Belfast man takes on parkrun tour of Northern Ireland for dementia research

04 June 2018

A Belfast man has set himself the challenge of running all 26 parkruns in Northern Ireland to raise money for pioneering dementia research in honour of his father who died with Alzheimer’s disease.

Paul Clarke with mum and dad

Paul Clarke with mum and dad

This is the third year Paul Clarke has taken on a challenge to support Alzheimer’s Research UK, the official charity partner of parkrun UK. In 2016 he took part in the charity’s inaugural Running Down Dementia challenge to run 100km during the summer and last year he ran the Belfast City Marathon. This year, he decided he wanted to go even further and came up with the idea of a parkrun tour of Northern Ireland.

Paul Clarke - Portrush

Paul Clarke – Portrush

The 47-year-old, who is a regular at the Falls parkrun, started the challenge in April and has so far ticked off the Ballymena, Bangor, Portrush, Carrickfergus, Enniskillen, Larne, Antrim and Derry City 5km events.

Paul, who is an administrator for an energy company, will be running at a different parkrun every Saturday, with just one week’s break for a holiday. He is aiming to finish at his home parkrun on October 13 and is hoping to raise £1,000.

Paul said:

“I thought it would be good to do something different this year and go out of the comfort zone of my home parkrun.

“It’s great to go to parkruns that I haven’t run before as they are all different.

“Alzheimer’s Research UK is a charity that is very close to my heart, as my father died with Alzheimer’s disease.

“A lot of people think dementia is just older people losing their memory, but my dad wasn’t an old man, he was only 69 when he died.”

Paul’s father, Wesley, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2009. He died in 2011, six months after his wife, Margaret, passed away from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Paul said:

“The first time my mum noticed there was a problem with my dad was when he drove her to visit a relation in hospital and when they came out he asked my mum the way home as he couldn’t remember.

“She didn’t think any more of it, but it went on and he continued to have problems with memory loss. Eventually a doctor picked up on it and he was diagnosed.

“I found it very difficult to deal with and I was in denial that there was something wrong with my dad. I thought he’d be okay, but the reality kicked in as things got progressively work. It was very sad to see what was happening to my dad.

At one point my parents were staying in a hotel while they were having work done on their house and my dad left the hotel and got lost. He eventually ended up at a chemist and didn’t know where he was or where he’d come from.

“When my mum died, my wife Gillian and I moved into the family home to look after my dad. He died in my arms after collapsing in front of me.

“It was a very tough time and now I want to support research so other people won’t have to go through the same thing.”

To sponsor Paul go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Paul-Clarke66

Kenneth Foreman, Senior Sporting Events Manager at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Alzheimer’s Research UK is proud to be the official charity partner of parkrun, so we are delighted Paul is taking on this challenge to raise money for us.

“Paul’s parkrun tour of Northern Ireland is a great idea. The vital funds he raises will power world-class dementia research projects and help bring an end to the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia.

“There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK and Paul’s story shows the devastating effect dementia can have on a family.”

If you are inspired to join the fightback against dementia, why not sign up for Running Down Dementia where supporters are challenged to run 100km before the end of August and raise £100? To sign up go to www.runningdowndementia.org/register

Alzheimer’s Research UK is also looking for volunteers to set up a fundraising group in Belfast. Members can get involved in a variety of ways, from getting stuck into fundraising challenges, to representing the charity at events and spreading the word within their local communities.

For more information contact Matt Clarke, Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Regional Fundraising Officer for Northern Ireland on 07584 657 587 or email matt.clarke@alzheimersresearchuk.org

For further information about Alzheimer’s Research UK call 0300 111 5555 or visit www.alzheimersresearchuk.org