Runner set to earn 30th race medal on 30th birthday as she takes on London Marathon for dementia research in memory of mum

16 April 2018

A Twickenham woman who took up running to help her cope with the heartbreak of her mum’s Alzheimer’s disease is aiming to collect her 30th race medal on her 30th birthday by completing the Virgin Money London Marathon.

Hannah Kurzawski

Hannah Kurzawski

Hannah Kurzawski is taking on the marathon on Sunday 22 April to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK in honour of her mum who died in June last year aged 60.

Hannah, who is a sub-editor for a maritime engineering company, first got into running in March 2015 through the NHS Couch to 5k programme and then became a regular at her local parkrun at Crane Park. She found running to be good ‘therapy’ for dealing with the stress and heartbreak of her mum’s dementia.

Ola Kurzawski (Hannah's mum)

Ola Kurzawski (Hannah’s mum)

She earned her first race medal in February 2016 at the Hampton Court Half Marathon and collected 12 more medals that year, including running the London Marathon. Another 13 races followed last year and she has completed three races so far this year, including The Big Half last month.

Hannah, who is also running the Berlin Marathon for the UK’s leading dementia research charity in September, said:

“I started running in 2015 as a way to help me cope with my mum’s illness. It was very tough for all the family and running helped me take my mind off it. Running is free therapy.

“I go to parkrun with my dad and it’s our thing we do together. We started doing parkrun just as my mum went into a care home and it really helped us and was a good distraction from what was happening with my mum.

“I caught the running bug and I soon found myself entering races and collecting medals. I decided to set myself the challenge of earning 30 running medals by my 30th birthday. When I found out the 2018 London Marathon would be on my birthday it was just too good an opportunity to miss. I thought I simply have to be at that start line and make it my 30th race.

“I’m so chuffed to be running the London Marathon for Alzheimer’s Research UK. I was thrilled when I found out they are the official charity of parkrun, it’s such a perfect cause for me to support.

“I want to live in a world where dementia no longer exists, where individuals and families don’t have to suffer like my mum and we did.

“With enough research I truly believe a cure can one day be found and I want to play my part in helping to achieve that.”

Hannah’s mum, Ola Kurzawski, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2012 aged 55. Although often thought of as a disease of older people, around four per cent of people with Alzheimer’s are under 65.

Hannah Kurzawski Great North Run with Sally Gunnell

Hannah Kurzawski Great North Run with Sally Gunnell

Hannah said:

“The symptoms started when my mum was 53. She was a very organised lady, but we noticed she was getting a bit clumsy and forgetful. It was little things like when she got out of the car she’d forget to shut the door or she’d leave lights on when she left a room. It sounds trivial, but that wasn’t my mum.

“My dad took her to the doctors and she had a year of tests. We just didn’t know what it was, we thought it might be the menopause, but she was eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“I was definitely not aware someone could get Alzheimer’s so young. I always just assumed it was a disease that elderly people got. I certainly hadn’t expected to have a parent with dementia at the age of 24.

“It took a few years to get my head around it. At first her symptoms were not too bad, she was just forgetful and would get frustrated, but she got worse and worse.

“It got to the point where she couldn’t be left by herself and began getting quite aggressive with us. She kept asking to go home, even though she was, but she thought she lived at her childhood home. Eventually she needed 24-hour care, which we just couldn’t provide, and she had to move into a care home. It was heart-breaking to see my mum slowly deteriorate.

“She died in June, but we lost her years before that. The mum we knew was gone. It was tough, it was an awful few years.

“It’s so upsetting that there’s now this big gap in my family. My mum won’t be there on my wedding day later this year. Her future that she had planned with my dad has been taken away.”

Hannah has so far raised around £2,500 for pioneering dementia research. To sponsor her go to https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/hannahk

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

“Hannah’s story shows the devastating effect dementia can have on a family.

“The vital funds raised by her and the 300 other amazing people running the London Marathon for Alzheimer’s Research UK – a record for the charity – will power world-class dementia research projects and help bring an end to the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia.”

If you would like to take on your own running challenge for Alzheimer’s Research UK, why not sign up for Running Down Dementia? The campaign, which launched for a third year earlier this month, challenges people to run 100km before the end of the summer and raise £100. Go to www.runningdowndementia.org