Jane Tomlinson Inspiration Award 2009 Shortlist

Since launching our Heroes of Running Awards 2009, we’ve been inundated with tales of inspirational individuals who’ve achieved incredible running feats.

Here is the final shortlist for our most prestigious award - the Jane Tomlinson Inspiration Award.

All five of the individuals below have been nominated by you, the Runner’s World reader, and all five have had an extraordinary impact on the running community. Like the award’s namesake - Jane Tomlinson - our 2009 nominees’ seemingly boundless willpower, selflessness and sporting talent has marked them out, while their sheer grit and determination to overcome the odds has seen all of them reach astonishing running heights.

Dave Heeley (aka Blind Dave)

Visually impaired since birth, the severity of Dave Heeley’s sight loss forced him to give up running for good aged just 16. But in 1999, the help of a sighted guide was to prove Dave’s salvation. Dave started to appear at some of the biggest running events in the country as an ambassador for the charity Guide Dogs.

Having competed in numerous half-marathons and seven consecutive Flora London Marathons – and determined to prove that sight loss is no barrier to human endurance – Dave took on his biggest challenge to date last year, becoming the first blind person to run seven marathons across seven continents in seven days. From the Falkland Islands through Santiago, Los Angeles, Sydney, Dubai and Nairobi, his challenge concluded with the Flora London Marathon 2008.

Raising both money and awareness for Guide Dogs, Dave’s epic run raised £275,000 and prompted a 600 per cent increase in enquiries to run for Guide Dogs in the Flora London Marathon 2009.

Richard Whitehead

Richard Whitehead is a runner with a sub-3:30 Flora London Marathon PB, and South Africa’s Comrades Marathon finisher’s medal. Richard was also born with no legs below the knees.

Using state-of-the-art prosthetic legs Richard has run all over the world. In March 2008, he took on the Kilimanjaro Marathon in Tanzania, the London Half-Marathon, the Rome Marathon and the Georgia Marathon all in the space of four weeks. His success can be summed up perfectly by the tattoo on his right arm, which reads “Cometh the hour, cometh the man”.

A swimming teacher by trade, Richard also represented Great Britain at the 2006 Turin Winter Paralympics in sledge hockey and plays county cricket. A passionate ambassador for sport, Richard says, “It’s vital that disability sport is promoted as much as able-bodied sport. It’s such a powerful tool to engage people.”

Rosie Swale-Pope MBE

After her husband Clive died from prostate cancer, Rosie Swale-Pope set out in 2003 to raise awareness of the disease that had killed him. Her five-year long attempt to run around the world did just that, as well as raising money for numerous other charities local to her route.

Pulling her tent and all her supplies behind her in a trailer, Rosie ran alone and on a very low budget to circle the globe along a route said to be the coldest and hardest, taking in 7,000 miles through Russia and Siberia alone.

From her home in Tenby, Wales, Rosie plotted a course across Europe before joining the Trans-Siberian Railway route, crossing the Bering Strait, Alaska, America, Canada, Greenland and Iceland. Ireland, Scotland and England took Rosie back to the start before returning to Wales.

Rosie is currently writing a book about her experience and was awarded an MBE in the 2009 New Year Honours List.

Linda Gaitskell

After losing her sight to glaucoma at just 19, Linda Gaitskell had been blind for over 20 years when she first went jogging on holiday with friends. Instantly, she was hooked.

Fast forward eight years and Linda is now an active member of two running clubs and regularly appears at races all over southern England, inspiring sighted and non-sighted runners alike. No terrain or distance has deterred Linda from competing, from 10Ks to marathons, and big city races to off-road adventures.

Along with Tony Barlow - a fellow Metros Running Club member and her indefatigable running partner since the start of her running career - Linda ran more than 20 events in 2008, ranging from the local Marlow 5 to the big one - the Flora London Marathon. Running 5:25 on the streets of the capital was a life-long ambition fulfilled - the pinnacle of years of running and months of hard training.

Richard Donovan

The first person in the world to run a marathon at both the North and South Poles, Richard Donovan has also claimed gold at the Inca Trail Marathon, the South Pole Marathon, the Everest Challenge Marathon, the Antarctic 100K and the Himalayan 100-Mile Stage Race.

In 2009, he became the first person to run seven marathons on seven continents in less than seven days, completing the mammoth task in just five days, 10 hours and eight minutes. From Antarctica to Sydney, Richard ran 295K (183 miles), flew 43,000K and encountered temperatures ranging from -15C to 33C.

His visit to London also coincided with the most snow Britain had seen for nearly 20 years yet undeterred he ran doggedly through the night through drifts up to a foot deep.

Cast Your Vote

Visit our voting page to cast your vote for the individual you believe deserves to be our Jane Tomlinson Inspiration Award 2009 winner.