Memory of Ani-Rose lives on as devoted dad goes the distance to honour memory of baby daughter

Ian Luker who has raised almost £40,000 in memory of his daughter
-Credit: (Image: UGC)

An ultra-marathon runner dad is hoping to push his fundraising total to over £40,000 in memory of his baby daughter.

In 2010, Ian Luker and his wife Helen were left devastated when their daughter, Ani-Rose, was stillborn at full term into the pregnancy.

Helen, who was already on maternity leave, had sailed through her pregnancy with no concerns, but one morning when she took a shower she didn't feel the baby move, which was unusual.

Ian, an offshore worker, said they made their way to the maternity assessment unit at James Cook Hospital and after several scans and tests were given the devastating news there was no heartbeat. The Eston couple, who have gone on to have two more daughters, Mia, 12 and eight-year-old Zoe, were told medics could not find a definitive reason why Ani-Rose had died.

At the beginning of 2022 Ian started running near his home. He said: "I met a couple of lads who I hadn't seen for a few years. They were into ultra marathon running on the trails. I went out on a few longer runs with them than I normally would have and I loved it.

Ian Luker and his wife Helen with daughters Mia, 12 and eight-year-old Zoe
Ian Luker and his wife Helen with daughters Mia, 12 and eight-year-old Zoe -Credit:UGC

"It turns out they had an 80mile run booked up for later in the year which they invited me on but with seven months notice I turned it down straight away.

"In the meantime I did sign up to an Ultra Marathon in July. The Lyke Wake Challenge - a 40 mile crossing of the North Yorkshire Moors over the widest and highest points which I ended up being first across the line. It had got me, I was hooked."

When Ian then asked his two friends again about the 80-mile race he found out it was going to take place on Ani's 12th birthday of November 26.

He said: "That gave me the willpower and determination to train and to finish this run. It didn't matter what this run was going to have in store, there was no way I wasn't going to finish it."

Helen, who now works on the hospital's Maternity Assessment Unit, said they were in the process of setting up a special ward at James Cook Hospital where people like them, who have been given the heartbreaking news their baby has died, can deliver away from the main maternity unit. Ian decided to fundraise for that.

Ian said when Ani was born he and Helen had to go through the experience on the main ward and being surrounded by crying babies and families celebrating just added to their heartache. The facility that has now been built has a separate entry, is soundproofed, has a sofa, a chair, a little snug, a TV, a normal double bed for use after delivery, a cool cot for spending precious time with the baby, an en-suite bathroom and kitchen.

Ian said: "Although the facility is now built, I've continued to fundraise to ensure there is funding available for anything that the bereavement team and ward managers believe they need to purchase to further enhance the facilities and provide ongoing furnishings and supplies."

In 2023 Ian entered the Hardmoors Marathon Series which was six trail marathons of between 27 and 30 miles and he also ran the Chester Road Marathon. For 2024 he has entered the Hardmoors Grand Slam Ultramarathon Challenge which is a series of four ultramarthons, 30 mile, 55 mile, 110 mile and finishing with a 60 mile in September.

He said: "When I looked back and checked, since June 2022 until now, I have racked up nearly 4500 miles of events and training.

Ian said so far they have managed to raise around £38,000 for the Maternity Bereavement Unit and has been blown away by the support they have had, but he would love to see that push over the £40,000 mark.

Anyone who would like to sponsor Ian for his latest challenges can do so by visiting his fundraising page here.