A tennis coach is running six marathons in memory of a promising young player who died from cancer.
Jamie Martin, 24, became close friends with Murray Stewart despite being on the receiving end of a thrashing when they first met on the court.
After he heard about Murray’s death following a battle with a brain tumour, he decided to raise money for charity in his honour.
Murray was just 22 when he died in 2019 having previously been on the road to recovery.
Jamie’s plans to raise funds were delayed by lockdown, but this year he committed to running more than 150 miles for the Teenage Cancer Trust.
He said: “I decided to run a few marathons and raise as much money as possible. I’m doing five full marathons and two halves, so that’s six in total.
“I thought it would be easy in my head because everybody runs marathons, but it turns out it’s a lot harder than you think.
“The first couple of five and 10ks, I was so out of breath. I could play a tennis match for hours, but couldn’t run half an hour.”
Jamie, from West Dunbartonshire, was living and working in Beijing, China, where he heard about Murray’s death. The pair first met when Jamie was 12 as they played the same tournaments.
A year and a half older, Murray easily won their first match 6-0, 6-1, but the boys hit it off and started training together.
“He got me into high performance training with a squad,” said Jamie. “If it wasn’t for him, my tennis wouldn’t have progressed the way it did.”
Both boys excelled as juniors; Jamie went on to train with the SotoTennis Academy in Spain and Murray with coach Toby Smith in Stirling.
Bonded by their love of tennis, Jamie was devastated to lose his childhood friend so young
“He was so popular because he was so nice and down to earth,” he said. “He didn’t take things too seriously and was always relaxed and great company.
“[When he died] I thought he was on the mend, it was all a bit of a shock.”
As a fit young tennis player, Jamie assumed he would breeze through his marathon training, but instead he has been plagued by injury.
Six weeks before his first marathon, he suffered a stress fracture in his foot, and when that healed, he tore the ligaments in his other foot playing a tennis match.
He has pushed through the pain barrier, however, to complete half the challenge so far, raising around £5000.
Jamie said: “I’ve run three marathons in severe pain and shouldn’t really be running because my ankle hasn’t fully recovered.
“It’s been a painful experience, there’s been a lot of crying, a lot of pain, but I’ve dedicated myself to doing them, so I’m going to keep doing them regardless of how I’m feeling.
“Murray’s mum wrote a comment on my fundraising page saying he would be so proud of me. That makes me want to keep going. I think about what he went through and I’m only running 26 miles.”
Murray’s family told STV News that Jamie had their full support and described the work of the Teenage Cancer Trust as “invaluable”.
They said: “The Stewart family are delighted to support Jamie in his marathon challenge and are so thankful.
“We are so touched that he has chosen to push himself to his limits to raise money for Teenage Cancer Trust who were invaluable to Murray and ourselves through his illness.
“We are also so proud that Murray’s friends choose to remember him and that he inspires them to support a cause that was so close to his heart.”