Laura’s running Belfast marathon in memory of hero grandad
MILLINGTON Nursery School teacher Laura Stretton hero-worshipped her war veteran grandad Richard Hayden, who sadly died in December last year from cancer at the age of 86.
Laura, in turn, was the apple of his eye, and it is perhaps ironic that the former Irish Guard - a six-foot-four colossus of a man and a lifelong fitness fanatic - should encourage her in her fledgling desire to go running.
For Laura is entering the Belfast Marathon on May 7 to raise funds for the Marie Curie Cancer charity, all in memory of the Old Soldier who spent several months in a German POW camp, having been captured by the Nazis in Northern Europe.
He was wounded in a skirmish with the enemy and was finally captured after lying in a freezing river for 14 hours in a determined bid to escape the enemy, finally being liberated in August 1945.
Mr Hayden was a BT engineer at Carrickblacker Road in Portadown and a real hero in home town Lurgan where he led Lurgan Military Band with style, dignity and panache.
“We loved him so much and miss him so much,” said Laura, who recalled that when she mentioned to him - during his battle with cancer - that she was taking up running, he replied, “Why not try a full marathon?” And she has followed his advice.
Last year, she did the half-marathon at the end of September in Londonderry (13.1 miles) and did the same in Larne in March.
So she has joined a group called ‘Operation 26.2’ for Belfast, and is ‘Running for Ritchie’ through the city on the traditional first Monday in May.
“My target is £500,” she said. But such is the respect for Mr Hayden that she has already collected almost £300, including £123 from Millington efforts, and she believes the target will be surpassed.
Her strict training regime is right on schedule, starting off in January with short bursts, then 8-10 miles and up to 20 miles a couple of weeks ago, now cutting down to smaller distances for the big push.
“Grandad was always a great encourager,” said Laura. “It was such a sad day when he was diagnosed with cancer about two-and-a-half years ago. Up until then, he enjoyed several activities, including weight-lifting in his garage at the grand old age of 83!
“He helped me so much with my running and was so proud of my half-marathon medal from Londonderry, and then he said I’d have to go the full marathon. I’m doing this for him.”
Donate through Laura’s charity page - www.justgiving.com/laura-kennedy-stretton - or read all about it on her facebook page - www.facebook.com/RunningForRitchie.
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