Gran who lost family members ready for 16th run

Janet Russell. Picture: Neil Hanna
Janet Russell. Picture: Neil Hanna
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A PLUCKY grandmother whose family has been ravaged by cancer is pulling on her trainers to run the Race for Life – for the 16th time.

And Janet Russell, 67, has more reason than most to take part in the fundraiser – having lost her dad David Henry, brother Robert, and sister Elizabeth Barnard to the disease.

The retired support worker from Bonnyrigg said: “It’s tragic what has happened to my family but there’s barely a family out there that hasn’t been touched by cancer.

“It’s why I’ve been doing it for so long. I feel we all have to do our part.”

She is limbering up for next month’s 5k race, having already racked up 75km in total – the equivalent of 46 miles or running from Edinburgh to Glasgow – since the event started in 1996.

This year she will complete the run, at Holyrood Park, with her youngest daughter, also Janet, 39, and a group of friends.

She said: “Each year when I’m going up Arthur’s Seat, I say this year will be the last though I know it won’t be.

“As long as I can put one foot in front of the other, I will continue to do it.

“Over the years I have seen Race for Life grow more and more popular and it’s wonderful to see so many taking part. It’s sad to see that so many people have lost loved ones but you also see ladies who are fighting it. We need to keep that up.”

Her sister, Elizabeth, was just 31 when she was diagnosed in the 1970s and had died within a decade, leaving three daughters.

“Back then it was virtually unheard of to have it so young,” said Janet. “She had three young daughters and it was absolutely tragic for them to lose their mum.

“My dad was only 59 when he died. It started with his back but spread everywhere to his lungs and his bones, it’s a 
horrible disease.

“But there are so many advances being made now it’s worth doing what we can to fight it.”

The grandmother-of-four – who only missed the first-ever race because she didn’t know about it – got her inspiration to take part from her surviving sibling David, 81, who successfully battled bowel cancer and sister Mary, 75, who fought back from breast cancer.

Mary has now been free of cancer for 20 years after developing breast cancer, which resulted in her having a 
mastectomy. And David has been rid of bowel cancer for 12 years, which Janet puts down to early diagnosis for both.

Last year, more than 3400 women took part in Race for Life in Edinburgh, raising £232,000.

Cancer Research UK’s events manager for Edinburgh, Hamish Moir, said: “It’s fantastic to have the support of a true champion like Janet. We hope Janet inspires ladies across Edinburgh to play their part by entering Race for Life today.”

To enter Race for Life go to or call 0845 600 6050.