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Nov 7, 2017 1:02 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Forty-One Kilometers Of Love: Southampton Woman's Run Supports Cousin In UK

Sally Dawson with husband, Nicholas Dawson, and daughters, Eliza, left, and Penny. KYRIL BROMLEY
Nov 7, 2017 1:46 PM

Sally Dawson turned 41 on Sunday. To mark the occasion, she ran from her home on West Neck Road in Southampton to Napeague State Park—a distance of 41 kilometers, or 25.5 miles.Ms. Dawson, a Southampton resident who originally hails from Scotland, is not an experienced marathon runner, and she wasn’t out to prove anything on Sunday’s epic 41K journey, which is just short of a marathon distance of 26.2 miles. The run was not about personal achievement.

Rather, it was an act of love.

Ms. Dawson’s cousin, UK resident Julie Strelley-Jones, was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer five years ago, at the age of 41. Less than two years after her diagnosis, the cancer had spread to her liver, lungs, bones and brain. Now, at the age of 46, she is living with incurable secondary breast cancer.

Recently, the cancer drug she was on became too toxic for her body to tolerate, leading Ms. Strelley-Jones to explore experimental treatments that are not covered by the National Health Services in the United Kingdom, where she lives.

Friends and family have rallied to support her, trying to assist her financially to seek the treatments she needs, hoping to help her spend more time with her husband, Mark, and sons, Alistair, 12, and Fergus, 14.

Turning 41 herself, Ms. Dawson said, further sparked her desire to support her cousin, who had been diagnosed with cancer at the same age.

“Being here now, I realize 41 is still so young,” she said. “Julie’s experience has come into sharper focus. When she was diagnosed, her two boys were around the same ages my own daughters are now—8 and 6.”

Ms. Dawson moved to Southampton with her husband, Nicholas, and their two children, Eliza, 8, and Penny, 6. Growing up in her native Scotland, Ms. Dawson and her sister, Fiona MacLean, were very close to their cousin.

During a visit to the UK over the summer, Ms. Dawson told her sister about her idea to run from Southampton to Napeague to raise money for her cousin’s fund. In September, she told Ms. Strelley-Jones about the plan.

“She said, ‘You’re crazy!’” Ms. Dawson said with a laugh during an interview a few days before her run.

It’s not hard to picture Ms. Dawson running a marathon. She has the tall, thin body of a runner, and approaches life with the kind of infectious charisma and upbeat nature that keeps the legs moving by the 18th, 19th or 20th mile.

Those personality traits earned her many friends in a short period of time living in Southampton, and their support was evident on Sunday, as they set up at various points along her route to cheer her on with homemade signs, shouting encouragement.

Buoyed by that support, Ms. Dawson completed the run on Sunday—and she had plenty of help along the way. Her daughters accompanied her to the end of their road, and several friends joined her for portions of the run, which wound through North Sea down Noyac Road, into Sag Harbor, down Long Beach Road and into Sag Harbor Village by way of the Jordan C. Haerter Memorial Bridge. Ms. Dawson then proceeded down Route 114 into East Hampton, going through East Hampton Village, and then into Amagansett through back roads, including Town Lane, and ultimately down Cranberry Hole Road, and into the parking lot at Napeague State Park.

Ms. Dawson had to battle considerable fatigue and queasiness in the latter portion of the run, benefiting from a pep talk from her friend David Cavalier, a four-time marathon runner. Ms. Dawson tossed her cookies around the 23rd mile—which she said actually made her feel better and gave her a second wind—and said support from cheering crowds helped her continue.

Friends and family were waiting in the parking lot, with a finish line banner for Ms. Dawson to run through. There were homemade cupcakes and champagne, and Ms. Dawson’s sister, a massage therapist by trade, had set up a table, ready to help soothe her sister’s aching limbs.

Ms. Dawson was flooded with emotion at the finish.

“I was completely overcome,” she said. “It was a climax to one of the very best days of my life.

“This event started as just a tiny inkling of an idea that I was afraid to give voice to, because by doing so it made it something I had to do,” Ms. Dawson continued, speaking about how the support she received from friends and family, for her cousin, whom most of them have never met, far exceeded her expectations.

“I am amazed that they took that little inkling of an idea and made it into something that was bigger, bolder and brighter than anything I could’ve imagined. Their love and encouragement made this such an incredibly special event.”

Friends who joined Ms. Dawson on her run said they were compelled to do so because of Ms. Dawson’s genuine, selfless and giving personality.

One friend, Ryan Salinetti, helped design Ms. Dawson’s “41run” Facebook page, and also helped follow Ms. Dawson during her run using the Strava app, which used GPS to track her location and route.

“She’s amazing,” Ms. Salinetti said. “She set her mind to it and did it in less time than people usually use to train for a marathon. There was a ton of love behind it, and you could just tell.”

Jan Klein is another friend who supported Ms. Dawson’s effort, joining her for a portion of the run from Noyac into Sag Harbor Village. Ms. Klein and Ms. Dawson went on training runs together over the summer and into the fall, which Ms. Klein said strengthened their friendship.

“Clearly, she is amazing for wanting to devote so much time and effort to something so selfless,” she said. “Sally is so loved, because she really is just so sweet that people just want to donate to her. What you see is what you get with her.”

That generosity of spirit was paid back to her on Sunday, Ms. Dawson said. And she’s thrilled to pay it forward to her cousin.

“It was undoubtedly tough on the course,” Ms. Dawson said. “But I was carried by the goodness of every one of the people who have made Julie’s story their story, too, and who cared enough to give their time to something that means the world to Julie and her family.”

Ms. Strelley-Jones voiced her support from the UK in a Facebook post, where she said she was “blown away” by her cousin’s effort and the support from people she’s never met. Ms. Strelley-Jones was preparing to undergo cyberknife brain radiation this week, for the fourth time, and said acts of kindness and support from friends and family near and far help her make it through tough times.

“When you face difficult days on this roller-coaster, you have to dig so deep,” she said. “But it’s events like these that truly bring hope and give you the strength to keep on going.”

For more information on the run and on Ms. Strelley-Jones, visit facebook.com/41run and gofundme.com/julie-sjs-treatment-fund.

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Well done Sally!
You are truly an inspiration.
By Toto (25), southampton on Nov 9, 17 1:20 PM
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