OXFORD University student Garreth McCrudden was born seven weeks early back in March 1991.

He needed emergency medical attention to care for his lungs, which were underdeveloped, but thanks to hospital staff he recovered and went on to lead a normal childhood.

Now, 22 years on, he is preparing for his first London Marathon in aid of Bliss, which provides care and support for premature and sick babies and their families.

The PhD student, who is studying physical and theoretical chemistry at Oxford’s Jesus College, said: “When I decided that I wanted to run this year’s marathon, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to do it for charity. I really wanted to find an organisation that struck a chord with my own life experience, and Bliss was that charity.

“I myself was born two months prematurely, and I know from my parents just how stressful, unsure, and, quite frankly, terrifying that time was for them. My parents and I are incredibly grateful that the staff and resources were available to my mother and me when we were both in fragile conditions. I’m running for Bliss so that other children born too soon are able to receive the medical care that will give them the fighting chance they deserve.”

Of his training, Mr McCrudden, who is originally from Northern Ireland, said: “It is difficult to motivate yourself to get up at 6am to go for a 10-mile run. Because it is such a demand on your body, I have had some issues, but I enjoy it.”

Amy Rodwell, Bliss events officer, said: “We’re delighted to have Garreth taking part this year. We want to say a huge thank-you to him. He will be helping us continue to support families who are going through what is one of the most difficult times imaginable – having a baby who is seriously ill.”

Other runners: Charlotte Woodward.

Oxford Mail:

YOUNG mum Charlotte Woodward was only 18 months old when she was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis.

The condition, which affects every joint in her body, means that she can sometimes struggle to walk and has been in a wheelchair and on crutches.

Exercise can leave her in pain.

But she wants to raise awareness that young people can get arthritis and, in the process, contribute to funding the research that has helped her.

So she will be running the London Marathon on April 13.

The Headington 25-year-old, who is a mum to two-year-old Lexi, said: “I wanted to show people I can do something even if I have this.

“I have my little girl now and I want to make her proud.”

Of her condition, she said: “I have never known any different. I have never let it hold me back.

“It tends to be more painful when you finish running. I am going to be in a lot of pain after the marathon. Getting round the course without one of my knees giving way will be a challenge.

“It is going to be mind over matter with the pain.

“I will be proud of myself that I managed to achieve something so big. I just want to see my daughter at the end.”

The Churchill Hospital pharmacy technician said: “I have to raise more than £2,000. It is very important to fund research.

“It is the new medication that is helping me run the race in the first place. They keep bringing out new stuff and it is more readily available because of the research they do.

“I think I will be nervous but excited and I am determined to cross the finish line.”

Miss Woodward is fundraising for Arthritis Research UK, a charity that funds research, provides information and campaigns on the issue.

Nicole Rahimi and Sarah Hewitt.

Oxford Mail:

LAST year, colleagues Nicole Rahimi and Sarah Hewitt felt inspired watching the London Marathon.

Now this year it is their turn to attempt to cross the finish line after the 26.2-mile course through the city and they are raising money for The Art Room, which enables youngsters to get involved with art.

Iffley mum-of-two Mrs Rahimi, right, and Kidlington mum-of-three Mrs Hewitt, left, both work at the charity’s base at Oxford Spires Academy.

Mrs Rahimi, who organises the Oxford Christmas Market, said: “We were just really inspired by the people who ran the marathon.

“They were all in pain but had a big smile on their faces and said it was a great feeling to do it.”

The Art Room works with five- to 16-year-olds who have emotional and behavioural difficulties.

There are six Art Rooms in schools spread across Oxford – including at Rose Hill Primary School – and London, which offer art as therapy to increase children’s self-esteem and self-confidence.

Mrs Rahimi, who works as an administrator for the charity, said: “When I work at The Art Room, the kids come in showing their artwork and their big smiles. It is great to see the big transformation caused by The Art Room. That is why I get my stuff on and go running.

“It is doing it for a great cause but doing it for ourselves.

“It is tough to go outside in the cold and wet for a run. I think I wouldn’t go out and run if I didn’t have this charity.”

Oxford Mail reporter Emma Harrison outlines her own reasons to run.

  • Weeks to the London Marathon: 10
  • Miles run this week: Not enough

Oxford Mail:

THE excitement and buzz of watching the London Marathon for the first time is something I have never forgotten.

Speaking to the runners who had jogged, walked and limped over that famous finish line in The Mall and witnessing the elation they felt at having completed something so mammoth was inspiring.

And I wanted to join them.

Now, six years after watching thousands of elite and fun runners complete the course, I too will attempt to complete the 26.2-mile route in April.

Like the other runners preparing for the task ahead, I have already been pounding the streets of Oxford and putting in the miles.

But even now – for me – getting to that finish line seems impossible.

The motivation to complete a 10-mile run in the cold and wet is hard to find, but as the big day approaches it is the fear of not achieving my goal that is driving me.

Apparently a marathon is not a walk in the park.

I know there will be ups and downs. I know there will be pain and there probably will be tears.

But it is a challenge and one that I have waited six years to attempt.

I think there is one thing that my fellow marathon runners and I have to remember: your head says ‘go for a run’ and your knees say ‘no’.

What must we think during those cold, dark nights of training ahead? Nothing is impossible.