Around 350 people turned out in Darlington’s South Park  last night to take part in a fundraising run and walk in honour of cancer research campaigner Viv Pow. PETER BARRON was among them...

DAYS before she passed away, knowing she didn’t have long left, Viv Pow was still looking on the bright side of life.

“It makes me happy to think there might be lots of people enjoying the fresh air in the park, with smiles on their faces, and raising money for cancer research,” the former Darlington police officer said from her home in the village of Middleton Tyas.

Last night, though she didn’t live long enough to see it, Viv (pictured below) got her final wish as hundreds of people – of all ages – turned out in Darlington’s South Park for the third fundraising run and walk to be organised in her honour.

(Image: Peter Barron)

As a squall subsided just in time to allow those gathered to hear him speak, her husband, Jeff emotionally announced: “You’ve really done her proud.”

“It was my privilege to be Viv’s husband for more than 30 years,” Jeff added. “She was born in 1964 – the Chinese Year of the Dragon – and she was one of the strongest and most determined people I’ve ever met. But she was also kind in the extreme, always wanting to put others before herself.

“I hope she’s looking down and, if she is, she’d say this: ‘Love life, be kind to yourself and others. Life is a gift, so enjoy it.' So please reflect and think of Viv, smile and be happy."

The mum-of-two, and devoted grandmother, died just over a week ago after a 12-year fight against cancer, during which she ran marathons, promoted positivity, counselled others, inspired many, and raised tens of thousands of pounds for Cancer Research UK.

‘Viv’s Positivity POWer Run and Walk’ – over five kilometres in the park she loved – was first staged in 2022. Organised by Viv’s best friend and fundraising partner, Tracy Kirk, with the support of Darlington Harriers and the Up & Running athletics shop, it was an immediate success, and got bigger in 2023.

Then, last night, an estimated 350 fundraisers responded to the call to honour Viv’s memory. The park was awash with smiles, positive thoughts, togetherness, and bright colours – just as she’d wanted.

“She would have been thrilled to see so many people here,” said Tracy, describing her friend as “a running motivator, miracle worker, and positivity guru”.

“Her impact on the lives of others will never be forgotten. She was an all-round amazing human being. Positivity was her super-power," she said.

Another close friend, Amanda Garvey-Kovac, who was inspired to run the Rome Marathon with Viv in 2015, said: “She changed my life. She persuaded me to do things I’d never thought I could do.

“She just had a way of being infectiously joyous. She made you feel invincible, that you can do anything, and I’ll take that with me for ever.”

Former colleagues from Darlington Police were among those at the event, with retired Inspector, John Zissler, saying: “The dedication and personality that she brought to her role as a police officer shone through everything she did, including her inspirational fight against cancer.”

Paul Cook, of Darlington Harriers, said: “It’s amazing how brave and how positive she’s been over the years. She always had a smile on her face regardless of her struggles.”

Lisa Millett, regional press officer for Cancer Research UK, said: "You meet a lot of people in my role and, every now and then, you meet a magical person with a magical story – like Viv."

Shirley Conner, who knew Viv from being a neighbour when she lived in Hurworth-on-Tees, said: “I never once heard her being negative about anything. She was inspirational and will be truly missed.”

Keith Wilson, who is tackling Parkinson’s Disease head-on, and is a regular at the Darlington Parkrun, said: “Viv was one of my heroes. She set an example of how to deal with adversity and, when she could no longer run herself, she was there cheering on others.”

Viv wanted bright colours and she would have heartily approved of Ian Burgess in his psychedelic running outfit.

"Spending time with Viv was like being at the best party and looking back on it without regrets, just happiness,” said Ian before adding: “Wow – what a girl she was.”

The last word should, of course, go to Viv herself – as she looked forward to her fundraising event from her home shortly before she died.

“It’s about bringing people together, in lovely surroundings, and placing the emphasis on being positive and living life to the full,” she said. “It’s one of the best feelings in the world to know I might have inspired people to get out of bed feeling more positive.”

Joie de Vivre – defined as an exuberant enjoyment of life. How apt that the phrase should include her name.