An inspirational new mum has proved that anything is possible if you put your mind to it after taking on the Sheffield Half Marathon just ten weeks after giving birth.

The awe-inspiring challenge had a special significance for 28-year-old Jess Brown, who took on the challenge in memory of her  stepdaughter Gracie Brown (12) who passed away at Bluebell Wood last year.

Gracie, described as ‘very loving and very funny’, had a rare, progressive condition called Leukodystrophy which affected her brain, spinal cord and nervous system. Over the years the condition robbed her of her ability to do the things most of us take for granted.

She visited Bluebell Wood regularly for respite care, which gave her mum Charlotte Murphy, dad Daniel Brown and stepparents Oliver Murphy and Jess Brown the chance to have fun and make memories with Gracie away from the 24/7 pressures of her care.

Jess decided to take on the Sheffield Half Marathon before the pandemic, with Gracie’s full approval. But, because of pandemic and pregnancy postponements, Gracie sadly didn’t get to see her step mum complete the challenge.

“Gracie absolutely loved babies and knowing she was going to be a big sister meant the world to her, but sadly she didn’t get the chance to meet her little brother in person,” said Jess, from Sheffield.

“But she’ll always be a big part of our lives. Our baby boy Rupert has a picture of his big sister in his bedroom so he’ll always know who she is.

“If Gracie knew I was going to run the half marathon ten weeks after giving birth, she would have called me crazy. But she would have known I could have done it. She always had that confidence in people.”

Push yourself to the limit for Bluebell Wood

With various pandemic related postponements, Jess initially thought the Sheffield Half would be taking place in October as it did last year, giving her plenty of time to prepare. It came as a shock when she realised it was in March, but she was determined not to give up.

“I must admit there was a lot of fretting and I must have cried at least three times in the week before the event,” said Jess.

“I couldn’t do any exercise in the first eight weeks after giving birth to Rupert so I only actually managed to get to the gym once!

“I’ve always been quite a fit person, but I don’t think I really comprehended how far it actually was.”

On the day itself, Gracie’s memory kept her going.

“It was really tough, just keeping up that momentum. But eventually my mind went into autopilot and I just kept going and going. I sort of felt like Forest Gump just running and running!

“I had Gracie in my head spurring me on too. She absolutely loved Abba, so I had an Abba soundtrack playing all the way through.”

Jess completed the marathon in an incredible 3hrs and 14mins, raising over £1,100 for Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice.

“I am so proud of myself for actually doing it.

"I was already amazed at my body for carrying a child and giving birth and it just shows how amazing the body can be.

“I’d like to thank everyone for supporting me and raising so much for Bluebell Wood which is an amazing place that meant so much to Gracie and to all of us.”

Jason Gossop, Regional Fundraiser at Bluebell Wood, said: “Words just don’t do it justice but we’re in awe of Jess and what she’s achieved in memory of the beautiful Gracie.

“Thanks to her inspirational efforts we can continue to be there for local children and families who rely on our support.”