Why I Ran The London Marathon by Sabe Karunananthan

Posted on: 24/05/2024

This week we have a guest blog from Sabe Karunananthan, father of St. Helen’s College twins Naima and Noah. He explains why he ran the London Marathon this year to raise an incredible total of £7211 for Young Lives Vs Cancer. 

This all started with a conversation with our Young Lives vs Cancer social worker, Rebecca, on the ward at Great Ormond Street Hospital. I’ve always wanted to run the London Marathon. I am a recreational runner at best having done two half marathons. I’ve entered the ballot for London for many years and never been successful. In my head it always seemed like a challenge I’d enjoy. Maybe I like pain. Rebecca regularly visited us on the ward, we had many conversations and on one occasion, I decided to ask for a charity place in the London Marathon and here we are. Dilly thought I was crazy and she was probably justified. 

Noah and his twin sister Naima both started life like normal children. Noah became unwell at the age of 2, he wasn’t eating or drinking, eventually we had to take him to A&E. Naima and I had to stay at home. After a few tests, Dilly heard those dreaded words from the doctor: ‘It’s better if Dad is here too’. 

The next 48 hours were a blur. Noah got diagnosed with ALL Leukaemia and was transferred to GOSH. In that whirlwind, I heard the strangest sentence from one our consultants: ‘If I had to give my child any type of cancer, I’d pick this one’. To be fair they were correct as ALL Leukaemia is the most researched cancer and one with the highest survival rate.

During the first round of chemo, Noah developed a fungal infection that spread to his brain and caused a stroke. He was transferred to GOSH under blue lights for the second time in a month. There he spent the next seventy nights. For the first few weeks he wasn’t moving at all. We were at our lowest point and Young Lives vs Cancer really helped us and gave us the support we needed. 

Originally, I was supposed to run the Marathon in 2023 but I got injured training, so I deferred to 2024. Noah still needed extensive rehabilitation. He spent eight weeks at The Children’s Trust, a charity St. Helen’s College knows well. Naima and I were again driving up and down to see them and I had to try fit in my marathon training. It was too early for me. 

This time it was much better. A lot of very early Sundays running around Hillingdon; I particularly enjoyed Long Lane past the school as it was downhill. It only dawned on me that Hillingdon probably has that name due to the hills. I tried to avoid hills at all costs so you might have seen me running up and down the A40 as it’s flat. This went on for weeks. It consumed my life. 

The BBC had picked up my fundraising, so they ran a story and asked me to stop for an interview on Tower Bridge. If you saw it, I may have looked composed but already I was broken. The rest of the run was brutal. I had so many mixed emotions. The crowd shouting Noah (and Naima), handing out sweets and the most tempting pint ever, which I did resist. I would cry, laugh and cry again. I was overtaken by a rhino, a lady carrying a fridge, a slow Sonic and a fireman wearing all his gear. There were so many inspiring people on the way. I had a decent tussle with a granny who in the end beat me. Eventually that last corner arrived and the crowd at this stage were incredible. The thought of doing an Usain Bolt like finish did cross my mind for a moment but I thought I’d save it for school Sports Day. 

The money raised is a phenomenal number and the support I was given by everyone at the school has been incredible. Would I do again? The quick answer is no but I have entered the ballot for next year so who knows. I can see that strip on the A40 with my name on it!