A private flight attendant from West Sussex is running the London Marathon to raise money in memory of her dad who died from blood cancer.
She’s also not stopping there, Gemma has recently signed up to run the Marathon Des Sables, a 156-mile, six-day, self-sufficient run across the Sahara Desert.
Gemma Morris, 35, from Horsham in West Sussex, is raising money for blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan. Gemma’s dad was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma in 2001 which unfortunately returned after several rounds of chemotherapy.
He was told that his only hope of a cure would be a stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor. Anthony Nolan searched the stem cell register for a match, but he sadly died before a transplant was able to take place.
Gemma said: ‘My dad never had the opportunity to have a transplant, but I know that Anthony Nolan tried to find a match for him. That’s why I’m running the London Marathon for them this year, so more people are able have that chance.’
‘My dad and I just had an amazing bond. I was distraught when we lost him. That’s why I run in his memory, it’s nice to do this in his legacy. I like to think he can see everything I’ve been doing, although he’d probably be looking down going ‘You’re crazy, you’re absolutely crazy.’
Gemma started running for the first time three years ago. After watching the London Marathon in 2016, she applied to run for Anthony Nolan the following year. Since then she’s completed the London Marathon twice, the New York Marathon and the Chicago Marathon, which she ran on her dad’s birthday last year. Gemma has raised an incredible £16,000 for Anthony Nolan since she started fundraising.
Talking about her fundraising efforts, Gemma said: ‘I just think that if I can help even just a little bit, it’s all worth it. If I’m able to fund someone to join the register, who then goes on to donate and save someone’s life, that would be absolutely fantastic.’
Gemma’s job as a private flight attendant takes her all over the word which can make training particularly difficult, especially when she isn’t familiar with the area she’s running in.
Gemma said: ‘Just before Christmas I went on a trip to Lapland and it was the most beautiful, scenic run I’ve ever done, but it was so cold – about -16, so my manager told me off (laughs). He was like ‘you could have killed yourself!’
In three years, Gemma has gone from a non-runner to running marathons around the world. She plans on completing all the world major marathons by 2021 and is running the Berlin Marathon in October for Anthony Nolan. However, she’s not content with just running 26.2 miles. Gemma has signed up to do the Marathon Des Sables next year, a six-day, 156-mile, self-sufficient run across the Sahara Desert.
Speaking about the huge challenge, Gemma said: ‘It’s supposed to be the toughest race on earth. Even thinking about it, I feel a bit sick. I think people got a bit bored of me talking about marathons and started asking if I’d do the Marathon Des Sables. So, I just turned around and said: ‘Yeah I’m going to do it in 2020’.
Anthony Nolan finds and matches donors, of the correct tissue types, with patients with blood cancers and disorders who need lifesaving stem cell transplants, giving them a second chance of life.
Anthony Nolan also carries out pioneering research to increase the success of stem cell transplants and supports patients through their transplant journeys.
Kirsty Mooney, Head of Community and Events at Anthony Nolan, said, “We are delighted that Gemma is lacing up her trainers and running the London Marathon for us this year. With every mile completed Team AN will be providing hope. The funds they raise will enable us to recruit potential stem cell donors to the Anthony Nolan register – any one of whom could give a second chance of life for someone with blood cancer.”
You can sponsor Gemma here – www.justgiving.com/Gemma-Morris22
To find out more about Anthony Nolan, or to take part in your own challenge event, visit www.anthonynolan.org/events