A miracle marathon in memory of her loved one

“The miracle is not that I finished, the miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

When we met Gill Thomas a few months ago, she told us her inspiration was simply to work towards the hardest thing she could ever conceive of doing. So in memory of her late husband, Ian, and for all the people she has known and loved who have fought cancer, Gill prepared herself for the epic New York marathon.

Gill left her home in Queensland for New York four days before the 42km run would be held on November 6th. Gill had not only trained hard in the lead-up to this marathon but she also managed to fundraise an incredible $13,000 for the Australian Cancer Research Foundation – donations in memory that will fight cancer for future generations.

Now that the race has been run, Gill has shared her story. She talks of the pre-dawn wintry congregation at the starting line, of the gospel singers surrounding the streets of Harlem motivating her on, and of finally reaching Central Park and finding amazing reserves of energy once again to run the last kilometre towards the finish line!

Experience the race through Gill’s eyes by clicking ‘read more’, below.

If you too would like to contribute to cancer research with a donation in memory of a loved one, or by participating in a sporting event, please speak to ACRF about your ideas.

Blood, sweat and tears for cancer research

Gill Thomas at the New York Marathon for Cancer Research“Sunday 6th Nov, 4.50am we all got ready for the bus and drove to Staten Island, an hour long drive. We disembarked along with roughly 50,000 other people, gathered into our marshalling areas, and we stood around in our tracksuits and beanies as the sun came up.

“As we approached the starting line on the Verazzano-Narrow Bridge, Frank Sinatra’s ‘New York, New York’ was being played at full volume. The starting gun went off and I crossed the timing line. When I came off the bridge into Brooklyn, there were thousands of people cheering me on by name – incredible! – because it was printed on my shirt. The crowd was thick and there were bands playing and people dancing in the street, it was so much fun.

“I approached 1st Avenue where the crowds were also gathered. Many people had signs up supporting their friends and cheering us all on. 1st avenue is about 9km long and I have run 25km to get to this stage, slightly uphill all the way. I started to slow down at this point and stopped at every water stop along the way to keep hydrated. Leaving 1st Avenue and heading into The Bronx, I have a short walk, and talk to the people around me, a few finding it difficult. I then ran through Harlem, with Gospel singers belting out music and encouraging me on.

“I then arrived at the top of 5th Avenue, where the crowd was building up again, always encouraging us on. I turned into Central Park with about 5 kilometres to go. This was the hardest part. The aches hurt more and I saw other runners really struggling. People had cramps, some were collapsing, and many were in tears.

“I must say, I had tears a lot along the way thinking of everyone; Ian, family, grandchildren, friends who have had cancer and anyone I could think of to keep me positive. I could feel the finish at this point and again the tears welled up. My ankle was really sore and I was limping as I turned in to the last kilometre.

“But suddenly I started to feel amazing – I get this burst of energy and I just feel so good. I do not know what happened, but I ran like the wind and passed many other runners. In my head I count down the signs – there is 400m to go, then 300m, and then I can see the finish line up ahead and I just enjoy and savour this last bit of the race, waving at everyone as I cross.

“Finally, after nine long months of training, I had finished. Tears streamed down my face in utter relief. The miracle is not that I finished, the miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

Gill, everyone at the Australian Cancer Research Foundation is in awe of what you did in memory of Ian. Like us, he would be SO proud of you. We are humbled by your amazing effort – a HUGE thank you!