Daughter’s Great Wall of China run in memory of Sunderland dad

Danielle Leigh took part in a half marathon along the Great Wall of China, after dad died while trekking in South America.
Danielle Leigh took part in a half marathon along the Great Wall of China, after dad died while trekking in South America.
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A DEVOTED daughter along ran along one of the wonders of the world in memory of her father.

Danielle Leigh took part in a half-marathon along the Great Wall of China, after dad David died while trekking in South America.

The 28-year-old was one of more than 2,500 people took part in the strenuous race.

Passing through rural areas and small villages, runners can face temperatures of over 30°C and must overcome a demanding 5,164 steps.

Luckily for Danielle, who teaches at the International British School in Puxi in Shanghai, this year temperatures dropped to a slightly overcast 19°C.

She finished her fifth half-marathon in under two hours 30 minutes, taking 96th place among the 612 women who finished.

“It is the most challenging thing I have done in my entire life to date,” she said.

“I can’t wait to come back, and to it over again next year.”

The former Monkwearmouth School pupil from Seaburn Dene was offered a teaching job at the school in the city in May last year.

But before she left, her dad taken ill and died in hospital in Peru while Danielle was on holiday in Spain.

Danielle added: “A few days after the funeral, I had to pack up the rest of my life in England to fly to China.

“It was the hardest thing I had ever had to do.

“I arrived in China, started my new job and got on with my life as best I could under the circumstances.

“I missed home and my family terribly but kept thinking that my dad wanted me to be here. He would have wanted me to enjoy this amazing experience.

“I had discussed running the Great Wall with my dad back in May, so once I was settled I decided that I had to do it. I wanted to run for my dad. I entered and started the training.” Despite set backs due to health problems caused by pollution, Danielle managed to complete the race.

She said: “The atmosphere was indescribable but at the same time very emotional. I set off, and for the first three miles I cried uncontrollably, thinking that my dad should be with me and about how much he would have loved running the Great Wall.

“It got to the point where I couldn’t breathe for crying and had to have a little word with myself. I thought about what my dad would have said to me. He would have told me to get a grip, so I did.

“I ran on, loved every minute of it and thought only of my dad the whole way around.

“Even though he wasn’t there in person, I felt him there in spirit with me. He gave me the strength to climb those enormous steps when I most needed it.”

Danielle now plans on running the Shanghai marathon in January and the Great Wall again in May.