Sisters sign up to a special challenge

Gillian Fenney and Wendy Bloomer after the Great North Run
Gillian Fenney and Wendy Bloomer after the Great North Run
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SISTERS Gillian Fenney and Wendy Bloomer had a special reason for getting fit and tackling their first distance run.

The two women decided to raise funds for Mencap after suffering a family tragedy.

Gillian Fenney and Wendy Bloomer.

Gillian Fenney and Wendy Bloomer.

They took on the 13-mile Great North Run challenge after 39-year-old Wendy lost a baby boy to Down’s Syndrome.

She found that training for the run helped her recover from the trauma and channel her energy in a positive direction.

“I didn’t know that I was expecting a baby with Down’s Syndrome and, after I lost him at 15 weeks, I found out a lot more about the condition.

“A lot of people think Down’s Syndrome just involves learning difficulties but it often also leads to heart problems and other conditions.

“I had just started showing the early signs of pregnancy. Losing the baby was traumatic at the time and it affected the whole family.”

Gillian, who lives at Longroyde Road, Rastrick, and Wendy, of Bradley, both attended Brighouse Girls’ Grammar School and are known as the York sisters - their maiden name.

Mum-of-two Gillian said: “I turned 40 in March and so far I’ve had a year of fabulous celebrations but I also wanted a personal challenge. In January we decided we would get into training and attempt the Great North Run. We are quite competitive and we definitely spurred each other on.”

Wendy, who has a three-year-old son, said: “I found it really helped me to focus on something positive and get out in the fresh air.

“We decided to train during one of the wettest summers for years but we actually enjoyed it. Everyone says that exercise is a beneficial thing and I found it to be so - running made me feel good.”

The sisters completed the Great North Run in 2hrs 14 mins - just over 15 mins within their target time - and started and finished hand-in-hand.

“I expected to be nervous but there was such a fantastic atmosphere that we ended up really enjoying ourselves.

“A number of Olympic and Paralympic athletes including Nicola Adams, Greg Rutherford, Katherine Copeland and Ellie Simmons were there to give their support and there were lots of celebrities running.

“Everyone was waving and cheering us on,” said Gillian, who works at Greenhead College, Huddersfield.

Wendy, who works for Lloyds Bank in Copley, added: “I did feel quite emotional at times but the atmosphere was so moving and uplifting that it just kept us going. It felt great to be doing something positive.

“Our husbands - Will and Simon - and children - Harry, Angus and Alex - have been very supportive.”

Apart from a few aches and pains and blackened toenails, the sisters felt no ill-effects from their half-marathon.

“Neither of us had ever run that far before but we prepared really well and loved every minute of it.”

The sisters’ efforts have raised more than £1,660 for Mencap. They were supported by their husbands - Simon and Will - and children, Harry, Angus and Alex.