Ben Whateley-Harris knows all about running marathons for Saint Francis Hospice. In the lead-up to what would have been his second London Marathon for us in April, the Hospice invited him to guest speak in Havering-atte-Bower.
Ben delivered a pep talk to keep the Hospice’s runners motivated as they trained throughout a very wet winter. When the coronavirus pandemic pushed the event to October, Ben didn’t want to see his months of training go to waste.
He hopped on a treadmill, rowing machine and static bike to complete a virtual triathlon. He covered over 70 miles of ground and streamed the event live on Facebook.
Ben, a firefighter in Thurrock, admitted that he had forebodings about completing the triathlon alone in his local gym. Yet once the comments on his live video started to appear, Ben didn’t feel isolated at all. He set up a Virgin Money Giving page for people to donate and raised over a whopping £1,500.
Ben’s connection with Saint Francis Hospice began in 1997 when his dad was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. Surgeons removed a cancerous lump from Robin Whateley-Harris’s jaw and attempted to get it working again by taking tissue from his shoulder. Sadly, Robin’s ability to eat and speak was never the same again.
‘Dad went willingly to the Hospice,’ Ben remembered. ‘He didn’t want to be in pain anymore.’ Robin passed away peacefully at Saint Francis Hospice three months after his diagnosis. He was just 47 years old. While Ben was only 15, he has fond memories from his Dad’s time there, and one particular reminiscence stands out.
‘The nurse could see I was tired,’ he recalled. ‘So she got me a blanket, pillow, and gave me a room to sleep in so that I could be with Dad. Even though Dad had machines around him that were bleeping, the Hospice didn’t feel like a medical environment, and that’s because of the beautiful gardens that surrounded us.’
Ben’s now stepping up his training again for the iconic London run’s new date in October.
If sweating it out over 70 miles doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, but you’d still like to support Saint Francis Hospice, then you can do so through the Urgent Appeal. You can help people just like Robin for as little £3 a month. To find out how you can make a difference to the patients’ lives, please click here.