A dedicated athlete who has twice battled breast cancer is preparing for her third marathon.

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This year, Jo Stephenson has opted to run the relatively new Brighton Marathon on Sunday, April 14, a week before thousands of runners from around the globe take on the now internationally famous London Marathon on April 21.

And the 47-year-old, a qualified coach who works with the Stowmarket Striders, has agreed to share the ups and downs of her gruelling training, as well as offering tips for those starting out on their running career, as she steps up her preparations.

Jo, of Elmswell, will be running for Breakthrough Breast Cancer this year, having twice battled the disease herself.

“I was first diagnosed 10 years ago,” she said. “And then I was diagnosed again in January 2011. My treatment finished at the end of September 2011 and I started training for my second London Marathon in the December 2011. I ran the marathon in April 2012 and I raised more than £1,000 for cancer charities.”

As well as raising money for her chosen cause, Jo has another motive for taking on the marathon challenge again.

“It’s quite good to inspire people,” she said.

It was her passion to support breast cancer charities that brought her to running in the first place.

She explained: “I have been running since 2006, I did a Race for Life for the first time that year and I was disgusted at how badly I did so I decided to get fit.”

Working part-time as well and bringing up two young children, meant it was a struggle to fit exercise in. But when a friend of hers joined the Stowmarket Striders, it was the final push she needed.

“I thought, if she can do it, so can I.”

She now trains with the club twice a week, fits a long run in at the weekend and another couple of training runs in mid-week.

She believes it was her running that helped her through her second round of cancer treatment.

“I ran all the way through, my pace and distance dropped off an awful lot but running helped me through it. It kept me going mentally and probably being fit in the first place helped me recover faster than perhaps someone else. I don’t think the treatment affected me as badly as it could have done.”

Jo has adopted a slightly unorthodox training programme this year and she will be sharing the highs and lows, comparing it to a traditional plan and helping new runners taking the first steps on the road to long-distance running.

Are you running the marathon? Share your story by emailing natalie.hoodless@archant.co.uk

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