Julia Francis has already walked a marathon for Prostate Cancer UK, after joining Jeff Stelling with her fiancé and Sky Sports pundit Alan McInally for a day of the Men United March. Now she's taking on the world's biggest half marathon to help beat the most common cancer in men. She tells us about her family connections to the disease and why all of this is actually just a Plan B.
When Julia Francis had to pull out of this year's London Marathon for Prostate Cancer UK due to injury, she came up with a Plan B. She would walk a marathon on the sixth day of the Men United March with her fiancé, former Aston Villa player and Sky Sports pundit Alan McInally. And she would run the Great North Run in our blue and black vest.
Having competed the first part of her plan on 26 March (and managing to keep smiling in the pouring rain at St Andrew's), the 42-year-old from Cheshire is now steeling herself for the world's biggest half marathon on Sunday 11 September, joining 500 others on the start-line running for Prostate Cancer UK.
"I’m really looking forward to the challenge," she says. "My brother was an England runner and my dad ran and organised marathons, so I spent my childhood weekends cheering them on. You could say running is in the genes."
And it's family that's her primary motivation behind both parts of Plan B. Her father was diagnosed with prostate cancer in January 2014 and Alan’s late father was diagnosed 10 years ago. Both were diagnosed early and had the best chance of successful treatment and full recovery.
"I am one of the lucky daughters who still has their dad in their lives," she says. "My now healthy dad will be along the route of the Great North Run supporting me, as he has done every day of my life, and for that I am so very thankful."
I want to raise funds for all those dads, brothers, sons, uncles, and nephews who are currently fighting hard
Julia’s father is now an ambassador for Prostate Cancer UK and volunteers at events which raise much needed funds and awareness of the disease. It's what his daughter also hopes to do with her Plan B achievements.
"I want to raise funds for all those dads, brothers, sons, uncles and nephews who are currently fighting hard, and to raise awareness so that more men can have a better chance through early diagnosis," she says.
"I’ve suffered from all the usual runners’ ailments over the years and I’m not hopeful of any PBs in the Great North Run. But I know I'll complete the course and am delighted to be representing Prostate Cancer UK – for my dad, Alan’s dad and all the men who are affected by this awful disease."
You can sponsor Julia's brilliant efforts at her online fundraising page.