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Stansted couple Kay and Trevor Springham complete 10 half-marathons in 10 months in memory of their baby Isabel born with leukaemia

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Baby Isabel Springham was born with leukaemia. She had her first dose of chemotherapy just 12 hours later and died aged 12 weeks.

She would have been 10 in May last year. So in memory of that, her mum and dad Kay and Trevor, from Stansted, decided to run 10 half-marathons in 10 months to raise £10,000 for Children with Cancer UK. They have smashed that target – their online appeal tops £15,000.

After completing the 10th and final event – the Brentwood Half Marathon and Fun Run on March 15 – the Springhams did something extraordinarily poignant.

Trevor and Kay Springham during one of their 10 half-marathons (32864480)
Trevor and Kay Springham during one of their 10 half-marathons (32864480)

They went straight from the finish line to a bluebell wood at Herongate Wood, a natural burial ground near Brentwood, where Isabel is laid to rest.

"We took all of our medals down to her and had a few family and close friends who met us there to celebrate the end of it all – it was lovely," said Kay, who is also mum to Sophie, 12, and Arthur, 5. Sophie completed the 6km fun run the same day as her own gesture of support.

For the couple, both 37, who live in Patmore Road, it was an emotional end to Isabel's Big Ten which Kay described as an uplifting experience.

The Springhams with daughter Sophie, son Arthur and family and close friends (33047384)
The Springhams with daughter Sophie, son Arthur and family and close friends (33047384)

"It's been a really positive year with our children involved, and while it's been a challenge, it's definitely something we've enjoyed rather than endured – we've got so much out of it," said Kay.

"I feel very proud that we've done it. We didn't realise quite how tough it would be. At times it's been a struggle because it's a constant reminder over the year of her, which is lovely but also quite painful. But it was a great finish and it's been brilliant and a real tribute to Isabel."

Following a normal pregnancy, Kay gave birth to Isabel, their second daughter, at Basildon Hospital on 16 May 2009. It quickly became evident that the baby was very poorly.

Tests revealed she had leukaemia and, having been transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital's intensive care unit in London, at just 12 hours old she had her first dose of chemotherapy.

Kay Springham with baby daughter Isabel (32864478)
Kay Springham with baby daughter Isabel (32864478)

"It was a complete shock she was so unwell. She spent about 10 days in intensive care, where she got better, although we were told quite early on that she might not survive," said Kay.

"She was then cared for on a haematology ward and came home for Sophie's second birthday after two cycles of chemotherapy.

"But shortly after the third cycle she just collapsed in the night and had a sudden cardiac arrest, which can happen. She had quite an aggressive form of the cancer, and because she was so tiny and fragile it affected her so much more than an adult or older child.

Kay and Trevor with their medals from their 10 half-marathons for Isabel's Big Ten (33047393)
Kay and Trevor with their medals from their 10 half-marathons for Isabel's Big Ten (33047393)

"I was in hospital with her. I'd stayed with her the whole time and I called Trevor in when she collapsed. He was with us by the time she died in intensive care at just 12 weeks old."

The idea for Isabel's Big Ten came about after a couple of drinks one night.

"We'd fund-raised just after Isabel died, but we hadn't done anything for a few years so we wanted to come up with something to challenge us and raise money. So after a couple of drinks one night – often where most good ideas come from – having run a marathon, we decided we couldn't do another one so I said 'What about half -marathons?' and decided to do 10 over the year.

"Towards the end we ran three half-marathons in four weekends so we were quite tired, it was a tough spell."

But an army of supporters kept the couple going. "Neither of us are natural runners so it was a proper challenge, but that's what we wanted so that people would donate more.

"The first few runs we found quite difficult to cover that distance, but we got into it and started to count down the miles and finished a lot stronger each time."

Kay clocked times between 2 hours 13 minutes – her fastest – and 2hr 30min. One of the most memorable runs was in Cork, Ireland.

"It was nine miles uphill! It was a lovely small race, but a goat chased Trevor down the road for about three miles and people started walking up the first hill we came to. I couldn't work out why and then I realised we had to walk because the hills were so steep – that was the toughest of all of them," she said.

"Lots of family and friends have done a couple with us so we've been lucky to have had their support. Some of Claire's crew mates from Cambridge fire station came out with us along with people from our gym [Vision Fitness in Henham]."

Throughout their ordeal with baby Isabel, the couple were supported by Children with Cancer UK and the money they have raised will help fund the charity's vital research into childhood cancers.

"They look into all different types of cancer as well as arranging events for children and their families who are struggling," said Kay. "At Christmas and in the summer they hold events so that families can have a bit of normality in the midst of all the treatment.

"They do a massive amount of fund-raising – they normally have about 1,400 runners in the London Marathon – and it's a wonderful charity.

"Most of the money we raised was donated over the year through our virginmoneygiving page. We had donations from family, friends and work colleagues. We had a party at Bury Lodge in November and Stansted firefighters also raised money for us – my dad and sister, Paul and Claire Harrington, are both Stansted firefighters."

* To donate to the couple's cause visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/isabelsbigten.

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