London Marathon participant says running helps her cope with grief after shock loss of mum

A composite of Sharon Freeman and her daughter Lana Freeman as she completed the London Marathon. (SWNS)
Sharon Freeman (left) died just hours after her daughter Lana (right) completed the London Marathon. (SWNS)

A London Marathon runner says running has helped her cope with grief after her mother died just hours after she completed the race.

Lana Freeman, 33, decided to run the London Marathon in October 2022 to raise money for Breast Cancer Research after her mother was diagnosed with the disease.

Yet, Lana nearly pulled out of the race after her mother Sharon Freeman, 57, took a turn for the worst just two weeks before the day – but Sharon was "adamant" Lana complete it.

Read more: As London Marathon takes place on Sunday, why running is good for grief

Sharon was shown a picture of Lana completing the marathon on October 2 last year, but died in the early hours the following morning.

"Mum was adamant that she'd see me finish the marathon," Lana says. "She held on to see me complete it.

"She always believed that I could do it, even when I didn't think I could. There were so many times during the race when I wanted to give up, but the thought of her and everything she'd been through kept me going.

"She'd been so brave and never once complained, so that gave me the strength to push through the pain and finish the race. It's comforting to know that she was really proud of me before she died."

Lana and Sharon Freeman. (SWNS)
'It's comforting to know that she was really proud of me before she died,' Lana says. (SWNS)

Sharon was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 when she was just 47. In February 2020, she found out that the cancer had returned.

"Mum phoned to say the cancer was back, but it was just before the lockdown, and we were terrified of her catching covid,” Lana explains.

"I felt so powerless, and wanted to find something that I could do that could make a small difference. Everyone who knows me knows how much I hate running, so I thought a marathon would be a huge challenge to set myself to raise money for breast cancer research."

Read more: The five stages of grief: How to cope with loss

Two weeks before the marathon, doctors told Sharon’s family that her cancer had spread to her liver, bones and lungs.

Lana, who only began training for the marathon in June 2022 and says she "hated running", managed to raise £3,200 for the charity.

"I'd heard people say they hit a wall around 20 miles, but I hit mine after about 12," Lana adds.

"I was so exhausted, everything hurt, and I honestly didn't think I could keep going. I walked and cried for about five miles – I just wanted to give up. But then I thought about my mum and everything she'd been through. She didn't have a choice but to keep going and keep fighting.

"She never once complained, and it made me realise that I shouldn't either. Thinking about my mum unlocked a strength in me that I didn't know I had. It gave me the strength to keep pushing my body until I crossed the finish line."

Lana and Sharon Freeman. (SWNS)
Sharon was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, but it returned in 2020. (SWNS)

Before the marathon, Lana told herself this was the first and last time she'd take part in the 26.2mile race, but she has instead found herself running to help cope with the loss of her mum.

"The grief has been really difficult to handle since but surprisingly, running has really helped me cope," Lana says.

Read more: How to start working out: A beginner's guide to getting fit for the first time

"When I'm feeling down, I go for a run and the sound of my feet hitting the floor is the distraction I need. I now run three or four times a week, which is more than when I was training for the marathon.

"Running feels like my connection to my mum now, and it's helped me through some really dark times."

Additional reporting by SWNS.

Watch: Runner to complete London Marathon backwards in support of Ukrainians affected by war