By Louise Walsh
The little girl who became the youngest-ever competitor in the Dublin City Marathon - when her devoted dad pushed her along the gruelling circuit in a wheelchair earlier this year - has sadly passed away.
Alanna Russell from Navan, Co Meath died unexpectedly earlier this morning, leaving her family and the community heartbroken.
Alanna, who turned just eight this month, helped to raise nearly €64,000 with her dad to buy a new minibus for the Meadows Respite Centre in Navan, where she attended.
She was born with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, with no speech or use of her arms and legs. Alanna also had impaired vision and epilepsy.
She was one of twins when she was born nine weeks premature but sadly, her sister Isabelle died shortly before birth.
Despite her condition, Alanna took on a new lease of life when out running with her dad Keith (34), who used to push her around the courses in her wheelchair.
The bond between herself and her dad, who ran with her in all weathers, captured the hearts of the nation.
"I used to go walking with her around Navan at 3am when she wouldn't sleep and I noticed that she loved being out. Her face would light up when I would tell her we were going out," he said previously.
Keith began running 5k races, pushing Alanna and slowly built up to this year's Dublin City Marathon where he and his daughter completed the 26.2 mile trek.
Through their running, they managed to raise nearly €65,000 to replace a 12-year old respite centre's minibus and the duo hoped to continue their outdoor pursuits for other local charities.
Ahead of the marathon, he said: "You go through every emotion, but you just have to be strong to be there for her every step of the way."
Just a few days ago, Keith and Alanna picked up their framed marathon medals.
Sincere sympathy is extended to Alanna's dad Keith, mum Ruth, siblings, family and friends.