"I will be running to raise money and awareness" - Women's Running

“I will be running to raise money and awareness”

Author: Women's Running Magazine

Read Time:   |  January 5, 2016

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For most runners, taking on a marathon is a highly emotional experience. For Sally Heppleston, who will be flying to the other side of the world to run the Virgin Money London Marathon next year, this will be a particularly emotionally charged experience. After losing her baby daughter in 2008, Sally has raised $40,000 for the Stillbirth Foundation Australia and, next year, will be the first representative the charity has sent to an international event.

Sally, a suburban newspaper journalist from Melbourne, Australia, lost her baby daughter, Hope, to a stillbirth in 2008. Following the experience, which Sally can only describe as “unimaginable”, she become passionate about doing all she could to save other families from enduring this same devastation. Sally decided to raise money for the Stillbirth Foundation Australia – a charity that funds research and education to prevent stillbirth, while supporting the families of stillborn babies.

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“The $40,000 I raised for the Stillbirth Foundation was through a project I set up a few years ago called Fairy Tales For Hope,” she says. “We sold 31 fairytale inspired prints through the month of August in 2012, one for each day of the month in which Hope was born, to raise money for the foundation.”

In the same year, Sally took up running – a passion that has since enabled her to raise a further $12,000 for the foundation through competing in the iconic City2Surf event in Sydney two years in a row, while providing her with an outlet to help cope with her grief.

“I took up running when my son Angus, who was born 15 months after Hope, was about three and my second daughter was about six months old. I felt like the fog of having three babies in three years, not to mention suffering an unimaginable loss, was starting to lift.”

At this time, Sally found herself 20kg overweight and knew that something needed to change. “I finally needed to do something for me,” she said. After joining the gym, a trainer suggested she should take up running and she has since not looked back. Taking up the Couch to 5K programme in October 2012, she signed up to her first 5K fun run in December the same year. “I completed that in 27mins and felt on top of the world,” said Sally, “I knew I wanted to increase my distance and improve my time.”

Early the following year, Sally took part in a 10K run, followed by a 15K, before completing three half marathons later in the year. In 2014, Sally knew she wanted to run her first marathon – an ambition intensified after joining her local parkun and meeting fellow runners with the same shared goal. Sally ran her first marathon with her running buddies at the Great Ocean Road Marathon in May 2015, and in October the same year, completed the Melbourne Marathon. “It was an incredible experience and very emotional,” she said.

“That’s not to say it wasn’t hard, I certainly hit the wall somewhere around the 36K mark but I knew, as with my grief, it was just a matter of one foot in front of the other. If I could survive the death of my baby, I could survive running a marathon. Seeing my husband at the finish line of the iconic point to point run was very special.”

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Next year, Sally will run the Virgin Money London Marathon for the Stillbirth Foundation and has already exceeded her fundraising target of $10,000 by $2,000. Sally is now seeking donations or corporate sponsorship so that she can fund the trip for her husband and two children. “An overseas holiday is really beyond us at this stage of our lives, but it was an opportunity to good to pass up. I couldn’t imagine travelling to the other side of the world to run a marathon, for a cause I’m so passionate about, without my family there to greet me at the finish line.

“It is a huge honour to represent the Stillbirth Foundation at the VMLM. It is the first time they have sent a representative to an international event, and it will hopefully really shine a light on a cause that so few understand. I will be running to raise both money and awareness because it is my hope that no family has to suffer through what we did.”

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