Meet Bedford’s runners in this year’s London Marathon

Bedford's London Marathon runners 2021
Bedford's London Marathon runners 2021

This Sunday, a group of incredible Bedfordians will be among the 50,000 runners taking part in this year’s London Marathon.

After last year’s event was cancelled, these runners have put in many extra months of training in order to be ready to take on the iconic 26.2 miles around the nation’s capital.

Here’s our round-up of this year’s runners, including links to their fundraising sites. Not all heroes wear capes…

Larry Smith


Bedford Samaritans Listening Volunteer, Larry, has been running for 10 years and will be taking part in his first marathon this year.

“I have been able to include my friends and their children in my training runs and have enjoyed listening to podcasts when I’ve hit the road by myself. I am probably feeling a bit too calm; I’m sure as it gets closer to the big day the butterflies will start to creep in.

“The last couple of years has been tough for lots of charities to fundraise and at Bedford Samaritans we’ve been hit by not being able to gain donations from the various community fundraising events we would normally do so I wanted to do what I could to help support my local branch as it’s such a good cause.”

You can donate to Larry’s fundraiser here.

Anna Henderson

Anna Henderson
Anna Henderson

Anna Henderson, 43, is the studio owner and teacher at movefit pilates. She is running the London Maraton in aid of for Deafblind UK.

“This is my second marathon and I have chosen to run on behalf of a smaller and lesser-known UK based charity – Deafblind UK, an organisation helping to improve quality of life and services for people with a double sensory impairment.

“My aim is to raise awareness of this charity and the work they do to lift individuals with deafblindness out of the silence and darkness they experience daily. Smaller charities need to be shouted about too!

“A marathon is a huge challenge and one I am grateful to be able to undertake.

“Running and the routine of training have been amazing for physical and mental well-being during a year of uncertainty. I feel immensely proud to be running on behalf of Deafblind UK.

“I feel incredibly grateful to have been accepted as one of their team – I owe them so much as they have allowed me to be part of the London Marathon experience and helped make me a physically stronger and mentally more resilient person than I have ever been.”

You can donate to Anna’s fundraiser here.

Karl Heywood

Karl Heywood
Karl Heywood

Karl Heywood is 42 and running for Embrace ‘Child Victims of Crime’.

“This small national charity is the only charity that’s sole purpose is to support children who have been the victims of serious crimes, they offer bespoke support to these children in the hope to mend hearts, minds and families.

“Every penny raised goes to showing these children that have often been affected by some of the worst crimes imaginable to see that there are people in the world that care about them and not everyone is a threat to them and their futures.

“I run personally because I found during times of my own troubles that running gave me freedom of the mind and body. I run proudly with the charity on my back, in my mind and heart and hope to raise awareness of the charity and as much money as possible to aid them in their fantastic work.”

You can donate to Karl’s fundraiser here.

Karen Chamberlain

Karen Chamberlain
Karen Chamberlain

Karen Chamberlain, 50, is running the London Marathon this year after originally signing up to take part in 2020.

“I did the couch to 5km running programme in 2017 and signed up for the London marathon (my first) in April 2020, to celebrate my 50th birthday.

“Due to the pandemic, that was cancelled, so instead, last October I ran the Virtual London Marathon across the undulating fields & roads around Colesden with three friends, accompanied in parts by of our `Transition Coaching’ running family, through wind and rain.

“I’m delighted Wood Green Animal Charity chose me as their solo runner & fundraiser.

“They’ve continued to work tirelessly helping many unloved and unwanted pets get back on their paws.

“I’ve kept running, training, persevering, moaning, planning, adapting and talking about `marathon day’ for two years now. My poor hubby deserves a medal!

I am so proud and thankful to get to this point and any donations to my fundraising page are a huge boost for me and Wood Green. I’m running for you, Dad, too.”

You can donate to Karen’s fundraiser here.

Richard Hart

Richard Hart with his daughter Emily.
Richard Hart with his daughter Emily.

