Last year was the hardest year of Kellie Kanara-Batt's life.
She lost her husband Peter Batt to cancer last September - he was just 38 - but a new found focus on helping others and an unbreakable determination have helped her cope with the grief.
This weekend, Kanara-Batt is running the half marathon distance at the Rotorua Marathon as part of Team Hospice, a group of 30 people aiming to raise $20,000 for Rotorua Community Hospice.
Kellie and Peter had been together since they were teenagers. Batt found out he had cancer and just six to nine months to live at the end of 2018. He died in September last year.
Hospice provides palliative care for patients with a life-limiting illness and was there for the couple during a time very few people are equipped to deal with.
"It's the worst thing in the world. I know cancer doesn't pick victims by age or anything like that but for us being in our mid-30s, it was really difficult. I wouldn't wish it upon anyone," Kanara-Batt said.
"I think cancer makes it a million times worse, it's just a cruel disease. Watching your husband go through that is unbearable. It was a tough battle, the hardest year of my life to date and this year wasn't much better.
"In the last month [of Peter's life], hospice came in and explained everything, we had no idea. I have such an appreciation for what they do now because I've been there, we went through it. The support they give to families is amazing."
She works at Professionals McDowell Real Estate in Rotorua and had a visit from hospice staff at the start of the year. They asked if anyone was interested in joining Team Hospice and doing a run or walk for the cause.
Seeing an opportunity to give back to hospice as well as do something to celebrate the memory of her late husband, Kanara-Batt and her workmate Dan Fergusson took the plunge and signed up. They also joined Lake City Athletic's Kia Tu Kia Ora running clinic to prepare.
"Dan and I were at reception when they came in and in all honestly it was kind of like a joke at the start, we were going to do it as a team-building thing and do the fun walk.
"We went to the first meeting they held for the 15-week training programme thinking it was a bit of fun. It's funny looking back now, that's when we realised this was for real."
After originally planning to walk the 10km at the event in May, the event was postponed due to Covid-19 so the pair continued training and are now signed up to run the half marathon.
"A lot of that goes to our trainer Annemarie Gallagher. She's amazing, we were so lucky to be in her group, I don't think I could ever have done it without her.
"Obviously a lot of my motivation is because I lost my husband. I think, honestly, he would be a bit shocked. I couldn't run to save myself in January so I think he'd be having a bit of a laugh but he would be proud, I know he'd be so proud.
"I think it gives you a new outlook on life, watching my husband have that choice taken from him has kind of given me the ability to look at life differently, it's a gift. It has really set in concrete for me that we take life for granted."
Kanara-Batt's newfound love of running, her and Fergusson recently ran 26km without stopping, has literally helped her put one foot in front of the other in dealing with her grief.
"If I didn't start something like this - I honestly don't even want to think about the alternative of where I could be or how I would be. It's an outlet, a healthy distraction. It helped me a massive amount to have a purpose."
Team Hospice is made up of 30 individuals or groups running or walking in the Rotorua Marathon on Saturday. While crossing the finish line is a huge goal in itself, Team Hospice members are collectively trying to raise $20,000 for Rotorua Community Hospice. This can support six patients with a life-limiting illness for their entire time in hospice care.
So far, they have raised more than $19,000, of which Kanara-Batt and Fergusson have raised $3092.
Rotorua Community Hospice fundraising and marketing manager Nicola Smallwood is confident the $20,000 goal will be reached this week.
"We've seen the donations start to increase over the last few days as our awesome Team Hospice member's ramp up their fundraising efforts. They're doing a fantastic job – not only training for months and months but putting time and energy into fundraising too. They should feel very proud when they cross that finish line."
To donate to Kanara-Batt and Fergusson go to: rotoruamarathon2020.everydayhero.com/nz/bring-it-for-batman.
The full team fundraising page can be found at: rotoruamarathon2020.everydayhero.com/nz/lake-city-for-team-hospice.