Meet two London runners

5th January 2019

Two people who will be running the London Marathon for us this year are Louise Smallwood and Emma Norvill

Emma Norvill London Marathon for Meningitis Now

Louise, from Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, told us she’ll be running in memory of her best friend Jessica Harrop.

Louise said, “Me and Jessica had booked a holiday together and were really looking forward to it, some sunshine to look forward to after the winter. It was 1999. We planned that on Millennium eve we would show our faces at a party at our house my mum was having and then go into town to celebrate with our other friends."

“I’d been ringing Jessica all morning, I’d popped to her flat, but nothing. My mum then got a call off her mum Lin who told us the news that Jessica had woken up poorly and had a rash. Her mum dashed straight round and Jessica was taken to hospital."

Spent New Year’s Eve in hospital

“We spent New Year’s Eve in the hospital praying that she would get better and she’d just be poorly for a few days, but that wasn’t the case and sadly on 23 January Jessica lost her fight with meningitis."

“It was an awful day, I couldn’t believe it. I went to see her mum and we cried and cried. How could such an amazing, kind, loving person be taken in this way, it wasn’t fair. She was just 21, too young. People always thought of meningitis with babies and young children, not a 21-year-old."

“Fast forward to 2018 and I started running, just for my own bit of fitness, a couple of hours out for me each week. I really enjoyed it. I completed my first 10k and next thing I know I’m applying and being offered a London Marathon place for 2019!”

For an amazing cause

“I was scared to say ‘yes’ but knew I’d never get the chance again and it’s for an amazing cause. If more people Jessica’s age are aware then it could help save lives."

“The training will be hard and has been as I’ve been poorly, but I’m back on track now, and looking forward to tackling my training head on, so I can do the London Marathon the best I possibly can. I won’t be the fastest by any stretch of the imagination, my aim is to simply finish, think of Jessica along the way when it gets hard, and know that she would be cheering me along.”

Ongoing after-effects

Emma Norvill, from Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, is running because her nephew, Leo, had severe bacterial meningitis at 7 months old and has been left with some significant after-effects, which have affected his life and continue to do so.

“Leo was in intensive care for three weeks and was very lucky to survive,” Emma said. “There have been some major after-effects, the most significant of which is growth plate damage causing leg length discrepancy."

"Leo has had three major surgeries to grow his left femur and tibia and countless minor surgeries at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and GOSH. He has had to spend months in a wheelchair, which as a busy and active child, has been tough for him. Leo’s infant meningitis has left him with learning and physical difficulties, which he deals with and manages every day."

Incredibly brave and a true fighter

“The effects of meningitis will remain with Leo forever. He is incredibly brave, he is a true fighter and despite some tough times, he is a happy, loved and popular amongst all his family and friends. Leo is a true inspiration and we are all incredibly proud of him."

“Meningitis Now has been hugely supportive to my sister and her family. The money raised will go towards their research, vaccination programmes, government lobbying and family support so that they can work to eradicate this life-changing disease."

“Whilst I regularly run, my London Marathon journey began in December, with training planned throughout the winter up to the big day on 28 April 2019. Training will be tough, with runs taking place in the snow, ice, rain and cold.”

Visit our new Training Hub for training guides, from complete beginner to marathon distance.

Want to join our London Marathon team? Find out more here.

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