Sunday, 26 September 2021

I’m running for you, Mum

A FORMER Henley man hopes to complete eight endurance challenges in aid of a cancer charity after his mother was

A FORMER Henley man hopes to complete eight endurance challenges in aid of a cancer charity after his mother was successfully treated for the disease.

Jon Cooke has already completed four half-marathons and will run another three over a five-week period starting next month.

He will also take part in the Great River Race, a 21.6-mile upstream boat marathon on the Thames from London Docklands to Ham.

Mr Cooke, 41, is raising money for Cancer Research UK after his mother Hazel underwent an experimental form of chemotherapy as part of a clinical trial.

Mrs Cooke, 74, who lives in Cromwell Road, Henley, with her husband David, discovered she had a malignant tumour at the base of her oesophagus in October.

She received a new type of drug that targets tumours directly instead of attacking the entire body, which means the side effects are less severe.

After three courses at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, the growth had shrunk enough for it to be surgically removed in April.

She had three further courses of chemotherapy as a precaution but doctors say there are no remaining signs of cancer.

Her son, a former student at Gillotts School and The Henley College, hopes to raise £20,000 as this is the estimated amount her treatment cost.

Mr Cooke, who now lives in south London with his partner Cathy Hirschmann and their 18-month-old son Oliver, used to be a keen runner and came up with the idea within weeks of his mother’s diagnosis.

He said: “You feel a bit useless when people are being treated for a serious illness and I thought the least I could do was to help keep this vital research going.

“A trial like the one Mum went through costs a lot of money and we’re very grateful that she was able to take part so I wanted to give something back.

“The original idea was to do one challenge for every round of treatment Mum had, so that I’d be taking my share of the pain but that turned into seven runs.

“I’ve rowed in the past, albeit very badly, for Medmenham Rowing Club so I also entered the Great River Race. It seemed like a good idea at the time!

“I’ve kept quite fit through cycling to work so my preparations haven’t been completely from scratch but with an 18-month-old boy to look after I haven’t been running as much as I used to.

“I just bought a new pair of trainers and started easing myself back into it until I was doing 10 to 15 miles at weekends. I’ve trained for marathons before but they take a lot of commitment and I felt that half-marathons were more achievable while still posing a challenge.

“They are still pretty tough and there are moments when you’re absolutely exhausted but you have to push through it.”

He kicked off the challenge on March 29, when he completed the Croydon half-marathon in an hour, 47 minutes and 42 seconds.

On May 10 he shaved 17 seconds off that time at a half-marathon in Leeds.

He finished another one in St Albans on June 14 in just over an hour and 42 minutes then ran the Wycombe half marathon on July 12 in an hour, 44 minutes and 44 seconds. He will be running at Richmond on September 6, six days before the Great River Race, then at Folkestone on September 27.

His final challenge will be the 33rd annual Henley half marathon on October 11.

Mr Cooke said: “I hope the first four runs have warmed me up because after this month’s break it’s going to get pretty intense.

“The second half will be much harder in terms of training but I’ve put a schedule together and should be fine. My partner runs as well so we’re looking after Oliver on a ‘tag team’ basis.

“I’m hoping for a personal best at Richmond as it’s fairly flat but I don’t want to tempt fate. I’ve done half-marathons in under an hour and 40 minutes and I’d love to finish in under 90 minutes.

“The Henley course is nice and flat for most of the way but there’s a massive hill at Fawley. Fair Mile is the worst bit because it stretches way out in front of you and it feels like you’re not going anywhere.

“As long as the weather holds I’m hoping Mum will be there to see me finish that.

“I’m not too bothered about the time — a personal best would be nice but it’s more about raising as much money as possible.”

Mr Cooke, a partnership manager for the Totally Thames festival, which takes place across London throughout September, has already raised about £2,000.

He said: “I want to raise as much as I can. Although this was inspired by Mum, we’re all likely to be affected by cancer either directly or indirectly at some stage in our lives so this seemed a good thing to do.

“It won’t be easy but I’ll just have to get on with it — it’s a lot easier than going through chemotherapy.”

Mrs Cooke said: “I’m amazed at what Jon is doing. I think it’s absolutely wonderful, especially as he’s got the little one to look after.

“I’ve never watched him run before but hopefully I’ll be fit enough to see him in Henley.”

She was selected at random for the treatment and said: “I feel very lucky that it was successful.”

The family will formally present the proceeds to Cancer Research UK at a celebration party at Badgemore Park Golf Club in Henley on October 17.

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