Two months after the Stonehaven rail crash, Dawn Bennett took on a special challenge in memory of the train’s driver, Brett McCullough.
Dawn, who is a neighbour of Brett’s parents, completed the London Marathon in tribute to him – and put her own special twist on the fundraiser.
Because of Covid-19, the traditional April marathon could not take place in 2020, but runners were instead encouraged to complete the 26.2 mile distance of the run however they liked on October 4, 2020.
Here, the 49-year-old mum of three explains the reason behind her challenge and what it was like on the day.
“The London Marathon is something I had talked about doing over many decades and hadn’t ever ‘got round to it’.
“Then in 2019 my friend, David Cooke, lost his mother to illness so I ran the marathon to support him.
“We made it and raised many thousands of pounds for St Catherine’s Hospice in Crawley, which helped his mother.
“The training and pressure I put on myself was exhausting and I said ‘never again’.
“Until something absolutely tragic happened.
‘Heartbreak. I was in complete shock’
“I was on holiday in France in August and had seen on the news that disaster had struck, a fatal train crash in Stonehaven.
“I have known Beryl and Ray for 10 years and knew their darling son Brett was a train driver.
“Beryl and Ray are neighbours and very quickly became very close family friends. I absolutely adore both of them.
“My husband Clive broke the news to me it was Brett who had lost his life among others on that train.
“I felt absolute devastation. Heartbreak. I was in complete shock.
“For Brett, and for all of his beautiful family. How can this be? How can this happen to someone so young? Someone with an incredible family, young children?
“I later heard that Brett had, in years gone by, entered the London Marathon himself and completed it in a very good time, so that was it for me.
“I decided there and then that I would enter the London Marathon again, in memory of this wonderful loving family man. For him, and for his family I would complete this.
“I knew I had 24 hours to complete it, run walk or jog and this made it easier for me. No pressure time-wise.
“I decided to involve close family and friends. I chose to take part for three charities.
“Brett and I had a few similarities – three children, a love of animals and we both have a child with autism. I later found out that I also had family live in Stonehaven once upon a time.
“So the three charities I chose were the National Autistic Society, Second Chance Animal Rescue (a local rescue that our family have been involved with for many years), and Romney House Cat Rescue, where I work.
“We raised a total of £1,149 plus gift aid. These donations go a very long way to helping those in need.
“Despite horrible weather with rain and winds, I got through with the help of some amazing people in my life.
‘The support of all of Brett’s family has meant the world to me’
“It was an honour that Brett’s parents Beryl and Ray and his brother Glenn were able to walk with me in turn around our local park.
“I was also in close contact with Brett’s sister Salina who lives in the USA.
“The support of all of Brett’s family has meant the world to me.
“Other highlights included doing a ‘fly-by’ past Sainsbury’s where my daughter Annabelle works while studying and being joined by my husband Clive and eldest daughter Jessica who is expecting my first grandchild.
“I was also appreciative of David Cooke for getting me into my favourite team’s ground (Bromley FC) so I could do a lap of the pitch!
“I managed to also see my son Matthew during the day while I grabbed dry clothes.
“All these things have made some very special memories that I will never forget.
“It was a journey of memories love and friendship.
“It took me over eight hours to complete this journey and I’m so glad I did it the way we did.
“I know Brett was there with me supporting me and that also gave me great comfort.
“RIP Brett McCullough. I dedicate my event to you. You will always be loved.”