St Albans runner clocks up 1,500 miles in 12 months to fundraise for toddler

PUBLISHED: 09:26 10 January 2019

Clare Wallis. Picture: Clare Wallis

Clare Wallis. Picture: Clare Wallis

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A runner conquered seemingly impossible feats every single month of 2018 to raise £6,000 for an ill child.

One of Clare Wallis' medals. Picture: Clare WallisOne of Clare Wallis' medals. Picture: Clare Wallis

In 2018 Clare Wallis took on 12 long-distance races significantly longer than 26.2 miles - ultra-marathons - in aid of three-year-old Isla Austin, who needs continuing funding for potentially life-saving treatment.

After a growth appeared on her cheek in late 2016, Isla was diagnosed with stage IV high-risk neuroblastoma. Further tests revealed tumours growing in her kidney, legs and ribs.

Although the Leverstock Green toddler is currently in remission, her chances of relapse are very high and only ten per cent of patients survive a reoccurrence.

During a three-month whirlwind campaign in 2016, her family raised £135,000 to pay for an experimental clinical trial of The Bivalent Vaccine at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Isla Austin with one of Clare's medals. Picture: Clare WallisIsla Austin with one of Clare's medals. Picture: Clare Wallis

Clare has now raised a further £6,000, which will go towards Isla’s ongoing treatment.

The 36-year-old ran 45 miles across the Chiltern Hills and along the Grand Union Canal in the Country to Capital Ultra in January, 50 miles in the Thames Trot Ultra from Oxford to Henley in February, and 100 miles in the Viking 100 from Herne Bay during March. For the Viking 100 race, Clare bagged third place for women.

During April she ran constantly for 24 hours around a 400m running track in the Crawley AIM - she described this particular event as a real “mental challenge” because of its repetitiveness.

Clare jogged 60 miles of hilly trails on the Rushmore Estate as part of The Ox Ultra in May, 52 miles from Stroud to the Broadway Tower in the Heineken Race to the Tower Cotswold Way Ultra Marathon in June, and 63 miles in the Jurassic Coast Challenge from Poole Harbour to Bridport in July.

Clare Wallis with three-year-old Isla Austin. Picture: Clare WallisClare Wallis with three-year-old Isla Austin. Picture: Clare Wallis

Into the second half of the year, Clare was reminded that “humans are not in charge” as she battled driving rain in the Wye Valley Challenge from Chepstow to Hereford in August.

During September she took on a challenge closer to home, the St Albans Stampede. Clare managed to cover 56 miles over 12 hours of constant running in the event around Heartwood Forest and Nomansland Common.

She got a car sticker and a t-shirt for overcoming the Limestone Way Ultra 50 mile run in October, and she came second in the six hour endurance Relativity Run in Northampton during November.

To end the challenges, Clare completed the SVN Festive Frolic in Dover, covering 60km down Samphire Hoe.

Clare Wallis with three-year-old Isla Austin. Picture: Clare WallisClare Wallis with three-year-old Isla Austin. Picture: Clare Wallis

All in all, counting training, she clocked up 1,500 miles over 12 months - the equivalent of running from England to Serbia, Ukraine, or Moldova.

Clare said: “I am pretty impressed with myself because you never know what is possible until you try and I am really proud to support Isla and her family in her treatment.

“I feel grateful I did it without any injuries and all in one piece - but I am having a rest in January.”

Before 2018 Clare ran about one ultra-marathon each year.

Clare Wallis' medals, after running 12 ultra-marathons during 2018. Picture: Clare WallisClare Wallis' medals, after running 12 ultra-marathons during 2018. Picture: Clare Wallis

“It is incredible what your body can do when you put your mind to it and there is no way I could moan about what I was going through when Isla is going through treatment like she is.”

Clare thanked HOB Salons on Chequer Street for all their support.

She added: “I am really happy about raising £6,000, everyone has been a great support. There is such a lot of treatment she needs, there are still a lot of scans and her parents have to pay for all that.

“They are a really, normal, down to earth family and to see them take it on and do what they can to further Isla’s treatment is amazing. They have no expectations, they are really nice and they never moan.”

Rick Austin, Isla’s father, said her treatment is going well.

They have travelled to America numerous times over 2018, and will make the trip for a final time in March next year for scans, bone marrow retrieval and the vaccine injection.

She will then have scans in the UK for another year - but will not be out of danger until at least five years in remission.

He said her check-ups are positive: “The neuroblastoma has a very high rate of coming back so this vaccine is showing really promising results.

“But it is a trial so she is not out of the woods at all.

“Clare has shown us fantastic support, she has been amazing, a huge thank you to her.”

To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/solvingkidscancer/islaaustin

To support Clare’s ultra-marathons, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/clarewallis-running2018

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