Father’s memory gives son the encouragement to conquer gruelling four-day race


By Philip Tubby | Thursday 30 November 2017

The memory of his father’s support is what kept James Widdowson going during his exhausting four-day, four-race running challenge in Cyprus – which he entered to raise much-needed funds for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

The father-of-three, from Stroud, came 79th out of over 200 people who took on the Cyprus International 4-Day Challenge at the end of November.

James Widdowson

John Widdowson

James, who is Head of Competitor Intelligence at Dyson, has so far raised nearly £1,300 of his £5,000 target for the UK’s leading dementia research charity. The Cirencester Athletics Club member was motivated to take on the fundraiser – which saw him compete in a 6km time trial, a 12km uphill race, and a half marathon, before finishing with a 10k run in Paphos – after his father battled dementia undiagnosed for years.

The funds will be used to support a research project exploring ways to diagnose dementia earlier. James believes his father, John, was living with the condition for over a decade before finally receiving a diagnosis of vascular dementia. In that time, he saw a complete change in his father’s personality, which put a huge strain on his family as they did not know what was causing it.

Speaking about the challenge, James said:

“My father always supported my running, from back when I did cross country at school, to being there to cheer me on at my first two London Marathon’s in the 90s. He would have absolutely loved this one. It was phenomenal, especially the camaraderie of everyone taking part. The challenge was not plain sailing though and it exposed my weaknesses. The memory of my father gave me encouragement when I needed it most and I came back fighting. I was delighted to be placed in the top third competitors, as there are so many top athletes who take part. Overall, it was an incredible experience.”

James, who turned 44 while out in Cyprus, added:

“I’m glad I’ve been able to support Alzheimer’s Research UK with this challenge. The more people you talk to about dementia, the more you become aware of how many it actually affects. My father’s symptoms started long before he was diagnosed. He used to be really social, he was the life and soul of his friendship group, but he started to withdraw from the things he loved. This put a huge strain on my family, because we knew there was something seriously wrong, but we didn’t know what it was until it was too late. Research into earlier diagnosis is vital as it could directly benefit every one of us, just as it may have benefitted my father.”

The funds raised by James will be added to the total raised by Dyson, a charity partner of Alzheimer’s Research UK. So far, the Malmesbury-based technology company has raised more than £130,000 for the UK’s leading dementia research charity.

Vicky Lake, Regional Corporate Partnerships Manager at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“A huge well done to James from everyone at Alzheimer’s Research UK. He did a fantastic job on his challenge and would have made his father proud. James’ fundraising is going towards a vital part of the work at Alzheimer’s Research UK. We know that to bring about effective treatments, we must find ways to diagnose dementia earlier as the brain is being damaged long before symptoms first start to appear. By funding research in this area, we hope to be able to diagnose the condition before the damage is irreversible. We’re so grateful for James’ support.”

To donate to James’ fundraiser, please visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/james-widdowson


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Philip Tubby