Claire and Grant Kelly have always flown solo when taking on the epic challenge of running 26.2 miles. That will change at this year’s Baxters Loch Ness Marathon though as the husband and wife will complete their next marathon journey side by side in honour of their baby daughter and the team of medics who have brought her back from the brink of death three times.
The couple will take part to raise money for the Glasgow Children’s Hospital charity as a 'thank you' to the doctors and nurses who have cared for Tess, who was just nine weeks old when she first had open-heart surgery.
Claire (36) and Grant (37) from Motherwell say that putting themselves through the physical and mental demands of running the marathon is a small price to pay in return for the miracles the hospital has worked with Tess, who is now 21 months.
“Tess has been on the brink three times in her short life; and three times they have saved her. She is doing so well just now that you would look at her and think there’s nothing wrong with her – she’s just a wee minx,” said Claire who works as a drama teacher.
“We have always supported each other in our marathon training before; if I am running, then Grant will support me with my training and vice versa. But we both wanted to do the Loch Ness Marathon together and run side by side – this is a very sentimental journey that we want to complete together for Tess.
“As a parent, it’s your worst nightmare. To know that this condition would be lifelong and life limiting was absolutely tragic. All we could think of was how long Tess might have.
“However, the best bit of advice that we received came from one of the doctors. That was, ‘no one knows how long they are going to live’. If she follows medical advice and takes care of herself there is a good chance she may live as long as anyone else.
“It was terrifying while she was in surgery, but she is a real fighter and she was only in intensive care for a week or so afterwards. We were so pleased when we took her home and really hoped that the worst was behind us.
“But soon afterwards she had heart failure and it was decided to replace one of her heart valves. This was a very complex operation and so we had to travel to Birmingham Children’s Hospital. It was so hard being away from home and from George, who stayed with our family, and it was equally tough on them not being able to see her.
“Once again she battled through and slowly but surely she started to grow and get her weight up while she was being fed through a tube. She came on in leaps and bounds and defied all the odds. She was thriving and started walking a week after her first birthday in August.
“Then earlier this year she became really unwell with an infection and had another, much longer period in hospital where she received antibiotics through an IV. She surprised us all again by bouncing back but even though she is now on an even keel again, it just reminds us how vulnerable she is.”
The Baxters Loch Ness Marathon is renowned for its scenic beauty and family-friendly atmosphere, and attracts participants from across the globe.
Further information can be found on the Loch Ness Marathon website.