Leighton Buzzard teacher runs London Marathon to raise thousands in memory of friend who died of brain cancer

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She’s raised more than £5,800 so far

A Leighton Buzzard teacher has run the London Marathon in memory of a much-missed husband and father who died of brain cancer just weeks before Christmas.

Laura Thompson, who runs Explaura Forest School in Leighton Buzzard, completed the TCS London Marathon in five hours and three minutes on Sunday (April 21), raising more than £5,800 for Brain Tumour Research.

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The mum of three said: “The whole experience was one of the most amazing days of my life.

Laura with her medalLaura with her medal
Laura with her medal

“The support from the Brain Tumour Research staff and supporters, and the sea of pink created by my friends and family, who were so loud I heard them before I saw them, was incredible and gave me such a boost.

“I didn’t tire of having people call my name; the support from the spectators throughout was amazing and I just loved seeing the little children’s faces light up when I went out of my way to give them high-fives.”

Laura’s inspiration for running the 26.2-mile race came from Simon Penwright, an operations director from Stewkley, who was diagnosed with a multifocal glioblastoma (GBM) in January 2023.

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The 52-year-old, who was married to Laura’s close friend, Emily Penwright, and had a blended family of four daughters, had surgery, high-dose radiotherapy and chemotherapy but died just 10 months later.

Laura Thompson (L) and Emily PenwrightLaura Thompson (L) and Emily Penwright
Laura Thompson (L) and Emily Penwright

Laura, 47, said: “When things got tough during training, I’d see something yellow, like a flower, and Emily would say ‘that’s Simon giving you a sign’. The first time in the race I thought ‘I can’t do this’, I saw a smiley yellow balloon and thought ‘maybe she’s right’.”

Laura asked people to choose a mile of the marathon and to donate a minimum £10 to dedicate a ribbon to a loved one they had lost.

She said: “I wrote names and mile numbers on each memory ribbon and attached them to the large pink Brain Tumour Research hat I wore for the race. I also had a list of them with me so I could think of that person at each mile, which helped me get through it because I was so touched by each person’s loss.”

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Following Simon’s diagnosis, he, Emily and their supportive network of friends and family began fundraising for Brain Tumour Research under the banner Team Penwright, with more than £46,800 raised so far.

Laura said: “I gave it my all with Team Penwright. They’re an amazing bunch of people and this has really brought us all together under a common cause, which is pretty humbling.

“When Simon was alive, he was such a catalyst and so encouraging to us for running the marathon. It’s just a shame he couldn’t be there to see us do it.”

Emily, 47, said: “Laura’s dedication and commitment to training were second to none; I love her to bits and am so incredibly proud of her. It was very emotional to see her complete it, and she did it so eloquently, and with a smile.

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“I know that Simon was with them both during the race. He always wanted to be there and would have loved to see them finish but, unfortunately, that wasn’t possible. I’m so in awe of what they’ve achieved.”

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