Sawtry mum inspired to take on 100k canal run by daughter’s rare genetic disorder

Tracy Halpin and her daughter Connie.

Tracy Halpin and her daughter Connie. - Credit: Archant

The fact it’s Christmas Day won’t stop a Sawtry mum-of-three pulling on her trainers and going for a run.

Tracy Halpin is training for the 100k Grand Union Canal Challenge, a 62-mile run in June from London to Bletchley, near Milton Keynes.

She has good reason to be taking on such a daunting distance, particularly for someone who started running only in February.

Her 12-year-old daughter Connie Hendery has Angelman Syndrome, a rare condition which means she is unable to speak and has a lot of autistic tendencies.

“We knew from very early on that she had issues,” Tracy said. “The pregnancy and birth were straightforward. But when we first got her home from hospital we could not feed her very well. She couldn’t tolerate milk and used to projectile vomit a lot.

“We had a couple of periods of being at Hinchingbrooke because she used to stop breathing. My partner and I used to sleep in shifts so one of us was awake at all times to keep an eye on her 24 hours a day.”

The usual milestones for development came and went, so at four months old she could not hold her head up or sit up.

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It was only once she was nearly four, after tests at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, that she was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome, a genetic disorder.

Tracy, who lives with partner Michael, and has a son, Mathew, 19, and another daughter, Eleanor, 17, said the impact on the family was unimaginable.

“Connie’s behaviour is very autistic and incredibly challenging. Everything has to be done in a routine, that’s key. Meals have to be at the same time, sat at the same seats at the table. Things like going out for dinner, it completely throws her, she will scream, throw things.

“It’s life-limiting. Things we should be able to enjoy with her, like going to the park or cinema, is something she cannot cope with.”

Tracy, 41, a lettings negotiator for Peter Lane, Huntingdon, took up running as a way of coping with stress. “It’s an incredibly worthwhile coping mechanism,” she said. “I wanted to push myself and see how far I could take it.”

So having joined the BRJ Run and Tri Club, based in Huntingdon, she has completed about 15 10ks and three half marathons, but nothing approaching 100k.

“It’s going to be an enormous challenge, not only physically but mentally as well. I’m aiming to do it in 12 hours.”

Tracy is running in aid of The National Autistic Society, the country’s leading charity supporting people with autism and their families, and hopes to raise at least £500. INFORMATION: To support Tracy, visit