Richard Hart, who donated a kidney to his daughter, Emily, more than 20 years ago, is fundraising for the hospital which saved her life.

Richard has undertaken two years of charity challenges, culminating in running the London Marathon this weekend to raise £20,000 for Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity.

“For the first seven years of her life, Emily didn’t have it easy at all. She had dialysis and then it became apparent she needed a transplant. I was a good match, and I felt giving her my kidney was the natural thing to do.

“Because of the transplant and the great care she has had, Emily has done remarkably well. Her learning was interrupted with appointments, but she got through school, went to college and then to university. Now she’s a children’s nurse.

“For more than 20 years, Guy’s and St Thomas’ have done an amazing job looking after her and helping her with her kidney.

“We are so grateful for the care she has received – amazing people helped her, we’ve been blown away by everyone’s kindness, professionalism, care and frankness at times. We are full of admiration for everything they have done.”

You can support Richard’s fundraiser here.

Paul Garrad

Paul Gerrad
Paul Garrad

37-year-old Paul Garrard is running on behalf of the Salvation Army, with half of his total money raised going to the national Salvation Army cause of helping victims of modern-day slavery and the other half directly benefiting the local Salvation Army corps in Bedford.

“I am running on behalf of the Salvation Army as I grew up attending Bedford Salvation Army up to the age of 17. Many of my family still attend different Salvation Army’s all over the country and I still have a strong link to it.

“I know of the great work the Salvation Army do in many different ways, both nationally and also locally in Bedford.

“They support many homeless people around Bedford all through the year, especially the winter, as well as lots of work in the community, especially with young and vulnerable people.

“They use the Salvation Army Hall, The Woolpack Hub for much of this work as well as giving the local children access to the sports cage located on Commercial Road. The Salvation Army means a great deal to me and I am proud to be running the London Marathon for them.”

You can donate to Paul’s fundraiser here.

Joan Lightning

Joan Lightning
Joan Lightning

Joan Lighting, 58, is running the London Marathon this Sunday for Cancer research.

“Two of my immediate family are currently battling cancer – my sister and step-mother.
Despite being told twice that she only had a few months left to live, my sister is presently in remission, thanks to cutting edge treatment (Car-T cell therapy at UCLH.) I’m running in the hope that one day, cancer will be easily treatable.

You can donate to Joan’s fundraiser here.

Paul Sheard

Paul Sheard
Paul Sheard

Paul Shead, 60, has lived in Bedford since 1984 and is running the marathon in support of Action on Preeclampsia.

“I’ve been actively engaged in research into better care pathways for women with suspected pre-eclampsia.

“Pre-eclampsia is a dangerous condition of pregnancy. 1 in 10 pregnancies will have complications of high blood pressure, 1 in 30 will get pre-eclampsia and today in the UK we will lose 2 or 3 babies each day because of pre-eclampsia. And this is in the UK, where pre-eclampsia is well treated – globally tens of thousands of mums and babies die every year because of this condition.

“The U.K. charity ‘Action-On-Pre-eclampsia’ (APEC) helps pregnant women, their partners and healthcare professionals, through research grants, expert-led education and counselling.

APEC is a key advocate and plays a very important role in the U.K. to help everyone involved apply the best evidence when delivering or receiving care. The goal is simple, to help deliver the best possible care and to help women and their families when they need advice and support.”

You can donate to Paul’s fundraiser here.

Nikki Horner

Nikki Horner

By day you will find 49-year-old Nikki Horner working at Grange Academy – a Special Needs school for young people in Kempston.

But this Sunday, Nikki will complete the Virgin London Marathon whilst wearing a Rubik’s Cube, raising money for Whizz-Kidz – providing disabled children with the essential wheelchairs and other mobility equipment they need to lead fun and active childhoods.

Nikki will run the 26.2 miles in a custom-built cube that meets the rules and standards to complete the Guinness World Record challenge.

