NEARLY 50 Abingdon School teachers and pupils – past and present – ran the Reading Half Marathon on Sunday to support the family of Skye Hall.

The group got behind the cause when the five-year-old son of the school’s director of sport Andrew Hall died in August as a result of his cancer treatment.

Organiser Francis Gater, who was one of Mr Hall’s first pupils at the school, rallied Old Abingdonians and present staff to take part.

He said: “We were the first rugby team he coached in 2003, when we were about 16.

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“He is a great coach – very disciplined and absolutely got the best out of us. I was so sorry for him and so moved by the story.”

Mr Gater got the idea of a group run when he bumped into Mr Hall at the finish line of the Blenheim Half Marathon in October.

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Members of the group, including Francis Gater, sixth from right, who completed the Reading Half Marathon.

The Besselsleigh resident said: “I contacted everyone in the old rugby team and got an amazing response straight away. One guy flew back from Australia just to do the race.

“Pretty quickly other people from other year groups at the school and teachers wanted to get involved. It’s absolutely snowballed.

“That team support that you have at school, is bred within you and given to you by the teachers like Andrew, it stays with you for the rest of your life.”

Now training to be a surveyor, Mr Gater said: “Andrew touches the lives of so many people, it’s so close to home. When you put something like this in front of people – an event they can really get behind – they really jump on it.

“Running 13 miles is nothing compared to what Andrew and his family have gone through. It went really well, it was a great success.

I was aiming for 1.40 and I did it in 1.41. I was shattered by the end so I’m still pretty pleased.”

The group has already raised £15,000 and hopes to hit £20,000 for Blue Skye Thinking, the charity Mr Hall, his wife Sally and their three-year-old son Jesse have set to fund research into alternative cancer treatments for children.

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Skye Hall and his mum Sally.

If they reach their goal, the charity will have raised £120,000 – enough to pay for its own full-time researcher.

Mr Hall, 42, who also took part, said: “I was so moved when Francis told me what a fantastic response he’d received from everyone, especially those who are travelling across the world to be part of this, that I had no option but to join them.

“As a rugby coach, you build up such a strong bond with your players, as you see the team four or five times a week, and in particular this team, as it was the first one I coached during my first term at the school.

“I haven’t seen some of these guys since they left school, so it was great to see them all together again and they did me proud.”

Mrs Hall, 36, said: “Having grown up on the school site, Skye was very much part of the boarding school community and was always wanting to join in with the ‘bigger boys’.

“He used to often support them at weekend sporting fixtures, which is why it is such an honour that so many of the current and ex-pupils are now supporting Skye’s cause.”

To donate, visit and for more on Blue Skye Thinking visit