It is under four weeks until the Great Birmingham Run and one first-time runner taking part only started training properly a fortnight ago! 34-year-old Elizabeth Cunningham from Sheldon in Birmingham applied for Cure Leukaemia’s 8-week training challenge to receive expert training and guidance from personal trainer Simon King. She was successful and joins 23-year-old Amy Thompson who is also taking on the challenge for Cure Leukaemia.
Elizabeth, or ‘Dutch’ as she likes to be called, agreed to take part in August before her partner surprised her with a holiday to Ibiza. She said: “It wasn’t the best preparation I have to admit and it was an all inclusive! It was a really welcome break, though, after dad passed away.”
Dutch’s father James Cunningham was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in May 2015 and given less than two months to live. James was then given the opportunity to take part in a groundbreaking clinical trial at the Centre for Clinical Haematology at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.
Dutch, a sales manager for The Complete Communications Company, said: “It did not take dad long to make his decision. The way he saw it, he had nothing lose and he agreed to take part straight away.”
The trial was successful and James went into remission in August 2015 and from that point on he dedicated his time to helping Cure Leukaemia because without his specialist research nurse Donna Walsh, whose position is funded by the charity, he would not have had access to the treatment.
Coincidentally, it soon became apparent to Dutch it was not the first time she had met Donna:
“I recognised her straight away and it turned out we actually used to be friends at school and she used to come to our house to play! Dad built a lovely relationship with her and it really helped knowing she was his nurse.”
Twelve months on from his diagnosis, James relapsed, the leukaemia returned and he passed away peacefully at home in July.
Dutch said: “He loved the charity and it was all he spoke about for a while! He completely embraced it and dedicated his time to giving back to help others in his position.”
James was instrumental in helping promote Cure Leukaemia’s ‘Just One More’ campaign in September last year, a campaign that raised over £50,000 during blood cancer awareness month, enough to fund a research nurse, like Donna, for a year.
During the month he met former Aston Villa and Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish when Cure Leukaemia was supported at the Capital One Cup Derby match at Villa Park. He also attended Glynn Purnell’s Friday Night Kitchen in October, could be found in the Brasshouse to welcome Cure Leukaemia’s runners in from the Great Birmingham Run later that month and helped secure the charity funding from a national foundation that could be worth over £400,000 over four years.
James also convinced family members and his nurse Donna to sign up to do skydives to raise funds for Cure Leukaemia. Donna’s jump is scheduled for Sunday October 2nd and she has written this on her JustGiving page with her fundraising already over £1,300:
“I was fortunate enough to be James’ research nurse. I was there to see his shock when the bad news was broken. I was there to see the hope in his eyes when he signed the consent form for a clinical trial. I was there when he cried with joy when we told him he was in remission.
I was there to see his disappointment when we told him his disease had come back. I was there at his funeral.
His dying wish was to raise as much money as possible in a charity skydive. He helped to coordinate the event and it's so sad that he will not be there to see all of his hard work turn into reality. It would be amazing if his legacy will live on and we raise as much money as possible.”
Two weeks after Donna’s skydive, Dutch will take to the streets to run the Great Birmingham Run for Cure Leukaemia. Helping her prepare with one-to-one sessions and a detailed nutrition plan is personal trainer and athletics coach Simon King who once coached English Junior Cross Country Champion Ellis Cross.
Dutch is under no illusions as to how hard it will be for her: “I can’t even run one mile at the moment so 13.1 seems almost unthinkable but Cure Leukaemia gave us an extra year with Dad and that’s why I am going to do it, I will get through it for Dad.”
Watch Dutch speak about the challenge:
Chief Executive at Cure Leukaemia James McLaughlin said:
“James made a huge impact on the charity in a short period and it is wonderful to see Dutch picking up the baton from him to take on the Great Birmingham Run.
His larger than life personality was the reason so many warmed to him and why people are raising funds in his memory. I wish Dutch and Donna every success for their respective challenges.”
Team Cure Leukaemia and Dutch will be wearing Cure Leukaemia’s special 10th Anniversary shirt for the half marathon after over 1000 people donated their names to appear on the garment. Dutch said, “it is a great idea by the charity and I was proud to donate my name. My sister has donated hers and the charity put Dad on as well, so it will be inspirational knowing his name is on our shirts on the day, it’s going to be an emotional day.”
Dutch concluded: “Cure Leukaemia help give people life and I am determined to do this to help give something back. This charity was very close to dad’s heart and now it is close to mine as well.”
If you would like to make a donation to Dutch’s JustGiving page go to:
There is still time to join Dutch and run for Cure Leukaemia in the Great Birmingham Run in October. The charity will sign you up for FREE and ask for a minimum of £299 in sponsorship. Email email@example.com to sign up today.