“I started running in 2013 after I put a bit of weight on after a major operation 18 months previously. I had a full hysterectomy after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer; I was told by the consultant on a Friday and in theatre on Monday.

“A few weeks later I was given the all-clear, which was fantastic news.

“I am so excited I can actually get to London this weekend and run the streets of London after 18 months in the waiting, as Covid put the spanner in the works.”

You can donate to Nikki’s fundraiser here.

Road Victims Trust

Road Victims Trust Marathon Runners 2021
Road Victims Trust Marathon Runners 2021 (Top left: Steve and Harry Frost, bottom left: John Bennett, right: Richard Barker)

Three runners from Bedford are taking part on behalf of the Road Victims Trust

Richard Barker

Richard Barker, a police officer with nearly 30 years’ service, is running his first marathon this month in support of the Road Victims Trust.

“A local charity, the Road Victims Trust (RVT), provide emotional and practical support to the relatives of those killed on the road.

“The trust supports all those affected by a road death in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire and each year provides its bespoke Counselling service to, in excess of 500 people.

“Unfortunately there are occasions when a loved one does not arrive at their intended destination. Instead, a police officer will knock at a door and pass on the news that no one wants to hear.

“During the following months, invaluable support is given to bereaved families by trained Counsellors from RVT.”

You can support Richard’s fundraiser here.

Steve Frost

Steve Frost is running the Virtual London Marathon for the Road Victims Trust in memory of his son, Harry Frost, lost on the road in 2020.

“I’m not sure how our family could have coped without the fantastic support of RVT.”

You can support Steve’s fundraiser here.

John Bennett

The third Bedford runner in the RVT shirt is John Bennett. John is taking part in the virtual marathon, so you may see him on the streets of Bedford as he racks up the 26.2 miles.

“Three years ago our family suffered a truly devastating and awful tragedy, and without the help of RVT, my wife Hana, would simply not be where she is today.”

You can support John’s fundraiser here.

Virtual runners

Not all of this year’s runners are heading to London. Some are taking part in the Virtual Marathon, taking to the streets in and around Bedford to complete the 26.2 mile distance.

Gemma Telford

Gemma Telford
Gemma Telford

49-year-old Gemma will be running the Virtual Maraton around Bedford and Wootton this Sunday.

“I’m running for Mermaids, the charity that supports transgender kids and their families.

“Mermaids were invaluable for us when our son, Leo came out as trans, age 11. They gave us the support, help and education we all needed to better manage the transition, and meeting other trans kids and their families helped us realise we weren’t on our own.

“They have since helped us with education materials that we were able to share with Leo’s school – on how to adapt for and work with trans kids, and even helped us with legal and recruitment advice.

“They are true advocates and I’m so happy to be one of only three runners for them in this year’s marathon. I’ll be running it virtually on the app, around Wootton and Bedford, so give me a toot if you see me!”

You can donate to Gemma’s fundraiser here.

Castle Newnham Parents

Castle Newnham School Team
Castle Newnham School Parent Team

Four Castle Newnham parents (one of whom is also a teacher at the school) are running through the streets of Bedford this Sunday to raise money for the school’s PTA.

“Like many charitable organisations, the school’s PTA has been unable to raise funds for the last 18 months.

“The marathon fundraising aims to kick start the year in a positive way allowing it to continue to financially support many important initiatives within the school.  This includes its campaign this year to develop a love of reading, embedding a culture of reading for fun across the school community.”

You can head to the group’s Facebook page to find the route that Nick Habershon, Matt Pyecroft, Annamaria Drewett and Bronwen Collacott will be taking and cheer them along.

You can donate to the Castle Newnham PTA fundraiser here.

Watch it live

The London Marathon coverage begins on BBC2 from 8am – 10am and then on BBC1 until 2.30pm.

From 2:30pm until 4pm, you can watch the marathon via the Red Button or BBC iPlayer, with highlights on BBC Two from 6pm to 7pm.

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