When she runs with thousands of other runners in the London Marathon on Sunday, a woman who lost her husband will be ticking off his list of challenges.
Mariam Ayad, 37 years old, from Islington North London will run in her husband’s memory, Billy Hookway. They had been married for 18 years.
When Mr Hookway died from cholangiocarcinoma – bile duct cancer – in August 2020 aged just 36, his widow found a list of life challenges he had left for her.
The list was mainly made up of things to do with the couple’s four daughters Zahra, seven, Leila, six, Eva and Olivia both two, as well as some personal goals for Mrs Ayad, but at the top of the list was running the London Marathon.
That challenge will be completed on Sunday when Mrs Ayad will be one of 1,500 runners raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support which is the event’s official charity in 2021.
“Billy was an incredible father to our four girls and a very supportive husband; he was the best person I knew,”She said.
“The marathon falls on what would have been our wedding anniversary and I can’t think of a better reason to run in memory of Billy on that day.”
Mrs Ayad, who works as an orthoptist (eye specialist) at Great Ormond Street Hospital, praised the support Macmillan had offered the family following Mr Hookway’s diagnosis: “They made it less lonely. The emotional support, information and help we received throughout the experience was vital.
“That’s why I’m running as part of Team Macmillan on Sunday to raise money for the charity so it can continue to be there for everyone with cancer.”
Manchinder, 45, of Leicester will run for the honour of Raj, his wife, who died from cancer in 2012.
“When Raj was diagnosed with stomach cancer Macmillan stepped in and helped me and our family get through some of the hardest days of our lives,”He stated.
“The wonderful Macmillan nurses were there for Raj and all the family throughout her illness, that’s why I’m so proud to be taking on the London Marathon to give something back to the charity so it can continue to help so many people affected by cancer.”
Louise Bartha, 47, a copywriter from Brighton, is also running for Macmillan after benefiting from the charity’s support.
Mrs Bartha is a healthy non-smoker who was first diagnosed in 2016 with melanoma. In 2018, basal cell carcinoma was discovered. Lung cancer was detected in early 2019.
She underwent a lung dissection and had half of her left lungs removed.
Mrs Bartha, a mother to two boys, Dylan, 15 and Tate (12 years old), credits running for her recovery.
I am so excited to take on the marathon this weekend,” she said. “The run will be a huge bucket list moment for me and an accumulation of so much hard work and mental resilience following my cancer diagnosis.”
It will be Mrs Bartha’s first London Marathon although she began training for the event in 2018.
“I was set to run the London Marathon but unfortunately my diagnosis stopped me, and then along came a global pandemic, all of which is going to make this weekend even more special.
“Following my cancer diagnosis, I needed the physical challenge to remind myself that my body would still be capable and I’m so proud that I can still push myself to achieve the things I want to do.”
The 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon promises to be the most successful marathon in history, with over 40,000 runners taking the traditional route from Blackheath towards The Mall and more people running the 26.2-mile course they choose anywhere in the globe.
All except elite athletes chose their route last year, when coronavirus restrictions made it impossible to hold the mass city center event.
Claire Rowney, the executive director for fundraising, marketing, and innovation at Macmillan Cancer Support said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on our income, at a time when people living with cancer need our support more than ever to help navigate through what continues to be an incredibly anxious period.
“We’re thrilled to be the official charity partner of this year’s event – the vital funds raised by our runners and supporters will help us continue to do whatever it takes so we can be there for everyone living with cancer from day one of their diagnosis.”
To donate to Team Macmillan visit: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/MacmillanCancerSupport