A Darlington mum on a mission to raise funds to improve the quality of life of a family member, is lacing up her trainers to take on the Sunderland City Half Marathon among a number of running challenges for 2020.

Thirty-year-old Laura Ripley, a single mum of 11-year-old Joshua and Charlie, aged six, is getting set to take on the 13.1-mile race for the second year running to raise at least £800 to help fund adaptations to the home of her cousin Ollie Edge from Darlington, who was left paralysed after a life-changing accident that saw him fall from a tree at the age of 15 in 2005.

Laura, who works as administration assistant at a local heating and plumbing firm, says: “Ollie lives in a bungalow which has no wetroom and he sees one room, his room.  He doesn’t sit in his wheelchair around the dining table or get to sit in the living room and watch television with his nieces and nephews and other extended family.  Ollie and his mum Lynda always welcome you into their home with open arms, but it is in need of some serious adaptations so that Ollie can have the quality of life he deserves. I want to do what I can to make it wheelchair friendly.

“We grew up together and both turned 30 last year which was when I set out on a mission to run 30K for both of us, a total of 60K. I ended up smashing it and running 90K.  When I’m running it can be physically and mentally demanding because I am no way near an athlete, but I remember why I am running and I just get on with it.”

Laura began running in 2017 after being inspired by her then seven-year-old son Joshua who completed the Darlington 3K junior race in aid of the Meningitis Research Foundation to say thank you for the treatment he’d received aged six-months-old, when he was critically ill after being diagnosed with meningococcal.

Laura adds: “It was then I decided I needed to practice what I preached to my children.  In 2017 I started the couch to 5k challenge and then went on to complete a 10k run that summer.

“In 2018 I went on to complete the Sunderland City 10K and the Darlington 10K, followed by The Great North Run.  I then knew I could complete 13.1miles again.  In 2019 I set out on my fundraising mission for Ollie, completing the Sunderland City Half Marathon and Liverpool Rock n Roll Half Marathon as well as other local runs and raising £800 in the process.”

Over the course of the coming months, Laura is set to take part in at least four half marathons as well as the Total Warrior challenge and is looking forward to taking on the Sunderland route again.

She adds: “Ever since the Sunderland City 10K in 2018 I have loved the run and to be honest that’s another reason I knew I could complete the half marathon last year – it’s a brilliant route and full of local supporters.  I do like coming across the bridge before the home straight and can’t wait to see my dad at the finish line.  He’s always been a keen runner and it’s also nice to do him proud no matter how old I get.”

To support Laura with her fundraising bid visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/run4ollie2020.

The 2020 Sunderland City Runs are being organised by Events of the North, in partnership with Sunderland City Council and Active Sunderland.  The event will start with the Sunderland City 5K on the evening of Saturday 9 May.  The 5K will use the iconic Northern Spire Bridge, providing a spectacular venue for runners and spectators alike.  The following morning will see thousands of runners take part in the well-established Sunderland City Half Marathon and 10K, and the Active Sunderland BIG 3K.  All three events will start and finish in Keel Square in the city centre.

Places on the 2020 Sunderland City Runs are available now at www.sunderlandcity10k.com.  Runners affiliated to a club can enter the Sunderland City Half Marathon for £35 and the price for unaffiliated runners is £37.  Places on the Sunderland City 10K costs £25 and £27 respectively and the price to enter the 5K is £15.  Anyone who enters the half marathon or 10K as well as the 5K will receive a discount code to redeem in one of the events the following year.  All event finishers will receive medals, technical t-shirts and goody bags.

For further information about the Active Sunderland BIG Events, email active@sunderland.gov.uk or call a member of the Active Sunderland Team on 0191 561 4572.