On Sunday May 19th in Richmond Park, Chrissy Gorham of Botley, Southampton will run her One Hundredth marathon just over a year to the day since her husband, John, died of cancer of the oesophagus. Chrissy, 61, has been racing in memory of John and to raise money for the charity that supported him through his illness – Heartburn Cancer UK. 

“I started running marathons when I met John, just over 10 years ago and we managed 55 before he died on 8th May last year, aged just 63. Setting myself the target of reaching the 100 mark has given me purpose and an opportunity to raise awareness of what is Britain’s sixth biggest cancer killer, particularly of men” Chrissy says. 

Heartburn Cancer UK has been supporting sufferers of oesophageal cancer since 2003 when it was founded by Mimi McCord after the death of her husband, Michael, from the disease at the age of 47. 

“We are determined to raise awareness of the cancer among the public but also among GPs” says Mimi. “It is too easy to dismiss the symptoms as heartburn and self-medicate to manage them with off the shelf treatments. People are largely unaware of the disease and yet we have the highest incidence in the world.” 

Cancer of the oesophagus affects the pipe that runs from the gullet to the stomach. Symptoms include persistent heartburn, cough and difficulty swallowing. Men are four times as likely to suffer as women and it is particularly prevalent in the North East of England and in Scotland. 

Chrissy Running next to the water

When she finishes her 100th marathon, Chrissy will have raised over £5000 for Heartburn Cancer UK. Since John died last year she will have completed 45 marathons in 12 months, sometimes running three a week! Chrissy’s countdown events will include the prestigious London Marathon on 28th April. 

“I was 48 when I started running and my best time has been 3:51:30, but I haven’t done under 4 hours in a while” says Chrissy. 

The events she chooses have at least 25 people taking part and publish their results so they will be recognised by the 100 Marathon Club. Chrissy will receive a coveted blue and yellow running vest when she completes her 100th in Richmond. 

She’s a solitary runner, driving herself to and from events. “Its usually me on my own,” she says, “although I do see some of the same people regularly. Virtually all of the runs are off road so I can look at the birds, other wildlife and scenery. It’s like meditation for me.” 

Once the 100 are finished Chrissy will not be stopping, just going up a gear. “I’m going to run 100 Ultra Marathons next, that’s anything longer than the marathon length of 26 miles 385 yards or 42.195km. 

Charity founder Mimi says that what Chrissy is doing is a vital contribution to general knowledge about cancer of the oesophagus. “Incidence is rising and diagnosis is usually too late. We need as many people as possible to be aware of the symptoms and the risks” she says.