CHESTER'S Great British Bake Off finalist has teamed up with her Red Arrows Leader uncle to support cancer research.

2019 Great British Bake Off finalist Steph Blackwell and her uncle, former Red Arrows Leader, John Blackwell, will be embarking on a "Marathon Mission" next month for Cancer Research UK (CRUK).

The idea came about after Steph's father Roger was diagnosed with cancer.

Steph, 29, who viewers saw make it to the final of the 2019 series of the Great British Bake Off, explained: "For so many UK families 2020 has been, to say the least, a pretty traumatic year.

"Whether it has been via health, job or education the coronavirus pandemic must have touched almost every family.

"Our family has been no exception. Earlier in the year, Roger, my dad and John's brother, was diagnosed with cancer. Not just one cancer but two, separate cancers, prostate and bowel.

"The diagnosis for a rare form of bowel cancer took several months and arrived at the beginning of lockdown. Although the cancer was deemed incurable, the start of his treatment was delayed for six weeks.

"Probably like every other family that has been affected by this terrible disease, it has been a massive shock; fear, anger, frustration, helplessness - we’ve felt it all. Despite this, we have tried to remain positive; Roger is fighting so hard and we’re in awe of his strength.

"Having been confronted with this news, we also felt determined to ‘help’, specifically, raising money to assist the fantastic research projects supported by CRUK."

Chester and District Standard:

Steph with her dad Roger

In the long-term, the pair aim to raise £25,000 for CRUK and the Cancer Fund at the Dorchester County Hospital, which is providing John's treatment.

They will both be taking part in the "Virtual Marathon" promoted by the Virgin Money London Marathon.

Chester and District Standard:

Former Red Arrows Leader John Blackwell

John said: "Initially we had ambitious plans for large fundraising events aimed at raising significant amounts of money but the uncertainty about planning anything this year has forced us to delay much of what we planned.....yet another frustration."

Steph, who works at Up & Running in Chester and was a member of West Cheshire Athletics Club, has never run a marathon before, although she has been accepted to take part in this year's London race.

Steph added: "In early August the news came through that the London Marathon was cancelled for 2020. The impact of the cancellation on charities all over the country would be significant which is why the organisers came up with the idea of the Virtual Marathon.

"I already had a place in the London Marathon for 2020 before the COVID crisis hit but it means that I automatically qualify for a place in the Virtual Marathon."

On October 4, participants in the "virtual marathon" can run/walk the 26.2 miles on a route of their choosing without compromising the social distancing rules.

Steph added: "Bear in mind, we haven’t trained properly, (unless baking counts!) and despite running being in our blood, the distance exceeds anything we have ever done before.

"Needless to say, it’s going to be a massive challenge, but one we’re both determined to achieve."

"We will be running/walking/staggering our way around the 26.2 miles from John's home in Lindfield West Sussex with other members of our family providing support. If you think you can help us by contributing something, no matter the amount, in our efforts to raise money together for CRUK, it would be so, so greatly appreciated."

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