My dad, Malcolm, started to show the first symptoms of Alzheimer's when he was 49. That's three years older than I am now. He had been ill for 17 years by the time he died in 2007. I want to use the opportunity of running the London Marathon - my first marathon - to remember him three days before his birthday. More importantly, I want to do what I can to continue his legacy of raising public awareness and support for people living with dementia, and also the family and friends who care for them. The Alzheimer's Society was tremendously supportive to my dad and my family, and I hope the funds I can raise by running for them will bring that help to other people in a similar situation.
I've been running for about 16 years now - ever since deciding I needed to do something about my "new dad belly" after my oldest son was born. I enjoy running with other people, more for company than competition, and this has led to my hobby becoming my work as well. I'm one of the founders of Racefully, a run tracking app that let's you run with friends whenever you want, wherever you are in the world. I've never run a marathon before, and I'm not sure I will again. We'll see.
Early in dad's illness, the whole family agreed that we would do anything we could to help others faced with the same situation. That led to two ITV documentaries being made about my mum & dad: Malcolm and Barbara: A Love Story and Malcolm and Barbara: Love’s Farewell. By showing for the first time the progress of the disease from its earliest stages to the very end, the documentaries achieved their objective: bringing dementia out of the shadows and onto the public and political agenda. My mum has gone on to be an active campaigner for better understanding of the physical and emotional needs of people with dementia and, equally importantly, the impact on their carers. She has served on select committees, become an Ambassador for the Alzheimer's Society and Dementia UK, and been awarded an MBE.
I am immensely proud of my parents for all they’ve achieved in improving the lives of those affected by dementia. I am also very grateful, as is the rest of the family, for the huge amount of support the Alzheimer’s Society provided to us during and after dad’s illness.
There is so much still to be done, from searching for a cure to pressuring for better service provision, from training GPs to improving the design of care homes. Please support them with whatever you can afford to give.