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Cancer no barrier to 70-year-old runner Glenys with sights on parkrun goal

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Glenys and Cliff Waters
Glenys and Cliff Waters

A WOMAN who has been given just months to live spent part of Christmas Day morning taking part in her local parkrun.

Glenys Waters (70), from Highcliffe, is determined to keep on running to reach her target of completing 250 parkruns, despite the devastating news following a diagnosis of ovarian cancer in 2015.

She is already up to 233 and is completely confident she will achieve her ambition. “I’m focused on it and I intend to get to my goal come what may,” she said.

Glenys, who runs at the Moors Valley and Brockenhurst parkruns, said the running community has helped her through gruelling treatment over the years.

“I run to feel normal and to tell the cancer ‘I’m in charge!’” she said. “When I’m running, I’m no different to any of the other runners.

“I don’t see myself as an inspiration to others, I’m just running to help keep body and soul together.”

When chemo has left Glenys too ill to run, she has at times taken part in a wheelchair, with other runners taking turns to push her around the course.

After losing her hair she took to wearing bright coloured wigs for her runs, which she co-ordinates with her running outfits.

She’s become such a popular figure in the parkrun community that recently the New Forest parkrun club held a special event to honour her, with runners turning up in coloured wigs.

Glenys said: “Over 400 people turned up, which was really amazing. It really made me emotional to think that so many runners were thinking of me and supporting me.

“I was completely overwhelmed – people had even come down from Birmingham for the event. It was a marvellous day.”

Mum-of-two Glenys has been raising money for Ovarian Cancer Action, and has so far collected more than £1,400.

At the start of the event one of the organisers paid tribute to Glenys’s bravery, telling the participants: “If she can, you can!”

Glenys started running in her forties. “I wanted to lose weight off my legs, but when I first started, I could hardly run from one lamppost to another!” she said.

“But I kept on going and I found that I really loved running. It makes you feel so great and I was absolutely thrilled when I lost enough weight to fit into my daughter’s trousers!”

At the time, Glenys, whose son David (51) and daughter Alison (48) are also parkrunners, was a maths teacher living in Manchester. She and husband Cliff (71) moved to Peterborough in 1995 before retiring to Highcliffe in 2016.

She said: “I am so glad I discovered the parkrun. The sense of community you get from it is amazing. You get to know all the regulars and everyone helps everyone else. It’s not about setting the fastest time, it’s about having fun and feeling good about yourself. It’s a run, not a race.

“At the moment we run in Moors Valley, Brockenhurst and Poole parkruns. We even do it if we go somewhere to visit family; when we went to Cornwall for a holiday, we did the parkrun there.”

Glenys has never given up her parkruns, even during the intense treatment she has at times had to undergo to treat her cancer.

“I ran my 100th parkrun two days after receiving six hours of chemo, and one time I came out of hospital at 5.15pm and was on the starting line of a run two hours later,” she said.

“I have never let the cancer stop me. It has really got me through some very difficult moments – it gives me something to focus on and makes me feel really positive about things.”

Glenys was diagnosed after becoming ill in August 2015. She had a bad back and her stomach was bloated.

She said: “I thought the stomach thing was odd but I put it down to my age. A friend of mine had known someone who was diagnosed with a lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system) and when she saw my stomach, she asked me to go to my GP straight away.

“There is also a history of cancer in my family so I was wary. Luckily my doctor fast-tracked me for tests which revealed the cancer. I had an operation around a month later to remove the tumour and I even did a 10k run while I was waiting for it!”

The surgery revealed that the cancer was more widespread than the specialists had thought and was also situated in the peritoneum – the thin layers of tissue lining the abdomen.

Glenys had a second operation in January 2016 together with chemotherapy treatment.

She was clear for 15 months but then blood tests showed tumour markers rising and she had to have another five rounds of chemotherapy.

Throughout it all Glenys has run, taking part in parkruns, 10k events and charity runs to raise money, even being crowned Runner of the Year in 2017 at Peterborough.

She said: “At times I felt ill but I kept going. I’ve also been very open about my cancer and I was really touched recently when a young woman came up to me and gave me a hug and thanked me.

“She had gone to the doctor to ask for tests as she was worried about some symptoms. She told me: ‘If it hadn’t been for you, I wouldn’t have gone.’

“I hope that by being open I can help people. Ovarian cancer is called the ‘silent killer’ because it has such vague symptoms. Hopefully I’m raising awareness of it.”

Sadly, in October this year Glenys was given the news that despite her brave battle, her cancer was now coming to a close.

She said: “I was shocked when they said I only had around a few months at the best. But I’m trying to remain positive. Being morbid and miserable doesn’t help anyone.

“I’m carrying on running and I intend to get to that 250. Cliff said he will drag me around if I’m not feeling well just to make sure I do it!”

Cliff, who has already reached the 236 parkruns, chipped in: “Don’t worry, she’s going to make it, she is so determined and when she wants to do something, she does it!”

Glenys also plans to run on New Year’s Day.

To donate to Ovarian Cancer Research visit www.justgiving.com/glenys-waters2.

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