Life Video

By Christina Wood

A great-gran is training for the London marathon at the age of 83 to help her cope with the sudden death of her beloved brother.

Jean Harcourt was distraught and overcome with grief when her brother Danny tragically died of a heart attack in October 2016 in his sixties.


After reading an article that advised doing something that seems impossible to help cope with the loss of a loved one, 83-year-old Jean decided to train for the 26.2 mile race.

When the marathon gran started training in June last year she began by jogging for just a minute but now she is running 36 miles in one week – and says Danny would think she’s mad.

Jean, from Middleton, in Greater Manchester, said: “When my beloved brother died I was grieving for him terribly. I was consumed with grief. It was so unexpected. It was a massive shock.

“I read an article about how to deal with grief and it said do something that you think is impossible and I thought about doing a marathon.

“The last time I ran a marathon 14 years ago I thought, ‘never again,’ It is impossible. The training takes over your life but it has helped me a lot with my grief for my brother.

“At first, I ran for a minute and then the next time I ran a minute and a half. I couldn’t even do two minutes. I was out of breath. Now I do six miles at once. I run six times a week.

“My family don’t doubt for a minute that I will complete it. They are all very supportive. I don’t care if it takes me six hours. It isn’t a race. It is a test of stamina and endurance.


“Danny would be over the moon if he knew I was doing this. He would be praising me and supporting me but telling all of his friends that I’m mad.

“I know that I’ll do it because I’ve got a very determined nature. It does help with the grieving. I would advise anyone to take on what feels impossible who is grieving.

“I’m going to try and do seven miles next and gradually build it up. The most I will ever do is half a marathon before it because I’ll burn myself out.”


Jean was with her brother Danny the day before he died and says it came as a massive shock when he passed away the next day while running errands for family and friends.

Jean said: “The day before we were laughing and joking. He was good fun. He made me laugh all the time. He was a force of nature. He wasn’t like anybody else.

“He was so full of life even though he was in his sixties. He always called me Wendy and I called him Peter Pan because he said we would never grow up.”


Jean is also running the London marathon to raise money for a close family member who has Parkinson’s disease and says he is the real hero.

Jean said: “I’m not the kind of person who likes a lot of attention. I like to fade into the background but I want to raise money for Parkinson disease.

“I have a friend who suffers from it. He’s the real hero. He is the one who gets up and does his business despite having this illness.”

Her granddaughter Ellen Tomlinson, 30, said: “My Nana is nothing but my hero. She has been such a massive influence on my life. We are extremely close and I see her more as a friend than my Grandmother.

“I am so proud of her and when people doubt what she is doing, I know they just don’t know her like we know her. She is one of her own and a very special woman. She is the pride of our family.”