Posted on Friday 12 October 2012 by Ulster Business

Running Man

Ulster Business editor Symon Ross writes about why he has taken on the challenge of running the 2013 London Marathon in aid of the Alzheimer's Society.

I'll get this out in the open straight away – I hate running.

Well, hate is a strong word. But I've certainly never enjoyed going for a run.

To me, it is exercise without a point, other than your own fitness. There's no game, nobody to beat but yourself. It is, for lack of a better word, boring.

To run any kind of meaningful distance takes too long. Running for a long time is also difficult to do. And did I mention it is boring?

Now, you might be thinking I'm just not someone who enjoys sport. In truth, I love sport and have played everything from team games like football, basketball and rugby to solo sports like tennis and golf. I was the sort of kid who was out playing football until it was dark most nights growing up.

But I hated athletics and especially cross country running. To me, running always felt like it required a different sort of fitness. It was about pure physical ability and offered no chance to be good by using your brain, by perfecting timing, deploying tactics or by having superior co-ordination.

No, the type of people who are good at running are born runners. They enjoy the relentless boredom of it and seem to revel in pushing the pain barrier. Football has left me with the knees and ankles of a 50-year-old and no desire to put them through any more!

So, what better idea could there be for someone who so dislikes running than to sign up to run the London Marathon?

This somewhat surprising decision came about because my brother and I had been thinking of doing something to raise money for and awareness of dementia. Our mum has a relatively rare condition called Pick's Disease, a form of early onset dementia similar in many ways to Alzheimer's.

She was diagnosed with the condition about six years ago at the age of 56. She had already been noticing some of the signs common to this form of early onset dementia for about 18 months before that, such as confusion, loss of vocabulary and poor short term memory.

Every year since she has been in a steady decline. We lose a bit more of her personality each year and today she finds it hard to communicate or to do very much at all without my dad's help.

As with any experience of dementia, it has been a really tough few years for our family. My mum was always the vivacious, chatty, proverbial life and soul of the household, a kind person with a heart for helping people in her community. While this means there are many good friends now prepared to help her out, it is heart-breaking to see someone who so embraced life become so subdued, confused and withdrawn. She has lost her independence and much of her enjoyment of life, although we still get wonderful moments of the old mum, particularly when she is in the company of her four young grandchildren.

Seeing the effect dementia has had on both of my parents has moved me to want to raise funds for the Alzheimer's Society to support its work to improve the lives of people with dementia today, as they search for a cure for tomorrow.

So, why do a marathon? Well, I figured that if I want to raise money about something I really care about, it would make more impact if it wasn't easy. It would send out a signal that this means a lot to me if I took on a challenge that was going to require me to train three or four times a week for the next six months. To put in long hours running early in the morning and late at night on cold winters days.

Just writing those words fills me with dread. At the moment I am running three times a week, but only for about 45 minutes, and covering 4.5 to 5 miles. I could probably get up to 6 miles before I'd need to throw up. That's still 20 miles short of what I need to be able to do by April 2013.

It is going to be hard, I've no doubt about that. But I also have no doubt I will do it. My brother and I were given gold bond charity places by the Alzheimer's Society and we have pledged to raise at least £2,000 each.

If you feel inclined to support us, please go to our just giving page where you can find out a bit more about why we are supporting the Alzheimer's Society.



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