When the 2020 London Marathon was cancelled due to coronavirus, Sophie Morris used her training to run the distance alone instead, inspired by her childhood friend Maddy Hardman. Here, she explains how their friendship group is keeping her memory alive by spreading awareness of pulmonary hypertension and raising money to support others.
“I met Maddy (pictured) at secondary school, and as part of a group of girls who used to get the school bus in together each morning, we quickly became friends.
She had the most mesmerising long, flowing waist-length blonde hair, an incredibly angelic singing voice and a quirky fascination with skulls which always used to make me laugh.
Maddy was one of those effortlessly funny people and we spent many bus journeys travelling into school and back home again in fits of laughter which left our stomachs hurting.
But as we all moved away to various universities and colleges across the UK, Maddy got sick. In December 2014 she was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension. I’d never heard of PH but was told it affected the heart and lungs.
Maddy was due to have intravenous treatment in January 2016 followed by a lung transplant later on in life, but tragically lost her battle unexpectedly and passed away on 29 December 2015. She was just 20 years old, two months away from her 21st birthday.
Her death was a complete shock to all of us. I knew Maddy was sick but hadn’t comprehended the concept of losing her.
Maddy’s passing immediately made all of us realise how important it is to not take life for granted and to always challenge yourself and try new things while you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do so.
With this firmly in our minds, we set a goal to raise as much money for the PHA UK as possible in memory of our friend and to help others like her.
I’d decided to challenge myself to run a marathon as when we were at school, the most exercise Maddy and I ever did was run from the sports hall to the school bus – via the canteen to buy a chocolate brownie!
We were not the most athletic group of girls, and many of us were made to go to fitness club at school after failing to run the cross-country route in a speedy enough time. Maddy of course, although she did not know it at the time, was impacted by her health condition. The rest of us were just lazy!
But it’s not just me running the marathon that has helped to raise money and awareness for PHA UK. Since Maddy’s death, as a group of friends we have raised almost £10,000 in her memory – from Elle crazily jumping out of a plane and completing a sky dive, to Chloe completing a triathlon and Kate, Sam and Rhiannon cycling from London to Brussels.
Plus, Sophie has been selling her amazing home-made candles and cakes at our old secondary school’s seasonal fetes and elsewhere.
Nothing we do can bring Maddy back, but we have such wonderful memories together and are determined to continue to raise as much as we can to help others who are in a similar position.”
Sophie raised over £1400 from her solo marathon. Taking to Twitter after completing the miles, she said: “A huge thanks to everyone who beeped their car horns and gave me a cheer / thumbs up in the rain today. The atmosphere felt truly amazing despite me running on my own in the horrid conditions… Mads, I hope me running 26.2 miles in the rain and gale-force winds gives you a laugh up there!”