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Last Updated: Friday, 29 September 2006, 23:29 GMT 00:29 UK
Emotional day for runner's family
By Mark Simpson
BBC North of England correspondent

Reuben Wilson (r) and sister Naomi
Reuben Wilson's sister Naomi ran with him last year
The family of Reuben Wilson, who died doing the Great North Run, face an emotional day as they run the race en masse.

For the Wilson family, the Great North Run is a matter of life and death.

On Sunday, they will re-trace Reuben's footsteps, one of four competitors who died running the 13.1 mile race last year.

He collapsed just short of the finishing line. This weekend, his four sisters and two brothers are determined to finish what he started.

His sister Samantha, a 37-year-old hairdresser from Leeds, says: "After Reuben died, we said from the outset - we're going to run it next time. We're going to finish the race for him."

Another sister, Miriam, 21, admits: "To be honest, I don't actually like running. But we're doing it for a good cause and that's the main thing."

Family and friends of Reuben Wilson
The family want to retrace Mr Wilson's steps

It promises to be an exhausting day on Tyneside, emotionally as well as physically. The hardest part will be when they pass the spot where their brother fell and died.

At 28, Reuben was the youngest of the four competitors whose run ended in tragedy. An all-round athlete, he enjoyed skiing, cycling and mountain-biking. In the words of his sister Naomi - who was running just behind him - his death was simply a "freak" of nature.

At the inquest, the coroner said all the runners who died had been physically fit and well-prepared for the event. He put their deaths down to "inadvertent over-exertion".

He added: "The mechanism of death [was] a sudden interruption in the rhythm of the heart, a so-called arrhythmia, the nature of which is not readily identified on post-mortem but which suddenly induced this sudden cardiac event in each case."

Although cleared of blame, the organisers of the Great North Run have improved medical support at Sunday's race.

There will be more paramedics on mountain-bikes, and golf-buggies will be used to bring medical equipment to where it's needed. This will supplement the 500 staff and 19 ambulances on duty last year.

This is the 26th year of the half-marathon, and in spite of last year's tragic events - and the unwelcome publicity - there was a record entry for Sunday's race. Almost 30,000 people had to be turned away, as the capacity is limited to 50,000.

Celebrity runners

Among those pulling on their trainers and striding across the Tyne Bridge this year will be a number of celebrities including BBC presenters Bill Turnbull and Sophie Raworth, Countdown's Carol Vorderman, actress Amanda Burton and Chris Tarrant's estranged wife Ingrid.

There will also be the usual collection of elite athletes, regular runners and sweaty men in Postman Pat outfits.

And somewhere in the throng will be the Wilson family - Miriam, Chloe, Samantha, Luke, Naomi and Judah.

They're not just running for sentimental reasons, but to raise money for Naomi's three-year-old son, Miles, who suffers from Hurler Syndrome and is terminally ill.

It's a family touched by loss and sadness, but determined to stay positive.

Even if they come last in Sunday's race, by taking part they've displayed their winning attitude.




SEE ALSO
Family of dead runner join race
27 Sep 06 |  West Yorkshire
Safety boost for Great North Run
28 Jun 06 |  England
Runners died of 'over-exertion'
09 Jun 06 |  England
Funeral for city charity runner
22 Sep 05 |  West Yorkshire

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