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March 2011

Patron's Patter
15th March 2011

West country commuters know only too well that Reading comes before London. So do West country runners. Just as the Berkshire county town was a vital staging-post in Isambard Kingdom Brunel's grand design for the Great Western Railway, so this weekend's Reading Half Marathon is a crucial step along the way to next month's Virgin London Marathon.

For most of them it is the last organized run before they lace up their trainers to pound the streets of the capital on April 17th. After Reading, it's just a question of getting in one long run - the experts suggest about twenty miles - and then tapering down to get bodies and, just as importantly, minds into the best possible state of preparedness for the big day.

And it also means the final push for fund-raising, as I discovered when I joined two Higgy's Heroes at the Stroud Farmers' Market on Saturday. Bea Brandish and Steve Townsend have a combined age of 112 and an appetite for life that would shame youngsters half their age, and an intensity of purpose that would shame us all.

Bea actually had a place in last year's London Marathon but had to give it up because of injury. She knows this could be her last chance to achieve her ambition of running the show-piece event with her son Simon.

For Steve, a sales manager from Stroud, the event will be a great opportunity to celebrate all that he has achieved since he took up running. Although the weight didn't come off immediately, Steve has shed a stone in the last month or so. More importantly he has just bought a pair of 32"-waist trousers - an amazing four sizes down from the pair he was wearing before he took up running.

Bea and Steve have chosen to run the London Marathon as Higgy's Heroes for the MSRC. I am deeply honoured for myself - and thrilled for the charity. They deserved the sun to shine on their efforts on Saturday - and it did. Folk at the Farmers' Market were interested, kind and generous. These two amazing people are now hoping that others will be every bit as supportive. Bea's employers at Tesco have already agreed to match her fund-raising efforts. Steve is hoping for more hits on his Just Giving Page.

Both will be taking on the biggest challenge of their lives in the MSRC green. Both will have their names on their running-vests as well. So if you spot them on April 17th, on television or on the streets of London, please give a special cheer to two special people. And, of course, one very special charity.