Inspirational Women Reveal 10K Challenges

The Simplyhealth Great Birmingham 10k has once again attracted runners and walkers of all abilities from across the Second City, the wider Midlands region and further afield.

The thousands of entrants will each have their own motivations for tackling the new-look route this Bank Holiday Sunday, which has two iconic Colmore Row start-lines – in Victoria Square and under the shadow of St Philip’s Cathedral – before a grandstand finish at Aston University’s city centre campus.

Here, four inspirational women reveal their reasons for running this year’s event.

There will be a sequel to one of the most heart-warming feats from last year’s 10k as Donna Kerr prepares to push husband Daniel, a wheelchair user who suffers from Huntington’s Disease, around the course again. The Kingstanding couple are just hoping it proves less eventful this time!

Donna’s attempt to jog the entire route while pushing Daniel stalled at the 4K mark when one of the front wheels fell off. Thankfully, a resident living on the route came to the rescue, kindly providing a nut and screwing it back into place.

Donna is a part-time kitchen assistant at Maryvale Catholic Primary School but spends most of her time caring for Daniel, who has been living with the debilitating disease, which attacks nerve cells in the brain, for eight years.

She’s returning to the 10K to further boost awareness of Daniel’s incurable condition, which has deteriorated in the past year, and raise as much money as possible for the Huntington’s Disease Association (HDA), which improves care and support services for sufferers and their families.

“Pushing Daniel while running was extremely hard, but I had a long bar across the handles and other runners helped push him at regular intervals,” said Donna.

“There was no way I was going to stop when the wheel came off. I would have pushed him using the back wheels if necessary. But thankfully, a kind local resident managed to fix it. A couple of runners even stayed with me to the end just in case it fell off again.”

Like last year, Donna will stop a few yards before the finish line and the couple’s five children will join her in helping 50-year-old Daniel walk across the finish line.

Donna admitted: “It will be a lot harder for Daniel as he’s not as strong as he was a year ago. He absolutely loved it last year. Runners kept giving Daniel the thumbs up as they went past and he loved thumbing back to them. These events bring everyone together.”

To sponsor Donna and Daniel: 

Final year business & management student, Nadya Cohen, is running to raise awareness of mental health issues amongst under graduates, after speaking openly about her own battles.

Nadya, approaching the end of a three-year course at Birmingham City University (BCU), said: “Running the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham 10K will be an amazing achievement to see how far I’ve come this year.  I’ve really struggled with my mental health.”

Nadya started to become withdrawn from friends, family and school during her final year of A-Levels.  This escalated during her first year at university, where she felt alone and isolated.  Her second year was much better but since starting her final year, her mental health has progressively got worse.

“My mental health impacts my day to day life and my studies dramatically due to the fact that I have and am still struggling to get my university work completed,” she admitted.

“Uni work has taken more of a back seat unfortunately which does not help my mental health as this makes me become increasingly anxious, stressed, angry and frustrated at myself for not having the strength to do my work.”

Nadya has never been a natural runner but committed to the 10K to challenge herself.

“I have always done my best to avoid the treadmill section of the gym, and even though I am absolutely terrified, I want to do my best to run the entire thing,” she added.

“I am sure I will feel really proud of myself and elated from achieving something so far out of my comfort zone.”

To sponsor Nadya: 

After passing the Rotunda and Bullring Bull, participants will be greeted by the world’s biggest Primark store on High Street. They will also go past Birmingham Children’s Hospital before leaving the city centre to continue along the A34, where bands and live music will motivate those taking part.

For the vast majority of Sunday’s entrants, it will be the final 2K that proves the most challenging as tired limbs strive for the Aston University finish line.

But for serial runner Helen Williams, the opening 2k can prove trickier as she has cerebral palsy, which affects movements and coordination in all four of her limbs.

Rarely a weekend goes by without the Hereford-based 45-year-old, who also has learning difficulties, entering one event or another, having just completed her second London Marathon after running the New York version in November.

And the fact the Les Croupiers Running Club member is in perpetual motion helps her manage her disorder.

“Helen just loves running and her constant training and events help keep her mobile,” said mum Lynn.

“When she starts, say, a 5K Park Run, it takes the first 2k for her to get into normal running mode. Her legs are quite wobbly at the start as her muscles are extremely tight. The second half is normally faster.”

Helen, who represented Great Britain at the first Paralympic World Cup in 2005, runs with a guide runner. Her next big challenge is December’s Lanzarote International Marathon.

It’s been almost 42 years since Penny Forse competed at her one and only Olympics, but the 69-year-old will again be gunning for international honours in Brum.

Penny, as a part-time athlete under maiden name Yule, represented Great Britain in the women’s 1,500m at the 1976 Montreal games. This weekend, she has qualified for the England Masters team and will compete against a Celtic Nations Composite Team in the 65-69 category.

“My last senior race was finishing seventh at the 1980 World Cross Country Championships in Paris because, shortly after that, I became pregnant with my first child,” said the Southampton-based former research assistant, who celebrates her 70th birthday next month.

“I was coached by my husband Alan, who is the World Masters 75-79 200m and 400m Bronze medallist.

“Apart from having three children, I’ve remained active but only got back into competing at Masters Internationals in the past five years. In March, I became world 65-69 champion at the 10K road race in Poland.

“Hopefully, the Birmingham crowds can cheer the England Masters runners onto victory!

“I competed at Alexandra Stadium a couple of times in my 20s and Birmingham should be very excited about hosting the Commonwealth Games. With the city located at the centre of the country, it’s great that it’s coming to Birmingham.”

Coffee shops and stores will be open for business along the city centre streets hosting the 10K, making it a great opportunity for spectators to spend Bank Holiday Weekend in the Second City while cheering on friends and family.

The 10K again features the ENGIE Business Challenge, which pits corporate teams of at least four runners against each other for fastest-time trophies in small, medium or large business categories to compete for silverware.

Some 350 participants walked the route last year and even more are expected to join the 2019 Walking Wave.

It’s not too late to enter the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham 10k and be part of the action.
Participants signing-up this week will need to pick up their run pack from the Customer Information Points in the city centre. These late entries also incur a £5 admin fee, payable at point of entry.

Customer Information Points are: Saturday May 25, 11am to 5pm, Aston University. Sunday May 26, from 8.30am, New Street, near the junction with Bennetts Hill.

Anyone who enters the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham 10K will receive £10 off their entry fee for the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham Run half marathon, which takes place on Sunday, October 13, 2019. Sign up now at