Teacher steps out for cyclist friends killed in two tragic road crashes

In just two years, Rachel Shakespeare has lost two good friends.

Both were keen cyclists and victims of road traffic accidents that left their families and friends bereft.

Now Rachel, 34, from Pontefract, is running the Plusnet Leeds Half Marathon in their memory – and to raise awareness of road safety.

Rachel said: “It really just makes you realise how fragile life is – that you can say goodbye to your loves ones in the morning and not come home.”

Rachel and her colleagues at Garforth Academy in Leeds were rocked after teacher Ian Winterburn, 58, died in December last year.

Ian, a husband, dad and grandfather, died on December 22 – 10 days following an accident with a car on the A6120 ring road at Halton in Leeds.

The whole school was, naturally, stunned.

Rachel, who shared an office with Ian, said: “Ian was a great person and used to really encourage me with my running – always urging me to go that extra mile and telling me I could do it.

“He encouraged me to take part in the Leeds Half Marathon back in 2014 and I swore I’d never run it again. But it seems fitting to get back out there and remember Ian.”

It was the second cycling tragedy for Rachel; her friend Steph Turner died in a collision in London while cycling to work. Steph, 28, and Rachel were friends from Middlesbrough University and Steph had just got engaged to be married when the accident happened.

Rachel said: “Her life was really just beginning; she’d got engaged and had a job she loved. And then suddenly she was gone.”

Rachel is using the Leeds Half Marathon to raise funds for the road safety charity Brake.

She added: “With both untimely deaths I have often struggled to understand how life can be taken from us so swiftly.

“Steph had a fantastic jest for life engaging in many sports and activities at university and afterwards, while Ian was a big supporter of my running, encouraging me every Monday and Tuesday at work to just run that extra mile the next night.

“Ian even made me sign up for my first Leeds Half Marathon in 2014 so I felt it very fitting to be running for a charity that will support victims of road traffic accidents and also educate others about it.”

The Leeds Half Marathon 2017 is now sold out; entries for 2018 will open on Sunday May 14th.

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