Hannah Virden with fiancé Andrew McIntyre
Hannah Virden with fiancé Andrew McIntyre

Brain tumour tragedy inspires daughter’s Great North Run success


A 27-year-old bereaved daughter from Harrogate took part in the world’s biggest half marathon, to raise money for research into the disease that killed her dad.

Hannah Virden completed yesterday’s Great North Run in Newcastle Upon Tyne in two hours and thirty-five minutes, raising over £1700 for the charity Brain Tumour Research. She was joined by her fiancé, 29-year-old Andrew McIntyre, a PE teacher at Harrogate Grammar School. Hannah, who works for Contract Natural Gas (CNG) Ltd in Harrogate, signed up for the race in autumn 2018, when her dad first became ill with a brain tumour.

Hannah said:

My dad was diagnosed with a grade 4 secondary brain tumour, known as a metastatic tumour, in November 2018. It had spread from his lungs to his brain and was inoperable.

I did a lot of googling and didn’t like what I read about his prognosis. Less than 20% of those diagnosed with a brain tumour survive beyond five years compared to an average of 50% across all cancers. The facts surrounding brain tumours are really stark.

Hannah’s dad, David Virden, was an electronics engineer from Stokesley, near Middlesbrough. He moved to York in November 2018 with his wife Gill Virden, who cared for him during his final months. He received technologically advanced Gamma Knife treatment, at Leeds Cancer Centre, followed by a course of chemotherapy. A scan in February 2019 revealed that although the tumours on his brain and lungs had shrunk, the cancer had spread to his kidneys and there were no further treatment options available. David lost his short battle with brain cancer twelve weeks ago, at the age of 57. He survived just six months after his diagnosis.

Hannah’s dad, David Virden, was an electronics engineer from Stokesley, near Middlesbrough
Hannah’s dad, David Virden, was an electronics engineer from Stokesley, near Middlesbrough

Hannah said:

Andrew and I are due to get married in August 2020 and we were really hoping Dad could hold on for that but in the end, there was nothing they could do. He never complained; he was always so positive and tried to protect me by not sharing all the upsetting details of this awful disease.

My dad was my motivation for taking on this epic challenge but I was also inspired to raise money for Brain Tumour Research, having discovered that brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer… yet just 1% of the national spend on cancer research is allocated to this devasting disease.

It’s unacceptable to think that my dad’s death and the deaths of so many others could have been prevented, had more funding gone into finding a cure. More needs to be done to raise awareness, as well as challenging the government and larger cancer charities to invest more in research into brain tumours.

Hannah has previously completed the eight-mile Yorkshire Warrior obstacle race but this was her first half marathon. She and Andrew were among thousands of runners to take part in the UK’s biggest running event, on 8 September, with runners taking their marks in Newcastle city centre before setting off on the 13.1-mile course and finishing at the coast in South Shields.

Hannah and Andrew
Hannah and Andrew

Hannah added:

It was good; tough but good. I had a stitch from mile one which didn’t help but the atmosphere was amazing! I couldn’t have done it without Andrew, who dragged me through the last two miles. We did this for Dad, and for anyone else out there suffering. Thanks to all my incredible family and friends not only for the donations but for the support over a tough six months.

A team of dedicated fundraisers ran for Brain Tumour Research, which funds UK Centres of Excellence where researchers are focused on improving outcomes for patients and, ultimately, finding a cure.

Matthew Price, Community Fundraising Manager for the North, said:

Hannah is brilliant for completing this iconic event in memory of her dad, so soon after losing him. To take on a challenge like this, while grieving, is truly inspiring. David’s story reminds us brain tumours are indiscriminate; they can affect anyone, at any age. Together, with the help of fantastic supporters like Hannah and Andrew, we will find a cure.

To donate via Hannah’s page, please go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/andrewhannah-gnr

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