Marathon: ‘Leanne’s spirit will keep us running’
10:36 27 February 2014
A self-confessed couch-potato is running this year’s London Marathon in memory of his super-talented daughter Leanne Pannell who tragically died of a rare lung disease aged just 19.
Builder Mark Pannell, 50, of St John’s Road and his friend Ian Lake, of Car and Commercial, have been pounding the streets in readiness, despite admitting that he hadn’t done ‘proper physical exercise in many years’.
Leanne, who died in January 2008 of pulmonary hypertension, was a fit, healthy young girl.
An excellent swimmer, she had represented her school in national gymnastics competitions and harboured ambitions to become a model.
But one morning, aged just 13, her life changed – she woke unable to breath, and was struggling to climb the stairs.
It soon became clear this was not a chest infection and following a referral to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, doctors gave her just 18 months to live.
Mark, who is raising money for Pulmonary Hypertension Association UK, said: “Leanne never gave up and had a spirit and zest for life that allowed her to live a further six years.
“She firmly believed she had a purpose in this world and was not going to sit in a chair and wait.”
Leanne lived her life to the full and became a member of the Pulmonary Hypertension Association UK, taking part in countless radio and TV awareness campaigns, as well as being the focus of a Channel 5 documentary, Child in a Million.
He added: “Promoting awareness was so important to Leanne.
“So as we approached our 50th birthdays, we decided that it was time to get some fitness back into our lives.
“We wanted to help raise some much-needed money for a charity that supported Leanne and my family through the ups and downs, and there were many ups and downs when living life with a terminal illness, and more so when it is your child and there is nothing you can do to make them better.
“We wanted to give something back to a charity that just does so much for others.”
He admitted that training was not easy, and added: “Especially when you are 50 years old and have not done any proper physical exercise in many, many years.
“But Leanne’s spirit will keep us running.
“She never gave up fighting and was still living her life to the full the day she sadly passed away.”
Their aim is to raise £1,000 for PHA-UK on April 13. If you want to help go to: www.justgiving.com/Mark-Pannell1
● For more stories about runners tackling the London Marathon, turn to page 19.