Being part of the team leading the Dementia Revolution from behind the scenes and simultaneously being a runner was an amazing experience. I gained new insights into the work of my colleagues in the sporting, brand and comms teams, and well as a new understanding of what it’s like to be a (very tired and stiff) supporter. A couple of weeks before race day I started to think about my marathon journey, and it’s been much longer than the sixteen-week training plan suggests.
My mum was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s aged 48 while I was still at university. Like a lot of people, I was ill-informed about dementia and very naive about what the future would hold. The realisation of what dementia would mean for my family unfolded very slowly in tandem with the progression of her disease. I would like to say I was one of those people who immediately took charge and fought hard against the system and the disease, but I wasn’t. I did what needed to be done and the attitude at home was ‘keep calm and carry on’.
A part of me really needed to do something proactive, to try and make a change for a better future. This need for action is what drives many charity supporters to sign up for a marathon, a skydive or a trek. But not me, I signed up for the third sector! I took a big pay cut, headed right back down the one rung of the career ladder that I’d managed to climb and joined the Alzheimer’s Society as an administrator. I worked supporting Alzheimer’s Society colleagues who ran services across Yorkshire, experiencing first-hand their dedication to the people they support. After a while I took a secondment working with the Society’s Ambassadors coordinating opportunities for people with dementia to share their stories and test new assistive technology.
I had my eye on becoming a fundraiser, so I volunteered to work on fundraising activities alongside my normal role. At the same time, mum’s dementia became worse and I decided it was time to move home and support my dad. Like a gift from the gods Alzheimer’s Society began advertising for a Community Fundraiser in East Anglia so I applied, got the job and moved. In this role I met some amazing supporters who were willing to give blood, sweat and tears to raise funds for the cause. Crucially, I also worked with an amazing and unorthodox manager who taught me that to be a success in the sector I needed to be myself and work hard; I didn’t need to mimic others.
I eventually decided that I’d like to become a full-time Corporate Fundraiser and, as if they were listening, Alzheimer’s Research UK advertised a role. Seven years on, I’m still working with the most engaged, passionate, inspiring and all-round astounding group of colleagues anybody could ask for. When Dementia Revolution launched it felt like all the pieces of the preceding decade had fallen into place. The two charities that I feel so passionately about came together to lead the charge towards a cure and I was lucky enough to be part of it.
Mum is the reason I ran the Virgin Money London Marathon for Dementia Revolution, and she’s the reason I was able to cross the finish line on Sunday 28 April. However, I also ran for everybody else who I met on my journey to the start line (whether they know it or not!). I ran for:
- Friends who supported me and dad.
- For the amazing dementia support workers I met at Alzheimer’s Society.
- The Ambassadors and Champions who are brave enough to share their stories of dementia.
- For all the amazing fundraisers I’ve met who go through, pain, laughs and embarrassment to raise the next £1 for our cause.
- And for all the great colleagues I’ve worked with, particularly the Alzheimer’s Research UK crew.
Behind this one runner was an army of people who had led me to the marathon start line and guided me over the finish. I’m sure there was a similar list of inspiring people behind every Dementia Revolution runner in the London Marathon 2019, and to me this feels really revolutionary. Add us all together and we’re a powerful force who will overthrow old attitudes and lead the charge towards a cure for dementia.
How did I feel at the end of my first (and last) marathon? Honestly, I felt underwhelmed. I didn’t get that rush of pride or emotion as I crossed the finish line and I was left wondering whether I’d missed something? Then, as I passed the baggage lorries my dad sent a text:
‘I’m so proud of you, now I’m crying like a baby’
… then everything hit me, and I cried like a baby too!