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How an Alzheimer’s Research UK cheer squad saved my marathon

I’m approaching my 18th (yes, 18th!) mile of running, and I’m not going to lie, I’m struggling. The initial euphoria that saw me more or less coasting for the first half of the race has started to slowly erode. The aches and pains are seriously kicking in (is that just a niggle in my hip, or the start of something to really worry about? and while we’re at it – what’s going on with my little toe?) but worse, the mental conviction is also starting to wane.

What on earth was I thinking? I’ve never been sporty. Why the hell did I convince myself I could run a whole marathon. Surely the human body (or, at least, this human’s body) isn’t designed for this.

And then I turn a corner and up ahead a flash of orange appears. At first in the distance, then getting nearer as I squint in the autumnal sunlight to get a better look, is that… someone running the wrong way? Someone, in jeans and a very familiar looking orange t-shirt running… towards me?

I do a double-take, and before I know it I’m engulfed in cheers and chants. My friend (the legendary Strawny) has grabbed me by the hand and is now running with me in the right direction. Euphoria floods through me as I see the other friendly faces – warm, encouraging, noisy – at the Alzheimer’s Research UK cheer point.

Among the people cheering me on are those whose lives have been impacted by dementia. Someone who is herself living with vascular dementia, others who have lost much-loved parents, others who have bravely shared their own stories or simply shown up here, wanting to do what they can to help and support the runners.

With all this love and positivity, how could I fail? I stop, stock up not only on snacks (proudly presented to me on a tray of delights) but also hugs, good wishes and a whole heap of encouragement, and then run on. More determined than ever before, buoyed by the generosity of “my” squad; plodding for sure, but doggedly so, putting one leg in front of the other until I cross that line.

Everything you’ve heard about Alzheimer’s Research UK’s legendary supporters is true. Our cheer squads really are the best in the business, and having experienced them from both sides now I would just encourage anyone who can to please sign up. Your support can literally make all the difference. Without it I honestly don’t know if I could have completed those long and arduous 26.2 miles. It was an experience I will never forget, and now I cannot wait to get back on the other side of the barriers, cheering my heart out, for next year’s batch of runners. It’s the very least I can do.

Sign up to run for Alzheimer’s Research UK in 2022 to experience for yourself the power of our cheer squads.

About the author

Jude Clarke

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