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I'll be running a marathon a week in honour of my late wife

By Amanda Ferguson

Published 27/05/2015

The Anderson family on a skiing holiday
The Anderson family on a skiing holiday
The late Mary Anderson
Philip Anderson celebrates after completing a marathon

A runner is taking on a marathon every week for a year in honour of his inspiring wife, who touched many lives with her positive outlook before her untimely death due to a brain tumour.

Co Tyrone man Philip Anderson, is keeping wife Mary's spirit of generosity alive by running the 26.2 mile challenges as he and the couple's 10-year-old son Peter fight to cope with the devastation of their bereavement.

On November 13, the 44-year-old lost Mary to a brain tumour just nine days after his mother Brigid died from bowel cancer.

"We have lost our mums at the same time," Philip, from Brackaville, Coalisland, said. "I am so blessed to have Peter. He is the kindest little boy you would ever meet. He is a reflection of his mummy."

The Mary Anderson Foundation has been set up as a tribute to the 40-year-old former civil servant, who dedicated her life to caring for her son and helping others around her.

Philip shared his message with listeners of the BBC's Nolan Show. Since then, he has been left overwhelmed by the reaction to his story.

Philip, a director of an environmental service company, met Mary in 1997 at the Elk in Toomebridge and they were married in 2000.

In 2002 Mary was diagnosed with a brain tumour and suffered a stroke, which saw her have to learn to speak and walk again.

The couple had discovered not long after getting married their chance of having children was slim but then in 2004 "a miracle" took place.

"On Christmas Eve 2003 I arrived home from work and met Mary and her mother at the door," Philip said.

"They had news for me that she was pregnant. It was like a miracle happening for us. On August 24, 2004 Peter was born.

"For years after Peter was born life was good, we never talked about the tumour, we got on with day to day life."

Shortly after Peter started school Mary lost her hearing but refused to let it get her down.

"I thought it was awful," Philip said.

"I asked her how she felt, and she was so positive, she said I can still see so you can write things down."

In 2013 Mary began suffering seizures but "got back on her feet and battled through".

"Each time they had more of an impact on her but she confounded the doctors," Philip said.

Sadly, Philip's mother died on November 4 and his wife was admitted to hospital with seizures the same week.

"The day mum was buried I was back in the hospital with Mary and after more seizures thought she would pull through, but she never woke up," he said.

In the days and weeks since her passing Peter has been inundated with calls and visits from friends, family and members of the community all sharing stories of how Mary had quietly helped them.

"I never knew about them," Philip said.

"Stories of how she had helped people and touched people. That was how Mary lived her life. Always thinking of everybody else. She had this unbelievable, positive attitude to life. She was so dedicated to Peter and me. I was totally in awe of her. How she got the strength and never complained about life. She never said 'why me?'."

To help with his grief Philip took up running and his thoughts were consumed with his wife's remarkable attitude to life.

"Every day for Mary was a marathon she never complained about," he said.

"I decided the way I would honour Mary's life was to do a marathon a week for 52 weeks. I have done 21 so far.

"I have an unbelievable group of people around me who help me, who run with me and the generosity has been incredible."

Philip's 22nd challenge is the Walled City Marathon in Londonderry on Sunday. "The feet are just about holding out," he said.

"I have great people around me keeping me ticking over."

Philip urged people to support The Mary Anderson Foundation Colour Marathon on Sunday, September 13 in Co Tyrone, organised in conjunction with The Rainbow Gateway Club for young people with special needs in Carrickmore.

"To sign up, contact Athletics NI or visit," he said.

Mary is never far from Philip's thoughts and she gives him strength to keep going when he is aiming for the marathon finish line.

"I think about her a lot," he said.

"Every time I am struggling I think about Mary and she gets me to the finish line.

"Mary always had a smile on her face and she dedicated her life to Peter and others so I think of that."

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