The London Marathon: Runners make great strides for charity

Feeling miles better: Rafi Mendelsohn, who raised £5,000 as one of the team running for Kisharon, gets into the spirit of the occasion

Feeling miles better: Rafi Mendelsohn, who raised £5,000 as one of the team running for Kisharon, gets into the spirit of the occasion

London Marathon runners for Jewish charities — and Jews taking part in aid of other causes — have clocked up in excess of £250,000 in sponsorship.

Norwood led the way on Sunday with its 20-plus participants raising at least £80,000. The group included 65-year-old power-walking Edgware great-grandmother Flora Frank, completing her 19th marathon and her 13th in London in six hours, her best-ever time.

Mrs Frank — who has raised nearly £100,000 in 13 years for the children and family charity — said afterwards: “I can still run on the spot. I’ve got no aches, no pains. I’m just so grateful that I can still do this. I’m ready to sign up for the next one.”

Also among an eclectic Norwood group was a Wyoming cowgirl, Savanna Gehlhausen, and a marathon natural, Andrea Fraquelli, who finished inside three hours. The son of a West End restaurateur, he took up running barely a year ago and also broke three hours in the Berlin Marathon.

Although not Jewish, his girlfriend is and his family’s closest friends are Norwood backers Philip and Caroline Green. “I think Norwood is a fantastic charity and I intend to support it for as long as I am wanted,” he said. That would include running further marathons.

It was a first marathon for former Young Norwood co-chair Daniel Abrahams, 32, who was cheered on by his wife and also by his 18-month-old daughter, wearing a “My daddy Daniel rocks” T-shirt. “I was going for my target of four-and-half hours,” he said, “and when I realised it was in reach, I sprinted at the finish. Just don’t ask me to do it again.”

Six runners for Kisharon — helping children and adults with learning disabilities — raised around £20,000, including the contribution of the seventh team member, Aviva Braunold, who was unable to take part because of illness.

For Yoni Forsyth, who finished in 4 hours, the race served as a farewell to family and friends in England before his imminent aliyah. For him it will genuinely be a case of “next year in Jerusalem” as that is his marathon target for 2010.

First-time entrant Rafi Mendelsohn (4:46) said the marathon had been among the most difficult yet rewarding things he had done. “Knowing that I was running for such a brilliant charity really provided me with the inspiration I needed to complete the 26 miles.”

Kisharon’s group also included marathon veterans Brian Resnick and Aaron Morris.

More than £8,000 was raised for south London home Nightingale from its marathon entrants, among them Stephanie Van Graan, who recorded a highly respectable 3 hours 44 minutes. Nightingale runners also included Gemma Shepherd, an art technician at the King Solomon High School in Redbridge and Alan Knight, a graphic designer who is now into double figures for completed marathons. Running for World Jewish Relief, supporting deprived communities in Eastern Europe, Lewis Westbury raised over £2,500 from his four-and-a-half-hour finish.

Twenty-four-year-old Anneka Gershon was the fastest of the Jewish Care quartet, coming home in 4:12. The Essex dietician ran specifically for the charity’s Lady Sarah Cohen House in Friern Barnet, where he grandmother resides, bringing in £4,000-plus in sponsorship. She said it had been “the most incredible experience and I loved every minute of it. I am so pleased with my time.”

There was a personal incentive for north Londoner Lee Lewis, 34, who ran to raise funds for St Luke’s Hospice in Kenton, which looked after his late father Ron.

“The hospice provided nursing care for him at home before he moved into the hospice,” he explained. “I had vowed not to run any more marathons, knowing the pain involved. However, when I was offered a place to run for St Luke’s, I was delighted to have the opportunity to give something back.”

Inspired by the warm weather and the big crowds, he slashed half-an-hour off his 2004 time, when he ran for Norwood, completing the race in 4:50 and earning £5,500 for the hospice. The Kenton Synagogue congregant has also run the New York Marathon.

Cardiff Synagogue member Jonny Cotsen, 35, raised over £2,000 for Barnardo’s, coming home in just under four hours in his first marathon. “My mother [Judy] was a fundraiser for Barnardo’s for many years and I know she really enjoyed it,” he said. “The race was much harder than I expected. A lot of pain and emotion — and I was so glad to see the finishing line.”

For 61-year-old Lloyd Rakusen of Leeds, his sixth London Marathon proved his most difficult. “ I have been having problems with my hip — it went at 18 miles. I walked the last few miles, but ran at the very end. I usually run in 3 hours and 40 minutes, but this time I came in at 4 hours and 35 minutes.”

He reached his £4,000 sponsorship target, which will be split between Leeds Jewish Welfare Board, the One Voice charity and the Joseph Rakusen Memorial Fund, remembering his son Joseph, “ a great sports lover”, who died in a car crash seven years ago.

Also from Leeds, non-Jewish couple Clare and Chris Lenton-Cliffe, donated half their £2,600 sponsorship to Leeds Jewish Welfare Board — Leeds Cancer Vaccine is the other beneficiary. Mrs Lenton-Cliffe is a marketing and PR consultant for Berry’s Jewellers, and has in the past been asked by Berry’s owners, Jeffrey and Simon Walton, for help with LJWB event promotions.

Michael and Karin Hirsch from Elstree were another marathon couple. Mr Hirsch, a first-time entrant, decided to take part after his wife, who ran the race last year, was offered places by two charities.

“Michael stepped in and offered to run for Breast Cancer Haven as I’d already accepted to run for the North London Hospice,” Mrs Hirsch said. “Even though he never wanted to do a marathon, Michael has now caught the marathon bug and we’re already planning for next year.

“It’s a wonderful experience and my overall fitness has improved incredibly.”

Last updated: 4:28pm, April 30 2009