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Runher 2014: Seriously ill with anorexia, Victoria spent seven months in a London hospital, now she wants to ensure others get help here

Diane Shaw and daughter Victoria are among those taking part in next month's Runher. They and two other families tell Stephanie Bell the moving stories behind their fund-raising efforts

A record number of local ladies are getting ready to line up for this year's Belfast Telegraph coastal Runher. Entries have been pouring in for our third coastal event, with more than 2,000 women expected to complete the scenic 10k course on May 23. New for 2014 will be the Runher 'Walk with Mary' 10k, which will be held in addition to our 10k run.

For everyone who takes part £2 will go to the Mary Peters Foundation -- a cause which we passionately support.

The race sets off from Seapark to Holywood along the North Coast to Crawfordsburn Country Park, where a celebratory barbeque will be held.

After tucking into a well-earned burger, runners can enjoy a complimentary sports massage from Apex Physio.

As usual, the Runher village will have a feast of entertainment to keep the children entertained while their mums speed around the 10k course.

Individuals and any groups thinking of taking part are urged to enter soon, as the event is shaping up to be a sell-out.

As well as a reason to get fit, Runher has become a major boost for local charities as runners raise money for their favourite cause.

Three of this year's participants with very special reasons for taking part, share their stories of how they hope to make a difference by joining this year's Runher.


Diane Shaw (50), a housewife from Carrowdore, plans to walk 10km with her daughter Victoria (24) in aid of CARED — Caring About Recovery from Eating Disorders — a new charity she has helped set up with another family to support parents of children with eating disorders, after Victoria battled the condition in her late teens. She says:

Victoria has recovered from anorexia and recently had her first baby, Joshua, who is now four weeks old, with her fiance, Mike. During her battle, we found the existing provision in Northern Ireland for anorexia sufferers to be lacking, which is why we set up our new charity.

“There was a set of circumstances that we feel marked the beginning of Tori's illness. She went to Africa in January 2008, as she was planning to train to be a minister after her studies in Theology. Around that time, two of her good friends died of cancer.

“My husband and I were in New Zealand for three weeks when her brother, who suffers from a rare blood disorder, was taken very ill with swine flu, and Tori was left to cope on her own at home.

“Tori was engaged at the time to her long-term boyfriend. Knowing she was getting married, she also wanted to lose a few pounds.

“Looking back, Tori definitely used eating and exercise as a way to exert some control over her life. As it is such a secretive illness, we didn't know anything about it until we got a text from Tori from a Christian retreat she was on in Swansea, where she had finally broken down and confided in people. They encouraged her to seek help from us.

“After a few months, she was admitted to Belfast's Mater Hospital in a general psychiatric unit, which was just not geared up to dealing with anorexia.

“The situation got worse. Tori spent seven months in the Mater, during which time she lost around two stone.

“At her worst Tori’s weight dropped to just below six stone — at 5ft 10ins a healthy weight for her is around nine and a half stone. As a parent you feel completely helpless and very guilty. It is your natural instinct to feed and look after your child and keep them safe and healthy. The only way I can describe it is like being out at sea in a boat with no oars and no shore and a storm raging. It was a living hell every day.”

“We really felt that she should be transferred to a unit that specialised in dealing with eating disorders.

“We did our research and with the help of my husband Ivan's brother, who is a psychiatrist, we decided to send her to the Maudsley Hospital in London.

“Tori spent seven months there. Ivan and I attended courses to help us cope on a day-to-day basis with living with someone with an eating disorder.

“We knew that this sort of help is needed in Northern Ireland. We began fundraising and got support from Professor Janet Treasure, director of the Eating Disorder Unit and Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London, and Gill Todd, who was a Clinical Nurse at Gerald Russell Eating Disorders Unit for over 16 years and is now an independent trainer and supervisor in the field.

“It is our hope that CARED will provide training to help other families get the support they need to help their loved ones.”

For more information on the|charity go to Facebook/CAREDni or


Claire McLean (36), a part-time civil servant, lives in Belfast with her husband Robert (40), also a civil servant, and their twins, Katie and Harry (4). Claire is taking part in Runher to raise funds and awareness for Angelman Syndrome Ireland, a charity that provides support and information about the rare neuro-genetic disorder that affects approximately one in 25,000 people. Claire's daughter Katie was born with the disorder, which primarily affects the nervous system. She says:

Angelman Syndrome is not something that usually shows up straight away and we first began to realise something was amiss when Katie was around six months old and began to miss some of the developmental milestones that her brother Harry was reaching.

