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A family tragedy inspired 29-year-old Stephen Hider, a civil servant from Cambridge, to run a 10k. His next race is 55 miles!

It was a tragedy in the family that made me take up running. In March 2009 my younger sister

Karla gave birth to twins, Isla-Rose and Freya-Mae. My wife Tracey and I have four children between us, and our youngest, Lilly, now two, was just three months older than Karla’s twins, so we understood how much the twins meant to Karla and her partner Rob. “I’ll always remember the phone

call from Karla to tell me both twins had heart problems. Freya had a hole in her heart and Isla’s condition, dilated cardiomypathy, was even worse. Isla spent weeks in Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge and the Royal Brompton Hospital in London and when she came home with feeding tubes, Karla had to do all her medicines. Doctors thought she would be lucky to survive 24 hours at that stage. It was a struggle because Isla kept pulling the tubes out and in the end Karla decided enough was enough and she gave up on the tubes. “From that moment, Isla changed

from being a poorly baby into the baby we all remember, Isla the Smiler. By taking the tubes away Karla gave her a lease of life and she gave us memories of a happy little girl who popped her head up like a little meerkat.

“But healthwise Isla got worse and she passed away in hospital just before Christmas in 2009, despite efforts to resuscitate her. It was a sad time for all of us. Luckily, Freya was doing well and the hole in her heart has now healed.

Running for Isla “A fortnight later, we were into a new year and I read about the events planned by the British Heart Foundation. One of them was the Tower of London 10k run, so I signed up for it. “I started training because although I

knew I could probably get round, I didn’t want to struggle. “On the day about 15 of my friends did the race and we raised £2,000 for the BHF. I finished in 44 minutes which I was pleased with and I commented to someone: “You never know, I might do the London Marathon!”

The incentive I needed! “That comment stayed with me and I carried on running, doing the Canary Wharf 10k, before I got my place in the 2011 London Marathon. I increased my training and did two half marathons – the Cambridge Boundary Run and the Milton Keynes half. As the marathon approached, I was running up to 50 miles per week, and on my last long run I felt really fit, as if I were flying. “The London Marathon was the

Isla-Rose (left) and Freya-Mae


hardest thing I have ever done in my life. The atmosphere was like a carnival, with bands along the route and people cheering. I had a BHF vest on, with Isla-Rose written on the back of my shirt. Thinking about Isla got me round and I was doing really well until I got an injury at 18 miles, and then my groin started hurting at 21 miles.

The finish… and beyond “After that I walked the next five or six miles and with Isla on my mind I was determined not to give up. I had about £1,300 in sponsorship and I couldn’t risk losing that. As I approached the last 300 yards and saw the big finish sign, I jogged over the line. I was so relieved! Doing the marathon had been my way of giving something back and it had been my way of dealing with Isla’s death. I got round in 5:15. “Next Easter I am going to run 55.2 miles from Addenbrooke’s Hospital to the Royal Brompton Hospital in memory of the journey Isla made. I hope that by doing so I can save some lives and create some hope for people who are going through something similar. “I’ve also been nominated to carry

the Olympic flame at the Games next year because of my fundraising for the BHF. I’ll know for definite in December.


Whether it was your first race, the day you ran your fastest time, or the run on which your partner proposed, we’d love to hear about your Personal Best running memory. Send the details along with photos to us at: We just might ask you to feature on this page and share your story with the world. What’s more, everyone who stars in Personal Best gets a fantastic pair of Brooks running shoes!

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