Wigan mum takes on half marathon in memory of stillborn granddaughter
A business owner who had previously never run a step is now busy training for a half marathon in memory of her stillborn granddaughter.
Debbie Beardsmore, 58, said her relatives thought she was crazy when she agreed to take part in the Great North Run.
But she is determined to complete the 13.1-mile challenge in September and raise money for charity as a legacy for baby Scarlett.
Debbie, who runs Debbie’s sunbed and retail store in Pemberton, said: “She will be at the front of my heart when I’m doing it. That’s the only thing making me do it.”
The mother-of-two was devastated when her daughter Fran Dawber delivered stillborn baby Scarlett in December, with restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic making the situation even more difficult.
She said: “It was very hard, especially with it being the pandemic and I couldn’t be there. I felt totally lost. I can’t really describe how I felt, but I was numb because I couldn’t do anything. As a mother, I knew my daughter was having to deliver a stillborn and go through it all and I found it really hard to cope with.”
Afterwards, Fran told her mother about a charity called 4Louis, which supports families affected by miscarriage, stillbirth and child loss.
Among the things it does is provide memory boxes for bereaved families and cuddle cots so parents can spend time with the baby.
Debbie went online to find out more about the work of 4Louis and the ways that people can help.
“It must have been a moment of feeling totally useless and helpless that I clicked on the Great North Run,” she said. “I can’t think of any other reasons why I did that.”
With last year’s race cancelled, Debbie was told the people due to take part then would be given priority this year and while she would be put on a waiting list, she may not get a spot until 2022.
But in June she received a phone call asking if she would like a place in this year’s Great North Run, which is scheduled for September 12.
Debbie said: “I said yes and panicked afterwards. I have never run in my life.”
She started getting up at 5.30am every other day to walk for an hour and then walked for two or three hours every Sunday to build up her fitness.
She has also been going to Ladybird Fitness Club in Newtown to use a treadmill.
Debbie is already seeing her walking speeds improve and is training hard for the race.
“I’m going to see how I go on the day and how much I can run. My walking speed has really increased,” she said.
“To give myself a test I did Southport 10k about four weeks ago and managed to do that in one hour 40 minutes, which pleased me because I ran quite a bit of it and walked it.”
As the Great North Run gets ever closer, Debbie’s confidence is building that she can complete the 13.1 miles.
She said: “This week when I went to the gym I had to increase the speed on the treadmill because I knew it was too slow for me.
“I’m feeling very confident. I will get it finished and even if it’s walking at the end, I will do it.”
Debbie, who lives in Birkdale, Southport, had aimed to raise £250 for 4Louis, but has already collected more than £1,300.
That includes £300 raised by her daughter Sarah Morris at The Sanctuary, based at Debbie’s, from donations for treatments and a competition to guess the name of a teddy.
Debbie and Sarah are also holding a grand raffle, with 50 prizes up for grabs donated by local businesses, including meals at restaurants and cafes, a prize from Ninja Warrior and afternoon tea.
The raffle will run throughout August and tickets cost £5, available from Debbie’s and via Facebook page Debbie’s Tan and Nail Salon.
Debbie says the support she has received so far has been “overwhelming” and her fund-raising has provided a chance for people to talk about baby loss.
“It’s ladies who have been to the salon who have unfortunately been through the same thing and they have shared their stories. A man came in to test the fire extinguishers and it turned out his sister had a stillbirth a few years back and he went on the Just Giving page and donated. We have had other men come in the salon who know somebody that it happened to,” she said.
“It’s made people speak and it’s a good thing that people are getting to know about it and that there is a charity that can help.
“It’s definitely helping me to do something. It was only Christmas week when it unfortunately happened and it is still very raw. I get my moments when it hits me, but this is my way of helping.”
Donations to Debbie’s appeal for 4Louis can be made at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/deborahbeardsmore
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