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Teacher and partner race in memory of friend
8:55am Thursday 12th September 2013 in Local
A TEACHER will be swapping her books for running shoes when she tackles the Great North Run in memory of her friend who took his own life.
Linda Withey, of Bewdley, will be lacing up to take part in the 13.1 mile race between Newcastle upon Tyne and South Shields, with her partner Rob Welch on Sunday.
The duo take part in the world’s biggest half-marathon for different charities each year and this time they will be raising cash for mental health charity Mind, after their friend John Gittins took his own life while suffering from depression.
“We’re doing this in his memory,” said Miss Withey, who teaches at St Anne’s Primary School, Bewdley. “John was severely depressed otherwise he wouldn’t have done what he did.”
Mr Gittins died in Australia in May. He and wife Sharon had been living there for about four years and they had 10-month old twin girls, Summer and Autumn.
The family, originally from Bewdley, had returned to the riverside town to christen the girls but Mr Gittins went back to Australia a day after the celebration, where he died days later.
“I think he didn’t realise how poorly he was and how much people loved him and how many people were here to help him,”
Miss Withey said. “He’s left behind two baby girls that he will never see growing up.”
To celebrate his life, Miss Withey will be wearing an Australian vest top for the run and baseball hat, while Mr Welch will be sporting a shirt signed by the Australian beach cricket team.
“John would be proud of what we are doing,” said Miss Withey, adding she hoped to complete the race in under two hours.
Mrs Gittins, who stayed in Bewdley following her husband’s death, has given the duo her full support.
“I think it’s fantastic what they’re doing,” she said. “There’s not enough awareness and support out there about mental health – I found out the hard way.
These charities need all the support they can get.”
She added Mr Gittins, who she described as “larger than life”
and “outgoing”, could not cope anymore with his depression.
“It didn’t matter how many good things he had going on in his life, he couldn’t see them,”
People can sponsor Miss Withey and Mr Welch online at just giving.com/Sharyn-Gittins
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