for children with special needs, so we’d been apart for a while when he became ill.
“I think I just got on with it which is what we’d all always just done, and starting up the charity definitely helped. It’s now part of ARCHIE, which is a charitable foundation, which raises money to support parents and children during stays at Aberdeen Royal Children’s Hospital which is where Matthew was treated.
“My parents set up the fund within a few months of Matthew dying. It’s given us all a good focus and it really helps other parents who are in the same position, having to travel to hospital and stay there and the costs that involves.
“Last year we even paid for a terminally-ill child to have a birthday party in hospital which is great.”
She adds: “My dad has already done two triathlons to raise money, and while I had done some sponsored events at school and the Race for Life, I wanted a bigger challenge so chose the Great Edinburgh 10k. The target is £300 and so far I’ve got £125 pledged, so any more would be great.”
To support Catherine’s run visit www.justgiving.com/CatherineLaw93
With the event now only weeks away, most of the runners will have already been training hard for the big day.
Whether it is the 5k or 10k course, the right preparation is crucial to ensuring you can finish the race with a smile on your face.
The best idea is to download a training schedule either from the Bupa website which will set out the amount and intensity of training you should be completing each week. The 10k may sound daunting but it is seen as an ideal distance because the training can easily fit around normal life.
You don’t need much more than an old T-shirt and shorts – but it is worth investing in a good pair of trainers.
And finally, watch what you eat and drink. You need to be consuming lots of slow-release carbohydrate like pasta to provide you with energy. According to runbritain.com, you typically burn at least 100 calories per mile on top of your general daily calorie requirements so it is important to keep your body supplied.