Photo of Liam in his Winston's Wish running top

Liam: “I made a promise to my wife to run the London Marathon”

Liam is fulfilling a promise he made to his wife, Emily, before she died and running the London Marathon in April. Winston’s Wish helped Liam to support his young children after Emily died and he chose to raise money for us, along with another charity, Plan International UK, which Liam works for. He tells us more about his motivation, training and fundraising for the London Marathon.

Why did you decide to run the London Marathon?

I made a promise to my wife, Emily, to run the London Marathon. Emily died last July after a short 10-week battle with secondary breast cancer. Emily ran the London Marathon in 2015 so this race has a special resonance for me.

We met in Liberia in West Africa around 2011/12 becoming close friends and ended up as a couple living in London in 2013. We loved London, Emily had a wide circle of friends there already, my good friends now. We bought our first home there, had our first child there so London is a special place with lots of memories for me.

In 2021 we left London to be closer to family in south-west England and settled in Wiltshire in October of that year after the birth of our second child.

You are running to raise money for two charities, Winston’s Wish and Plan International UK – tell us why.

I work for Plan International UK, a global charity which advances children’s rights and equality for girls. Being a development professional and a dad of two young girls, the mission of the charity speaks strongly to me. For example, Plan’s work here in the UK through the #CrimeNotCompliment campaign, its humanitarian response in Eastern Europe and projects like the one I work on – a live-saving nutrition project for pregnant and lactating women and children under 5 in Nigeria – are important contributions to a more just world. Plan International UK has been an incredibly supportive employer since I joined, during Emily’s illness and after she died, so raising funds for Plan feels right to me.

Once I decided to go for the marathon, running for Winston’s Wish as well was an obvious choice too. Supporting bereaved children and their families when they need it most is such a worthy cause. I have called upon Winston’s Wish a couple of times and found their support to be sensitive, compassionate and professional. I was bereaved as a child of twelve when my mum died in a car accident, and I would like as many children as possible and their families to have access to caring and professional support services which Winston’s Wish provide when they need it most. The type of service my family didn’t access all those years ago.

How have you found fundraising?

I am absolutely thrilled with the response to my fundraising, tapping into the kindness and generosity that surrounds us. Emily and I felt that kindness and support when she was ill, and it is still there and growing.

For me, fundraising sits firmly alongside the running. It is a big challenge and a strong motivation. I am naturally an introvert so being the public face of something is not my normal go to. Saying that, the promise I made to Emily drives me on so part of the success I suppose lies in the possibility of creating a lasting and fitting legacy for Emily. She was full of energy and kindness to the very end and a great connector of people.

Emily was a professional fundraiser and part of any fundraising is creating a connection with people and making an ask for support. My family back home in Ireland, Emily’s family here in the UK and our friends and work colleagues have all played their part.

I am organising a running event to mark Emily’s birthday on Saturday 4th March called #Run4EmilyWeekend with friends in Warminster and others around the world joining in virtually. I was really excited when our nursery, Barney Lodge, offered to organise a fundraising event too. They will kick off the weekend with a fun run in our local park in Warminster with the children and parents from the nursery joining in.

How is the training going?

Perhaps ask me this question at the end of March! I am a newbie runner, I struggled to complete a half marathon 10 years ago, ran it with pure stubbornness and by following a pacemaker for the full race.

On the advice of a physio I started with a couch to 5K programme last October, to strengthen my ankle which I broke soon after our wedding in 2019. So I completed that 9-week course with Denise Lewis as my virtual coach – thank you Denise! I would recommend the programme to anyone wanting to try and get out and about more. I have steadily built from that and run three times a week, once during lunch hour, a longer run-on Wednesdays which is a non-working day and, on the weekend, when I have someone over to visit.

I am now in week five of a 16-week programme and the distances are slowly building. The distances grow significantly each week for the next eight with the aim to run for 3 hours and 30 minutes by the end of March – the longest run before race day. The running then tapers off significantly for the remaining three weeks to prepare the body for the final push at the marathon on 23rd April. I have found running in the cold to be okay, running in the teeming rain is tough! So far I look forward to the next run and focus on it, rather than the final run in April which is of course a daunting prospect.

How do you keep motivated?

It goes back to Emily really, keeping that promise to her is so important. Bearing witness to how Emily coped with her primary diagnosis while pregnant in 2021 and her re-occurrence in May of last year drives me on. I know how important the work of Plan UK and Winston’s Wish is to children and their families and that spurs me on.

My eldest daughter is four and she gives me a cuddle before I run each weekend and that helps too. I tell her my fruit pastilles are magic sweets and that’s our secret out, now. The two hundred people (and I hope growing) who have supported my fundraising are a strong motivator, they give me the energy to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Feeling inspired?

Liam has already raised over £13,000! The first £2,000 are donated to Plan International UK and the rest will be split between Winston’s Wish and Plan International UK. If you wish to, you can donate to Liam’s fundraising page.

If you’ve been inspired to take on a fundraising challenge yourself, visit our Fundraising page to find out more and contact our team on to let us know your plans.

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