Why I’m Going for Gold at the London Marathon
Supporting, support, supporter. Three words with three different meanings and impacts on how I have come to be running the Virgin Money London Marathon.
I am a member of the Going for Gold team, a group of runners led by Steve Batchelor raising money for dementia research in honour of his fellow 1988 Olympics hockey gold medallist Imran Sherwani.
My husband Robert Clift was also part of that victorious Great Britain team, so my son Ollie and I decided to join the Going for Gold runners.
Although I am running for Imran, in my heart I am running for Louise, his amazing wife.
Back in 1988 Louise and I stood side by side as the team flew back from Seoul with their gold medals.
I often describe them as being the last of the real amateurs as their achievement was before the ‘gold rush’. As a supporting partner we had supported them through injury, team selection, matches won and lost and the highs and lows of competing at international level and the challenges it brought as an amateur. I know that I did on occasion mutter the immortal words “it’s only a game!”.
Supporting them also created a bond between the partners. As we looked into the future, I think we knew that our lives would also be connected by their achievements and indeed it has been. Back in those post-1988 days we envisaged various life events we would celebrate together, but none of us would have expected to face the news that Imran would be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in his 50s.
Supporting someone with Alzheimer’s is a whole different ball game and I admire Louise for her incredible bravery. Her comments in this video about her experience are so powerful and emotional.
As a family we have sadly watched relatives including my own father deal with dementia. We have seen how difficult it is for them individually but also for those who support them.
I remember finishing work and on the way home visiting my father. I will admit that I did not handle those visits well. I was tired and he on occasions would be in what I would call a ‘loop’, which was all a recipe for a nightmare visit.
On reflection, I should have reached out for support, I should have shared what I was going through with my employer, friends and family.
Looking back dealing with this was a dark and difficult place. The impact on the person providing support and care is significant, yet so often we focus just on the person with dementia. My ask would be to reach out to the person who is providing care and support and ask a simple question: “How are you doing?”.
It is also important for me to remember that as is the nature of Alzheimer’s there were days when my father was ‘his old self’, the person that I will always love and admire.
The Going for Gold team are raising funds for Alzheimer’s Research UK to help ensure future generations are not impacted by dementia.
To do our bit Ollie and I have set a personal target of raising £6,000. To achieve this and to reach the finishing line I will need to push myself.
Ollie is impacted by an ankle injury, but he is a strong runner. I, on the other hand, would never describe myself as a runner and a knee injury has made it even harder.
Ask me to walk miles and no problem, tell me to run miles and the shutters come down, which is a bit of a challenge to running a marathon! But I have now managed to run up hills, around parks and took delight recently when someone walking turned to their child and said “oh let the runner come through”. The term ‘the runner’ was music to my ears.
On the day, I will need some encouragement which is where I hope the crowd, family, friends and colleagues will come in to keep my spirits up.
For anyone looking to support Alzheimer Research UK then my advice would be to just go and choose a challenge, whether that’s running, walking, cycling, baking, or anything else. Your achievement will be your own very special gold medal. Check out the charity’s website for fundraising ideas and to get a free fundraising pack.
If you’d like to support Ollie and my fundraising, go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Helen-Beck22
About the author
Helen is running the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon with her son Ollie. She is part of the Going for Gold team fundraising in honour of 1988 Olympics hockey gold medallist Imran Sherwani, who has Alzheimer’s disease. Helen’s husband Robert Clift was also part of the victorious Great Britain team at the Seoul Games. Helen has worked for over 25 years in financial services and has recently started a plural portfolio career.