Our Journey to the Royal Parks Half Marathon

Sisters Gay Jackson and Zoe Haverley have taken the leap from their local 5k parkrun to training for a half marathon. They’ll now tackle the picturesque 13.2 mile Royal Parks course this October to raise funds for Beating Bowel Cancer

pink ladiesGay Jackson and Zoe Haverley started to run three years ago. Gay had taken part in a Race for Life and Zoe had started to go out for two and a half to three miles on her own.


In 2014 they spent Christmas Day with each other and on Boxing Day morning set out for a run together.


Their Dad had recently started to feel very unwell and was awaiting the results of tests so they chatted about this as they ran.


“It started to be almost therapeutic for us to run together and talk,” Gay says. Soon afterwards their dad was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus which had spread to his liver and lungs.


“Zoe and I were supporting Mum and Dad, and our support mechanism was to go out running together,” Gay says. Sadly their Dad died 6 weeks after he was diagnosed, on Gay’s birthday.


The sisters continued their runs together and started to increase their distance. “Zoe’s son Lee suggested parkrun – free, timed 5k runs held all the over the country, so we looked it up and went along. We loved it and have now completed 82 parkruns.


“We wore pink running jackets and soon became known as the Pink Ladies! We would often go out for a Sunday morning run too. I’d track our route when we got home and found one day we’d run 11 miles – just two miles off a half marathon!


“We’d talked most of the time so hadn’t realised how far we’d gone.”


The sisters decided to sign up for a half marathon event and Zoe – a stoma care nurse in Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon – suggested a bowel cancer charity.


Gay, who works in the anaesthetic team at Peterborough City Hospital, says: “We wanted to run for a charity that provides support for patients and their families. We’ve had a lot of encouragement from our colleagues at the hospitals which has been great.”


The sisters are boosting their fundraising by baking and plan to arrange some fairy cakes in the shape of a bowel to sell to their colleagues at the hospital.


“Running has been a support mechanism for us,” says Gay. “We chat the whole way round and we love the parks, running past the river in the morning is wonderful.


“We like to spot animals – rabbits, a swan and her cygnets – and the miles just go by. We’re really looking forward to the Royal Parks as the trees will look beautiful by then with their autumnal colours and the atmosphere will help carry us along!”


You can sign up to be part of our team for the Royal Parks here.