Running for her Gem of a sister A Rotherham maths teacher is tackling a charity dash– times ten – in memory of her sister, who died after a tragic accident 10 years ago. Lauren Thirlwall, 28, of Whiston, has challenged herself to run ten half-marathons within the space of a year. When the Sheffield Half takes to the streets on April 14, Lauren will have clocked up six races – over 78 miles – of her 10forGem challenge. Her final run will be in Fleetwood during August. She is running every event with Heather Grayson, her best friend since Herringthorpe Junior and Infant School and the two hope to raise over £5,000 for Bluebell Wood Hospice in memory of Lauren’s only sister, Gemma Thirlwall, who died in November 2018. Gemma had been on a night out at Liquid nightclub in Rotherham to mark her engagement and her 26th birthday. She had decided to sit on the wall of a bridge that spanned Main Street to wait for a taxi, but fell backwards and suffered catastrophic head injuries. Her death shocked the town and left Gemma’s family devastated. “Losing her was so hard,” said Lauren, of Whiston, who taught Maths at Maltby Academy for five years before moving to Kirk Balk Academy in Hoyland. “She had so much to live for and was truly one of a kind who brought warmth and laughter to every room she entered. “She was absolutely the best chapter of my life, the caring big sister I looked up to. Her memory is worth every mile of pain I’m enduring on her behalf.” Just after Gemma’s death Lauren, father John, nan Kath and friends threw themselves into fundraising for Bluebell Wood and raised an incredible £40,000 in her memory. Now on the tenth anniversary of losing Gemma, Lauren is just as determined that her big sister’s life will not be forgotten. “Ten years was always going to be a difficult milestone, and nothing will ever fill the void left by Gemma’s sudden loss, but I’m determined to keep her smile shining through. Each 10forGem race we run will celebrate a year that Gemma should have been with us,” explained Lauren. “Before we started, Heather and I had only run one half marathon together. I didn’t realise how demanding it was going to be. I’m not very sporty and Gemma would never have imagined me doing this! “But when I’m struggling at the ten-mile mark I remember why I’m doing it and feel spurred on to keep going. “The kids at school do laugh at me when I stagger in on a Monday after a race.” “Our last race seems a long way off but we will get there thanks to the overwhelming support we are getting,” she said. “People are racing with us, signing up to sponsor us and spreading the word of what we’re doing. Gemma would be really touched by everyone’s kindness.” Helen Mower, head of fundraising at Bluebell Wood said: “Lauren and Heather are doing something amazing in Gemma’s memory. The funds they raise for our hospice will go to help families going through the most difficult things life can throw at us and we are so very grateful.” You can sponsor Lauren and Heather at their 10ForGem online giving page.