'The best mum' - Ipswich son runs marathon in mother's memory

Twenty-year-old Alex Koufalis has raised over £2,000 for St Elizabeth Hospice after losing his mother, Sara Koufalis

Twenty-year-old Alex Koufalis has raised over £2,000 for St Elizabeth Hospice after losing his mother, Sara Koufalis, last year. - Credit: Family of Sara Koufalis

A young man from Ipswich has raised over £2,000 in memory of his funny, strong, hard-working mother, who was going the extra mile to help the people she cared about right up until the end of her life. 

Alex Koufalis, 20, took part in the 100km London to Brighton Challenge on May 27, in memory of his mother, Sara Koufalis, who died last year from bowel cancer. 

Alex was Sara's only child, and the two were very close.

Alex was Sara's only child, and the two were very close. - Credit: Family of Sara Koufalis

Alex and his mother Sara enjoyed a close relationship.

Alex and his mother Sara enjoyed a close relationship. - Credit: Family of Sara Koufalis

He has raised £2,175 for St Elizabeth Hospice, where his mother was cared for.  

“I saw first-hand how amazing they are. They were so nice to me, too, always offering me support or things I needed. I wanted to give something back,” explained Alex. 

Sara was born in Mendlesham on August 19, 1969, but lived most of her life in Ipswich, where she was a manager at the Crown Prosecution Service. 

Alex was her only child, and the pair of them were a tight unit, with Sara separating from Alex’s father when he was three. 

He said Sara would always go out of her way to make things better for other people, and worked hard to give him the best childhood she could. 

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“She was the best mum, I know everyone says that, but she was,” he said. “She would always go that one step further to make things better for me.” 

A good example of this was his 17th birthday, when Sara surprised him with a moped. 

“She took me around the back of the garage, and there it was. I was so shocked; I didn’t expect it all. She’d booked me lessons and bought me a helmet and everything.  

“Then when I was 18, she booked me a lesson with a company that lets you fly planes. 

“That’s what mum was like – she'd think of ideas, and then go beyond the norm.” 

Sara worked for many years at the CPS, and then for Suffolk County Council.

Sara worked for many years at the CPS, and then for Suffolk County Council. - Credit: Family of Sara Koufalis

Alex said that Sarah would always go the extra mile to help people.

Alex said that Sarah would always go the extra mile to help people. - Credit: Family of Sara Koufalis

He will also always remember the trip he and his mother took to New York in that year, which, he said, was one of the best experiences of his life. 

Sara worked for many years as a manager at the CPS, and then left to work at Suffolk County Council when her health deteriorated. Sara also had Crohn’s disease. 

“She was accepting of everyone, but she was also very private – even when she had the cancer, she didn’t want to tell anyone. She was a very strong person.” 

Sara was diagnosed with cancer in March 2020, just as the country was entering lockdown. Even then, she was doing what she could to help others. 

“My grandad unfortunately passed away in December 2020,” said Alex. “My mum was going through all of this, but my grandmother, her mum, was finding it really difficult on her own. 

“Mum was really ill, but she would drive herself to my grandmother’s house to help her, and encouraged her to learn to drive again, which she can now do.” 

Sara spent her last three weeks being cared for by St Elizabeth Hospice in Ipswich. She passed away on July 17, 2021, aged 51. 

Alex was left with the desire to do something to help the hospice. 

Alex finished running 85km at 2 o'clock in the morning.

Alex finished running 85km at 2 o'clock in the morning. - Credit: Alex Koufalis

Alex  is proud to have raised a substantial sum for St Elizabeth Hospice.

Alex is proud to have raised a substantial sum for St Elizabeth Hospice. - Credit: Family of Sara Koufalis

“It really shocked me how much the hospice relies on charitable money,” he explained. "St Elizabeth Hospice needs around £12.9 million to run its services each year, 70% of which it must raise itself.” 

Alex decided to sign up to run the 100km London to Brighton challenge, but struggled to balance training with his final year of university. 

“I had been wanting to start training since Christmas, and was watching so many videos on how to prepare, but I honestly did not have time to prepare. 

“About five days before the race, I did a five-mile run. That was the only training I did!” 

However, Alex managed to complete 85 of the 100km, starting at 8am and finishing at 2am.  

He raised £2,175 for the hospice, which was delighted and very grateful to have his support.