Loved ones take on run in memory of beloved "Stoddie"
WHEN Julie Stodart-Cook died in a car crash near Cheltenham earlier this year, she had already started training for the Great North Run.
The 43-year-old school teacher, who was born and raised in Cheltenham, had been determined to crack the gruelling Newcastle half-marathon to raise funds for child bereavement charity Winston's Wish.
So, as they struggle to come to terms with her death, family and friends took up the mantle and ran the race in her memory.
Julie's younger sister Tracie Gaston was joined on the run by nine of her former teammates at Worcester Ladies Rugby Club, who were dressed as characters from the Wizard of Oz.
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The colourfully-attired group ran with photos of "Stoddie" pinned to their backs.
"It was a very emotional day," said Tracie, 41, from Tewkesbury.
"Julie had been planning to do the Great North Run before she died. She had already done a couple of 10km runs and her training was going really well. It would have been her first half marathon.
"Losing her has been devastating really and it's still very hard getting used to life without her.
"But we didn't want her place in the run to be lost, so a group of us decided to do it in her memory.
"She was very much in all our thoughts on the way round. All I could think of was her beautiful smiling face. It definitely kept me going."
Julie had been a teacher at Kingham Hill School, in Oxfordshire, since 1996.
She played rugby for more than 20 years, and for the majority of that time was a prop forward.
However, over the last two years, she lost five-and-a-half stones in weight and had taken up running to stay in shape.
She was killed when her car came off the road on the B4077 at Alderton on May 26, careering into a petrol station forecourt.
An inquest into her death has been opened and adjourned.
Since her death, friends and family have raised close to £6,000 for Winston's Wish – a charity Julie was keen to support as it had worked with children she knew.
Tracie, who works at GE Aviaton in Bishop's Cleeve, added: "I can't believe how much we have raised.
"We only set out asking for donations from close friends and family, but so many people have given us their support.
"It's testimony to how many people whose lives Julie touched. I know she would be proud of our efforts and really pleased so much money has been raised for a great cause."
To make a donation in Julie's memory, visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/BIGSTODweloveyou