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Tandragee woman Natalie Bowbanks completes 'London' marathon in garden for NHS


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Natalie Bowbanks after running her marathon

Natalie Bowbanks after running her marathon

Natalie Bowbanks after running her marathon

A runner brought a piece of London to her parents' Co Armagh back garden as she raised more than £4,500 in total for the NHS while running the length of the city's famous marathon.

Natalie Bowbanks from Tandragee ran the 26-mile distance in six hours and 50 minutes on Sunday - more than double her usual marathon time - as she completed thousands of laps of the garden.

With the support of her friends and running club, the practice manager at My Dentist in Portadown raised more than £1,000 during the run itself, which was shared live on Facebook, with the rest rolling in.

After the cancellation of this year's London event Natalie decided to go that extra mile for the NHS as healthcare staff fight the Covid-19 crisis.

To help bring a little bit of the capital to Tandragee, her friends built models of Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Big Ben clock tower and the city's famous red buses and black taxis.

To top it off Natalie's nieces Rebekah (8) and Charlotte (5) made a number of spectators so their auntie could have support on the gruelling run.

"I'm over the Moon with how much we've raised," Natalie said.

"The models just made it a whole lot more fun and I got so much interaction on social media.

"It actually did feel like I was running in London and I know that sounds absolutely crazy.

"At the start I was fine, but an hour before I was due to start I got so nervous."

Natalie knew she was never going to match her normal marathon time as she was confined to her parents' back garden but drew support from her family and friends who video-called her during the run.

To help raise some extra money 32 of her team-mates at the Craigavon Lakers running club also took part in a virtual London Marathon relay.

"Loads of people were video-calling me when I was doing it and I did loads of live videos on Facebook, which went down an absolute treat because I ended up raising £1,000 just yesterday alone," she said.

"Loads of people were involved and it was just brilliant."

Admitting she won't be setting foot in her parents' back garden for a while, Natalie plans to run another fundraising marathon this Sunday to mark the Belfast City Marathon - although "it'll be a short loop from my house".

If you would like to donate to Natalie's fundraising drive, visit the GoFundMe website and search for 'Not the London Marathon in my garden'.

Meanwhile, Co Down woman Donna Convery is on a mission to achieve 40 things by the time she turns 40 later this year. Among them is to run 25 marathons, although coronavirus restrictions are hampering her efforts.

Undeterred Donna was joined by her brother-in-law Sean Paul Grant as they spent much of Sunday running over 26 miles around their gardens in their homes - Donna in Portaferry and Sean Paul in Glenavy, Co Antrim.

This was marathon number 18 for Donna, who decided to ask for donations for the NHS from friends and family and has gathered an impressive £3,300 so far, with more money coming in all the time.

She said that while the strain of running in such a confined space was gruelling, the support from neighbours and people watching online kept the pair going.

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Donna Convery with husband Paul, who was compere during her marathon, and her two children Brooke and Keelan

Donna Convery with husband Paul, who was compere during her marathon, and her two children Brooke and Keelan

Donna Convery with husband Paul, who was compere during her marathon, and her two children Brooke and Keelan

She said: "My husband live-streamed me running on Facebook so I got plenty of support there and our neighbours were out cheering us on so that kept the pair of us going.

"In all the other marathons I ran I had not done any charity fundraising but decided we would ask for donations for the NHS for this one because of all the amazing work they are doing.

"That helped us stay on track, too, and we are so delighted that we raised so much more than we set out to do.

"The latest total was £3,300, which we are over the Moon with and we want to thank everyone who made a donation."

Belfast Telegraph