11 April, 2024

“I know what my mother went through with chemo and radiotherapy and how amazing the doctors and nurses were with her. So, I wanted to do something for her and the research and treatment of breast cancer,” says Josh Haynes, talking about what motivated him to complete the Lisbon marathon and raise almost £4,000.

‘This is the only thing that will stop breast cancer’

Josh’s mother was diagnosed in 2019, has completed treatment, and is now in remission. He is passionate about reminding people that research is as important as treatment: “That’s what will prevent and stop breast cancer in the future, isn’t it really?”

The idea of competing in a long-distance race came about after Josh went to watch the London marathon and relished the buzz he got from the atmosphere and the competitors.

“It made me want to do one because it’s just a great spectacle. My Leeds University mate, Billy, had already run a few, so we decided to choose between the Amsterdam or the Lisbon marathon. We looked at the average temperatures and predictions of between 16 and 20 degrees, and we thought that’d be nice for the race and the mini-holiday around it. Then we recruited two other uni friends, Pete and Finn.”

‘The training was the hardest part’

Although Finn and Billy had previously run in marathons, the race was a new venture for Josh and Pete. Training began in earnest and went well until about May; Josh plays cricket, and when the season started and his weekends got taken up by two games of cricket, it wasn’t easy to keep up with the race training. So, he went out before work to get at least three 5k runs each week.

“The training’s probably one of the hardest aspects of doing a marathon,” he says. “Everyone thinks that it’s the actual marathon is the hardest part, but the training is just as tough. Even when you don’t want to go out for the run, you have to because you’ve got to train. I was doing about one 25k training run each week, plus one at 15k and a slightly quicker one under 10K. “

The four friends covered all the costs and decided to use the time for a holiday weekend as well as competing in the race. Josh’s parents and Billy’s parents went to Portugal, and Billy’s brother and sister registered for the half marathon. The group ended up with about 15 people. However, Billy had a stress fracture in his foot just before going out, so he couldn’t run the marathon.

And there was more drama to come. On the eve of the marathon, the group got an email from the organisers explaining that the race would start an hour earlier, at 7am, due to the heat. As Josh explains, that meant an early start.

“I woke up about four o’clock in the morning to get breakfast. Then, get down to the train station to travel to Cascais, to the start of the race. It was a 40-minute train.”

The race began before dawn. “The route was amazing, all down the Cascais and the Estoril coast. For the first 25 kilometres, I ran with Pete and Finn, and it was really good. The temperature was fine at that point. Then Pete dropped back a bit, and Finn and I ran the most together. My parents were at the 25K mark, and it was great to see them because it was halfway. The route is a straight 42k line, not a loop, so there wasn’t much support throughout the race. So the little pockets of support were great!”

Then, despite it being October, the temperature got warmer and warmer, reaching about 32 degrees by the 32K mark.

“We were slightly misinformed with the average weather temperatures when we looked online,” says Josh. “It got really hot and hard work to run from around 32 kilometres in. That was a lot hotter than the predicted 16 to 20 degrees!”  

He adds that although it was a sweltering run in those conditions, the organisers had arranged multiple water stations and areas where fire engine teams sprayed the runners with water. There were also gel sections.

Mum never stopped being the best Mum

“Some people struggled at the end,” adds Josh. “But we saw Rua Augusta Arch in Lisbon, at the finish line, which really helped us through to the end. After Finn and I finished, we saw Pete running in about 5 minutes after us. He had to go to the medical tent as he almost passed out after hitting the finish line. But he was fine afterwards. Finn got me through it because he’s done marathons before. Although, even he said it was one of the hardest ones he’s done because of the heat. We all finished quite well, under 4 hours.”

Josh’s time for the 42.195km marathon was 3.46.27, and he came in 1,330 out of a field of 4,816 runners. The Lisbon Marathon attracts the top elite athletes and thousands of foreign runners from all over the world.

Josh exceeded his Just Giving goal by 117%, raising almost £4,000. As he concludes: “Through all that chemo and radiotherapy, Mum never stopped being the best Mum, wife and daughter. She was strong and remained the kind, bubbly and loving person she always is. So, I wanted to do something to give back to the people who work so hard for Breast Cancer UK and to help stop this horrible disease. So many wonderful people, including family and friends, gave me their support, And that’s what keeps you going when it gets really quite hard. It’s all that money and support people have put forward – there’s a kind of responsibility there.” 

If you would like to take part in a marathon or raise funds for Breast Cancer UK like Josh and his family, or take on a different challenge, email the team [email protected] and visit our fundraising page.

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