Katy Simpson, 24, from Burnopfield, near Stanley in County Durham, had always hated running. She hated running when, about 15 years ago, she and her cousin, Helen Gavin, ran the Junior Great North Run.

Katy & Helen

Katy Simpson and her cousin Helen Gavin, aged eight and now

At the time, aged eight, and much to the amusement of her family, Katy said she was never going to do anything like that again!

Then last year, having graduated with a First Class Honours Degree from Glasgow University in French and Russian with Czech, Katy landed a dream job in Paris working in the marketing communications team for the pharmaceutical packaging arm of Amcor. A long way from home, and knowing no-one else in Paris, she joined a running club to help make new friends and keep fit.

As she explains, “When you go for a jog in Paris, every run is like a sightseeing tour.”

Katy started running properly earlier this year and the Great North Run was her first ever half marathon.

Like so many others, Katy had a very good reason for wanting to run this year’s Great North Run in aid of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

She says: “Ten years ago, my granddad, Tony Gavin, died from prostate cancer. He was 73 and a passionate Sunderland fan. He came from Coxhoe in County Durham and once even played football against Sir Bobby Robson when Sir Bobby played for Bishop Auckland and my granddad played for West Cornforth Juniors back in the late 1940s.


Katy proudly wearing her Great North Run medal

“Then last year, my mum, Marian, was diagnosed with breast cancer and had her radiotherapy treatment at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care at the Freeman. I went with her a few times and saw the SBR Clinical Trials Centre. I was really interested in how the work they do here impacts the lives of patients in the North East as well as contributing to cancer research internationally.

“I felt fantastic immediately after finishing the race, especially knowing how much money I had raised for SBRF with I was completely exhausted and in pain the next day, but it was worth it!!”

Katy flew back from Paris especially to take part in the Great North Run. An asthma sufferer, she had to spend the night before the race staying with her grandma Rosemary in Whitburn to avoid coming into contact with the family cat.

Katy adds: “I did the GN10k in July to raise money for SBRF and as part of my training for the Great North Run, but I really struggled with my breathing half way round. I blamed the cat for bringing on my asthma! So thanks must go to grandma for letting me stay with her.”


Katy and Helen with Sir Bobby’s son, Mark

So would the person who hated running so much do it all again?

“Definitely, yes,” says Katy. “In fact, the day after the GNR, I signed up to do the Paris half marathon next March!”

Katy raised over £500 for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.  Read her story on: