Inspiring women supporting Coram now and in the past. We asked some of the amazing women who have been supporting Coram through various challenges to tell us their stories, to celebrate Women’s History Month. This is Annalisa’s Coram Story.

Having spent my teenage years in high school trying to avoid running, I woke up late August 2016 and thought, ‘why not go for a run with Molly Dog instead of walking?’ So I did. I haven’t looked back!

My running journey has grown along the way. From a couple of 1 mile runs to my first 5k for the Poppy Appeal that November to more 5k runs. Running 3 mornings each week before work gradually became 5 weekdays and once at the weekend. 5k became 10k for the Poppy Appeal in 2018. I ran 10 miles in 2019 for Combat Stress, and then another 10k for the Poppy Appeal and Christie’s Hospice.

Whilst watching the London Marathon in 2018, I silently promised myself that one day I would try and run it. So early in 2019 I started finding out how to get a place. I could have simply entered the ballot, but decided to run for a charity instead. If I was to go out of my comfort zone (I prefer to run alone!), why not do it to benefit others?

Being an Inner-City Primary School Headteacher and working in education for 26 years in 2 different countries, 5 different local authorities and 7 different schools – from a teacher to a headteacher – I knew I wanted to run for a charity that supported children.

As soon as I saw Coram as a named charity to support, I knew it was for me. I have worked with Coram in 4 different schools in Gloucestershire and Lancashire. I have enjoyed many a talk with Harold the Giraffe, with children from all year groups and backgrounds all engaging with it and benefitting from the wise words spoken.

Work with Coram Life Education has also led to using their fabulous SCARF materials in the school I am currently Headteacher in, as well as welcoming the BeCyberwise Team in each year for Online Safety workshops. The number of children the Coram charity have helped in the schools I have worked in alone must be over 500 by now!

So, I applied to Coram to run for them, sent off my application and tried not to get my hopes up! Later in the year, I received an email. I opened it on my lunch break and ran to find colleagues and children to share my latest challenge! A Year 6 child asked me how far I would run, where and when. The reality of what I had signed up for dawned at that point, but you still couldn’t keep the smile off my face!

Unfortunately a combination of Covid and a fractured ankle meant my participation in the 2020 40th Race was put on hold. However, I did manage to complete the Virtual 40th London Marathon in October 2020, running the distance from my hometown Preston to Blackpool Tower and a bit more. With my ankle strapped up to within an inch of its life and my knee ‘popping’ at the 16-mile point, just me and my music and smile, I managed it! I did it!

We held many fundraising days at school. The children, their families, their friends, colleagues, my family and my friends all helped me raise a fantastic amount for Coram. I reached and exceeded the target amount!

What an experience! I had the bug and was ready for the 2021 real life event in London. Sadly, because of a slipped disk and Molly Dog (the reason I re-started running back in 2016) being very ill the weekend of the marathon, I had to postpone once more. It was the right decision. The day of the marathon dawned and sadly, Molly Dog left us. I got home from the vets, put on my running kit and got on my exercise bike (as I still could not walk!). I put the Marathon coverage on my phone and as I cycled I watched with leaky eyes. Ironically, I turned on at the exact time I should have been at the starting pen. But it was not my year.

After a short period of rest from running, I had lost my confidence. I re-started training and have slowly built it back up again. Over the different lockdowns and since, I have entered a variety of virtual races, from the Great North Virtual Run, to 5 and 10k runs for the NHS, Mind, the Ukraine appeal and Crisis to name but a few. Each time I have raised money for them whilst adding my own donations to Coram.

I have now started a running club at school, we are aiming for an accumulative marathon distance by the end of the school year, raising money as we go. I have passed on my ‘bug’ and passion to the next generation of marathoners!

I started running to see if I could do it still but I have carried on running to help myself. To give myself that time, first thing in the morning, in our very busy lives where I can’t ‘just do’ something more. Where all I can do is face the road or path ahead, plug in my earphones, switch on some music and run, clear my head, and keep balanced in all senses of the word. It has helped me get through some really tough times, not least the last 2 years. It is now my turn to use this to help others.

I cannot thank Coram enough, not only for the help they give children across the UK and have given the children I have taught, but the support they give the Team Coram Marathon group. They are there every step of the way. It is my total pleasure to be able to help them and run for them in October 2022 and I feel humbled that I have been seen as inspirational. I do not think I am. I am just me, the one who runs in the wind, the rain, the snow, the ice, the sun, who smiles at dogs walking past, who trips over nothing and gets lost and who bores people with my running antics. Thank you Team Coram and bring on October 22!

Find out more about inspiring Coram women on the Story of Care timeline. In 1990, Dame Gillian Wagner became the first woman chair of Coram.