Case Study : Adele Dunn the Marathon Queen!

I met Adele Dunn (pictured on the left) a couple of months back when she contacted me about the possibility of her running the Morpeth to Newcastle (M2N) marathon and fundraising for us. I invited her into our building in North Shields for a tour of the housing section so she could see where her sponsorship money would be going. Little did I know that this smiley, energetic and lovely woman would have a story of her own to tell, and much more personal reasons for wanting to raise money for an organisation like ours.

Adele’s journey began 5 years ago with the devastating news of her Father’s cancer diagnosis coupled with the sudden death of her mother from a stroke. In the following months Adele threw herself into supporting her dad, who was coping with his cancer treatment and the loss of his wife. Adele herself was grieving for her mother and daily life was becoming a more of a struggle. It was time to ask for some help and support, so she did what so many bravely do and went to speak to her doctor. Antidepressants would take 6-8 weeks to come into effect and counselling/talking therapy had a waiting list of 3-6 months! This wasn’t a realistic time-frame for positive change and she hadn’t counted on potential solutions being so far out of her reach.

Adele had two choices; to accept what was being offered to her by the NHS or to seek an alternative. A little time went by and while watching the Great North Run, Adele was completely inspired by all the amazing runners, the various charities and all of the obstacles that had been overcome by many to run the half marathon. She decided to ditch the prescription, cancel the appointment for counselling and buy a pair of trainers.

Signing up for her very first half marathon, in memory of her mother for the Stroke Association, was to be the beginning of an amazing turnaround for Adele. Running became her salvation and a break from the challenges surrounding her.

“I found that I my mood changed and I felt lifted soon after I started to run and I loved the good feeling it gave me. I started to enter other events too as part of my training, did my first ever Great North 10k in 2012 on the anniversary of my mam’s passing. I was blown away with the support of the other runners.”

Adele and her Dad

Throughout the whole of Adele’s training and through all of the challenges she was setting herself, her Dad had been her primary source of encouragement, her biggest supporter and number one fan. The day of her very first Great North Run arrived and was a hugely emotional experience for them both. Adele’s dad was there when she crossed the finish line to greet her with a huge hug. She will never forget him beaming with pride at all she had achieved that year. Her new found self-confidence, being able to acknowledge all she had achieved in the wake of such grief, the generosity of all of her sponsors encouraged and motivated her to keep running. She ran the following year in 2013 and raised money for Cancer Research.

In the years to follow Adele was to face another great challenge as her father’s health deteriorated and her marriage began to break down. Adele kept running right up until her father passed away in March of last year…and then life changed.

“I completely lost my mojo and my love of running. I already had my ballot place for the GNR but wasn’t sure how I was going to make the starting line feeling the way I did and with no support at home.”

In June of last year she found a running group called These Girls Can Run on Facebook and nervously arrived at her very first group session. She was greeted with the warmest welcome from who she describes as a…“Fabulous group of ladies!”

She explains,

“That year I was back on the starting line. Even though my Dad wasn’t there for me I had found a new family within ‘These Girls Can Run’ and I didn’t feel alone. I stayed with the group after friendships blossomed and I began to gain strength and confidence in myself again. I decided to set myself the challenge of running a marathon before I was 50…”

In January of this year Adele’s world was to crumble again as she was forced to flee her home due to domestic violence. She took the dog she had inherited from her dad, packed a bag and shut the door behind her. Adele’s situation was complicated by the fact that the only place she could go was currently being occupied by a tenant that had refused to pay rent for a number of months and even after being asked to move out for months, was refusing to do so. She was forced to apply to the courts to have him evicted. She found herself in an incredibly difficult situation with nowhere to go other than a distant family member who was nearly 300 miles away.

“Through the doctors I was put in touch with Domestic Violence Support and placed on a high risk register and advised not to return home to Newcastle until I had somewhere to stay. I was offered a women’s hostel but as I was self-employed this would have cost me £375 a week. My husband had stopped all the bank accounts, I had very little money and I was going to have to re-home my dad’s dog as I simply couldn’t afford to keep him…and no B&B would allow me to stay with him.”

Eventually a close friend offered Adele a sofa to sleep on while another friend temporarily took care of the dog so she could attempt to contact organisations that might have been able to help her. She was left completely homeless.  After attempting to qualify for support from various homeless organisations, the council and the police Adele could see that her only hope was going to be having her tenant evicted.

“A month later, which was the longest month of my life I was given the keys to my flat after the tenant was moved on. I moved into an unfurnished house with my suitcase & my dog. I began to rebuild my life and my new home. I struggled to run as I had little energy and I felt so let down by a system that should have protected and supported me. There were days where I went to sleep hoping that i wouldn’t wake up as I just couldn’t cope.”

In the months to follow, and showing huge amounts of strength and resilience, Adele put her trainers back on and with the huge support from These Girls Can Run managed to qualify as a Group Leader.  Amazingly she has managed to turn a passion and a sport which provided her with physical and mental health benefits into her job! She is now the Group Leader for Whitley Bay’s These Girls Can Run. In 2016, having missed out on a ballot place for the Great North Run, Adele applied for a place running for YMCA North Tyneside and with the support of our organisation and her running group she finished the race…but she didn’t stop there!

Adele during the Morpeth to Newcastle Marathon 2016

After visiting YMCA North Tyneside and seeing where the sponsorship money goes – housing, emergency accommodation, youth work, community youth projects – She decided to take on the challenge of running the Morpeth to Newcastle Marathon which she completed on the 30th October…but she didn’t stop there either!

She has been so inspired by the services we provide and the work we do, she has decided to run one marathon a week, every Sunday from the 4th December 2016 all the way through to Mother’s Day 2017.

“I will run a Marathon every week on a Sunday with the exception of Christmas Day as so far I can’t get the dog looked after. I will be running the Coastal route from Blyth to Tynemouth and back with cake and coffee stops on the way. I’m hoping to get the ladies at the group on board to run some miles & eat some cake with me!”

As part of her amazing challenge, Adele is going to be running the London Marathon in April 2017 proudly wearing a YMCA North Tyneside vest. I am very proud to say that we will be supporting her in all of her fundraising efforts and all of her training.

“YMCA North Tyneside offer support and emergency accommodation to the homeless & young people who find themselves without somewhere to go or stay.  Please support me to raise awareness of their work and help me to get over the finish lines. You never know when your life is going to change and you have that rug pulled from underneath your feet by people you love. Nobody should feel alone or be homeless. Everybody should have somewhere to go and be able to feel part of a family and YMCA North Tyneside offers this to everyone.”

I am sure you will all agree that this would be a huge challenge for anyone to take on, but what sets Adele apart is the inspiring journey she has been on to get to this point. We are very privileged to have someone so dedicated, so motivated and positive helping us to fundraise for the work we do in the local community.

Show your support by following Adele’s marathon challenge on our Facebook page and please give what you can by donating via her Just Giving Page. Every penny really does go directly to helping people in your local community. People just like Adele. People just like you.




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