Sunday, 14 April 2024
Sunday, 14 April 2024

Smile Train UK’s Director, Ian Vallance, reflects on his marathon experience

In April, Smile Train UK’s very own Director took on the Brighton Marathon in support of Smile Train. As everyone knows, a marathon is no mean feat, it’s not only an extreme test of endurance for your body but also a real mental battle – especially in those last few miles. 

In this month’s column, Ian shares his story, from what inspired him to take on this challenge, to the difference the money raised will make to the lives of those born with cleft across the world. 

Ian Vallance, Director of Smile Train UK said:

“Anyone who knows me also knows how much I don’t love running, which is why Brighton Marathon was going to be a challenge for me on many levels. But after being diagnosed with cancer during the pandemic, where I received the most incredible care from the NHS, which quite literally saved my life, I felt inspired to give back.

“I’ve worked for Smile Train for over five years, so running on behalf of a charity which is such an important part of my life felt like a natural choice.

“It also felt even more pertinent due to the nature of my diagnosis. Whilst I’m not personally affected by cleft, having oral cancer gave me an insight into how painful and difficult some of the things most of us take for granted are, including smiling, speaking, and eating. 

“This meant I found myself under the care of maxillofacial surgeons, orthodontists, speech therapists, nutritionists, and physiotherapists as part of my treatment and recovery. All of these are medical professionals who may be involved in the care of children with clefts across the world. 

“Whilst I have always had enormous empathy for our patients and what they may have been through, my experiences have given me an additional level of insight and understanding that I perhaps I didn’t have previously.

“I knew I was going to find the 26.2 miles incredibly tough, but I also knew that knowing that I could make a difference to the lives of children born with cleft around the world would be the thing that carried me through the race, and every time a negative thought crossed my mind, I diverted my attention back to the reason I was doing the marathon in the first place.

“There’s no denying that a marathon is incredibly hard work physically, but so much of what gets you to that elusive finish line involves an extraordinary amount of emotional strength I’m not sure I knew I possessed until the big day itself. Brighton and Hove is such a friendly, welcoming city at the best of times, and this was never more evident than during the marathon. The kindness, warmth, cheers, and shouts of encouragement from the huge crowds, children, dogs, and of course other runners is what ultimately got me through the worst of it! It’s a big commitment, but I would absolutely encourage anyone who hasn’t run a marathon to consider doing so – especially in support of Smile Train where we are absolutely there for you every step of the way.”

To find out more about how you turn your miles into smiles with Team Empower, please visit:

Or to donate to Ian’s JustGiving page.


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