THE grief-stricken family of an East Preston runner who died after completing the London Marathon have spoken of their devastation.
Robert Berry, 42, formerly of Old Worthing Road, was raising money for the National Osteoporosis Society, when he collapsed at the finishing line.
The news of his death inspired thousands of people to donate to his JustGiving fundraising page – which so far stands at an incredible £73,677.91.
His family have since spoken of their heartache at losing a ‘loving son and brother’ who was an ‘inspiration to others’.
His sister, Janet de Buriatte, was supporting him during the race, on Sunday, April 13. She said: “The memory that will stick with me is the very last time I saw him. We were waiting at the 21-mile point.
“And when he ran past at 1pm he saw us and waved his arms. He was happy and relaxed.
“We were all so proud of him because it was a real achievement for him to be completing a marathon.”
Tragically, moments after completing his 26.2-mile race and collecting his medal, Robert collapsed to the floor.
Medics gave him emergency first-aid near the finishing line before he was transferred to St Mary’s Hospital, in central London, where he died.
Janet said the family had no idea at the time of her brother’s death.
Her and Robert’s wife Gwen started a frantic search after they had not had any message from him about completing the race.
“When we heard about what had happened we were just shocked,” she said. “We didn’t know what to do.”
Janet said she could not bear to break the news to Robert’s parents, Ann and Alan, over the phone.
She went to their house, in Old Worthing Road, later that evening to deliver the news of her brother’s death.
Ann said: “Words can’t describe how we felt when we heard about his death. We couldn’t sleep.
“But we are just so proud of him. He is our lovely little boy.”
The 73-year-old has suffered with osteoporosis – a brittle bone disease – for more than 20 years and was the inspiration behind Robert’s marathon attempt.
Since his death, more than 6,000 people have donated to his fundraising page, skyrocketing up from about £2,000 in the space of a week to almost £74,000.
The family has been surprised by the generosity.
Alan said: “I could not believe it. Every time I turned the computer on and looked on the site I could see it was going up by thousands of pounds each time. It was absolutely incredible.”
Robert was a former pupil at East Preston Junior School before moving to study at The Angmering School and Worthing College.
He also played for the Rustington Otters for about seven years.
He completed a degree in computer science at Kingston University, in London, before meeting his wife, Gwen.
A post-mortem examination into Robert’s death proved inconclusive.
His funeral will take place on Friday, May 2, at 1pm, at Worthing Crematorium.
It will be open to family and friends only.
Janet added: “Robert was the best big brother I could have asked for.
“He was always there for me. He gave me guidance and sympathy throughout my life.
“He was always that shoulder I could cry on when I needed him. He is my hero and I’ll miss him.”
Robert, who lived in Newbury, Berkshire, leaves behind his wife and two children.
To donate to Robert’s fundraising page, see www.justgiving.com/Rob-Berry-uk