WITH less than 24 hours to go until the return of the Basingstoke half marathon, the Gazette caught up with two first-time runners taking part for causes close to their hearts.

Faye Underdown, from Black Dam, started following the Couch25K programme “for the hundredth time” during lockdown, this time sticking to it and completing the course.

“Then I got Covid, and I just stopped running again,” the 42-year-old told the Gazette.

After sadly losing her best friend, Su, who was a patient at St Michael’s Hospice in Basingstoke, the mother-of-two became determined to get back into running.

“I do a lot of fundraising for St Michael’s anyway, because I’m a bank care assistant there,” she said.

“I signed up for the half marathon before I’d even started running again - it was a crazy moment! I also signed up to the Hatch Warren Runners group in May, which has really got me through it.”

Tragically, Faye went through another major emotional setback in July, when she lost her mum suddenly following a short illness.

“I didn’t go out for probably three or four weeks, and I thought I was going to have to give up.

“But I had raised £500 by that point, and to be honest running was a massive help. Just being out running gives you that thinking time on your own.”

Faye added that her fellow running club members have been “amazing” as she has spent the past six weeks focussing on tomorrow’s goal.

“I’m pretty nervous, and it will probably be pretty emotional,” she said.

“But my mum and my best friend will be boosting me on.”

Faye, who is a training manager for care and mental health provider Park Group, will be cheered on tomorrow by her family, including her husband, 17-year-old daughter, and 24-year-old son who is also celebrating his birthday.

“I think he’ll forgive me!” she joked.

Another participant who discovered his passion for running during lockdown is 26-year-old Rob Spreadbury from Tadley.

Rob, who works for the security team at Festival Place, decided to take part in the event in support of his colleague, who was diagnosed with blood cancer.

When Rob discovered this earlier this year, he made it his mission to raise funds for Blood Cancer UK.

“It’s a local event, and easy to apply for because you don’t need to be in a ballot like the London one, which makes it more accessible,” he told the Gazette.

“I have been running properly since lockdown, and I’ve been running every other day since. During lockdown, I did virtual runs, but this is the first proper one, with other people!”

He added: “Running is part of my routine now, but I haven’t been able to train the past couple of weeks because I hurt my back. I signed up for a half marathon and then got injured, I’m not sure if that’s some sort of karma!”

However, Rob is feeling fit ahead of tomorrow and looking forward to the event.

“I’m excited for it, but I hope the weather is a bit better than today!” he said.

“I’m pumped, I just need to rest today and get a good night’s sleep.

Rob hopes to “smash” his £300 fundraising goal, and says his colleague is very grateful he has chosen the cause.

“Him and his partner are very emotional about it,” he said.

You can support Faye at: https://justgiving.com/fundraising/runforsmhospice

You can support Rob at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rob-spreadbury-half-marathon

Are you taking part in tomorrow’s event? Get in touch at newsdesk@basingstokegazette.co.uk