Dave’s Great North Run mission to help premature baby research

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Dave Jowett, on the far left, with fellow Theirworld runners (Theirworld)

Safe pregnancy and birth, Theirworld

When Dave Jowett lost his tiny son after a premature birth, he decided something positive had to come out of such a devastating experience.

He signed up to do the Great North Run to raise funds for research into why babies are born early and what can be done to help them survive and flourish.

That was in 2006. Twelve years on, Dave is still tackling the famous half-marathon every year on behalf of Theirworld – and specifically our Jennifer Brown Research Fund.

“Our first son Thomas was born prematurely at 22 weeks and unfortunately was too little to survive,” explained Dave. “It was a really difficult period for me, my wife Claire and our close family, who were equally devastated.

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How to help Dave

As well as the Great North Run, Dave is also taking part in a 24-hour endurance race in Leeds on June 30 called Endure24. He is combining this and his Great North Run on September 9 to raise funds for Theirworld. You can make a contribution to Dave here.

“The doctors couldn’t really give us any real explanation as to why Thomas had been born prematurely, as the tests carried out were all deemed to be ‘normal’. 

“In some ways, this made dealing with our loss even more difficult as it didn’t give us any real closure and we were still left wondering why has this happened to us.”

As Dave and Claire tried to cope with their loss, they realised they needed to channel their energy into ensuring Thomas’s short life would not be forgotten. 

Dave’s mother had read an article about the charity PiggyBankKids, which was founded by the children’s campaigner Sarah Brown and later became Theirworld. 

It's amazing to see some of the work being done and some of the breakthroughs that the talented scientists are having at the Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory. Dave Jowett

It created the Jennifer Brown Research Fund – named after Sarah and husband Gordon’s daughter – to invest in the best medical research for safe pregnancy and premature birth, and to explore how community projects could also help support vulnerable pregnant mothers and their babies and children.

Dave, from Highburton, West Yorkshire, said: “So I signed up to do the Great North Run in 2006, my first ever half-marathon, and decided to raise funds for PiggyBankKids, specifically to support the Jennifer Brown Research Fund.”

The following year, Claire became pregnant again and went into premature labour. Lucas was born at 26 weeks weighing just two pounds three ounces.

“He may have been small but our special miracle was a little fighter,” said Dave. “After spending three months at the Calderdale special care baby unit in Huddersfield, he was ready to come home. 

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Dave and team Theirworld in training for another big race (Theirworld)

“He is now a happy, healthy 10-year-old boy that we couldn’t be more proud of. The experiences we had been through with Thomas and then Lucas just reinforced why the work that the Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory in Edinburgh carries out is so important.

“It’s amazing to see some of the work being done and some of the breakthroughs that the talented scientists are having at the laboratory.  

“We’ve tried to raise as much money as we can over the past 12 years. This includes organising events at work, a charity auction, taking part in half-marathons, coast-to-coast bike rides and even a 24-hour endurance race.”

Dave’s first Great North Run in 2006 was his toughest.

“I didn’t know whether I could run that far!” he said. “Thankfully it all went to plan and I completed the race in one hour 49 minutes. I’ve now run the event 11 times and managed to improve my best time to one hour 26 minutes.”

In the lead-up to the annual half-marathon – the biggest in the world – Dave runs four times a week, gradually increasing his mileage.

He says there is something very special about standing at the starting line alongside more than 50,000 people – many of them raising money for charity for personal reasons.

“It’s going back to the place where I started running in 2006 and remembering why I do it year after year,” said Dave. “It’s an amazing feeling to be part of it and to run as part of the Theirworld charity team.”

Find out how you can donate to Theirworld or how to fundraise for Theirworld.

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