“We made an appointment with our doctor, who referred us to a consultant paediatrician, who happened to have dealt with other children with the syndrome.

“She took one look at Katie and knew straight away. It was an amazing coincidence, because it is so rare.

“It was the first we had heard of the syndrome, and a blood test confirmed it.

“It is quite unusual to find out so early that a child has Angelman Syndrome as in most cases, it is not diagnosed until children are around three years old.

“It was devastating. We describe it to people as being similar to going through a grieving process.

“Now four, Katie cannot walk, she has epilepsy and sleep issues.

“Angelman Syndrome means that Katie will never have speech; she will always communicate by noises.

“She did her first sign just one month ago, but generally we rely on working out her sounds to interpret what she needs.

“Katie is such a loveable child and full of fun. She has a wicked sense of humour and we couldn't love her any more than we do.

“She first went to Mencap's Segal House nursery, where there was a boy with Angelman Syndrome, and she is now at Oakwood School and Assessment Centre in Belfast, where she was joined by the boy from Segal House and a third child with the condition.

“There are only about 350 people with the syndrome in Ireland, so having two other children with it in Katie's class is amazing and has been a great support for us. It means we can compare milestones with their parents and it is very reassuring.

“The charity, Angelman Ireland, was only set up in 2011. Along with a similar charity in England and Europe, they are collaborating on new research.

“Hopefully, as a result, they will find some kind of treatment or something that could unsilence the silent gene. That would be just wonderful.

“I’d never run in my life until I started training for Runher. I like the idea that it is all women, and any money I raise will go to the charity to hopefully help with this research.”

For further information go to


 Runher veterans, sisters Glynis Hobson (42) and Gillian Dewart (40), from Moira, are about to take part in their third Runher for Marie Curie Cancer Care. The girls lost their mum Mavis to cancer in 2012 aged 63. Glynis is head of digital at the Ulster Bank and is married to Neil (41), a civil servant. Gillian is a sports development officer, who is married to Les (41), a talent development|officer for the Sports Council. Glynis says:

Mum had cancer for four years. She had breast cancer and received chemo and seemed to be doing really well. Then a scan showed it had gone to her liver and bones. She got a new wonder drug which took it away and again she was doing really well but it came back in her brain.

“For the last 10 weeks of her life Gillian and I spent all our time with her, and Marie Curie nurses came in at night to allow us to get some sleep.

“They managed her pain and made her really comfortable while giving us a wee break.

“The approach they had took our breath away. They were so gentle and caring and really made a difference to our family. We had a nurse with us on the night we lost mum and I don't know how we would have coped it she hadn't been there.

“Mum was very clear that she didn't want to spend her last days in hospital and we wouldn't have been able to have her at home if it hadn't been for Marie Curie and that meant the world to her.

“After she died Gillian and I worked out how much it would have cost Marie Curie to give mum the care they did and we reckoned it was around £1,500, which we decided we wanted to pay back.

“Neither of us are runners but we decided to train for the Great Northern Run and then do the coastal Runher and the one at Stormont last year.

“So far we have raised £3,500. I think the running has been part of our recovery as it really clears your head and refocuses you and gives you something to aim for.

“The beauty of Runher is that it is for all ages and all abilities and there is no pressure on anyone.

“It is so well organised and everyone feels they can take part and it helps build people’s confidence. Taking part has totally inspired us to keep running.

“The people at Marie Curie are so grateful. For us it is also about creating awareness of Marie Curie. At Runher we wear T-Shirts with Marie Curie on the front and on the back is written ‘For Mum’ with a heart.”



  •  Online entry via / Closes Sunday midnight, May 18.
  •  Entry forms are also available from Pure Running Belfast,|tel: 028 90 325151.
  •  Pack collection — Wednesday, May 21 and Thursday, May 22, at Pure Running Belfast; Friday, May 23, Race Day at Seapark, Holywood, 2pm-6pm.
  •  Entry is £18 (£20 race week) and includes race entry, Runher technical T-shirt, Runher goody bag and optional bus back to race start (post event).
  •  There will be extra buses after the race from Crawfordsburn Country Park to Race Start at|Seapark, Holywood.



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