Paul and Liz have always been keen runners. When their grandson was born with a rare liver disease 22 years ago, running became a way of fundraising as well as a hobby. Here Liz tells their story.
Paul started running before I did. He took part in the first Reading Half Marathon back in 1983 and has taken part in all but one since. It was five years later when I got the running bug. A friend persuaded me to go for a jog and I was soon hooked. The following year I took part in the Reading Half Marathon too, and we’ve both done many more of them since! We both became members of the Reading Roadrunners club and running became something which was fun, kept us fit and enabled us to raise money for charity.
Over the years we raised money for Anthony Nolan, the RNLI, Cardiff University Hospital and various other charities. Our fundraising priorities changed, however, in 1999 when our baby grandson, Finlay, was diagnosed with Alpha 1 anti-trypsin deficiency. It’s a rare condition which none of us knew anything about but our daughter and her husband received information and support from CLDF at a time they really needed it.
We could see the difference CLDF was making to our family and it was good to know that this support was there for every family in our situation. So, we began directing our fundraising efforts towards CLDF. And 22 years later, we are still doing so!
Our favourite fundraising event is the London Marathon. Paul has run this event 29 times and I have done so 11 times. It’s really special running for CLDF, especially when we are part of a team alongside those who have grown up with liver disease. We also love meeting families at the reception afterwards, hearing their stories and knowing we have helped them a little. In fact, in 2019 Paul and I celebrated our Golden Wedding anniversary by running the London Marathon together!
Paul and Liz at the 2019 London Marathon with fellow CLDF fundraiser, Gill
As well as the London Marathon, Paul has done the Poole Marathon eight times (we now live in Bournemouth) plus about 18 others, and we have both done well over a hundred half-marathons. The most exciting event we go to, however, is undoubtedly the World Police and Fire Games which takes place every two years. Paul is eligible for this having spent 27 years in the prison service. He first competed in Melbourne in 1995 and has taken part in every Games since. Around 65 different countries take part, and Paul competes in a cross- country half marathon as well as a 10K and a 5k. At the Games in Chengdu, China in 2019, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame on stage in front of over 10,000 competitors!
Not all of our fundraising involves running, much though we enjoy it. We’ve done quiz nights, car boot sales and we host an annual coffee morning at home each year. This year we even raffled off an AFC Bournemouth shirt. We’re lucky enough to have a fantastic network of family, friends and local businesses who have supported us for many years in whatever form of fundraising we are undertaking. They know we are genuine fundraisers, they are very aware of what CLDF is all about and we always let them know exactly how much has been raised and that every penny goes to the charity. It’s not just about me and Paul either. Finlay and his parents, Leanne and Tom, have done fundraising events, as have his cousins, uncles and aunts – in fact it’s a real family affair. My running buddies, Gill and Sue, have both been sponsored to run for CLDF and our running clubs have also given their support. Together it means our little network has raised over £46,000 and that makes us really proud.
The family were keen supporters of Finlay’s fundraising cycle ride in 2011.
From our point of view we have always been motivated by the fact that CLDF is a small, little-known charity which supports the whole family, not just at the beginning when there are so many questions about what liver disease means, but for children as they grow up. Over the years Finlay has done plenty of fun activities and made friends through CLDF. We have also found the charity to have friendly, approachable staff, who have always been grateful for our help.
So although Paul is 75 and I am 72 we’ve no plans to stop running or fundraising yet. Paul is still a Reading Roadrunner and will be doing the London Marathon later this year and I’m a Bournemouth Jogger and have more half-marathons in me. Finlay is 22, loving life and with big plans for his future. We want that for every young person with a liver condition, which is why we carry on.