Runner takes on 30 marathons in 30 days challenge in honour of father who died with Alzheimer’s in war-torn Syria

07 August 2019

Experiencing a loved one decline with dementia is heartbreaking for anyone. But for Fawaz Ghali it was particularly difficult as his dad was living in a war zone and he was unable to see him in the last five years of his life.

Fawaz, who lives in Liverpool, moved to the UK from Syria in 2006 to do a master’s degree and then a PhD in computer science. He originally planned to return home after completing his studies, but due to the outbreak of civil war in the Middle Eastern country, which is still ongoing, he’s been unable to go back since the end of 2011.

His father, Paul, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease around 2008 and died in 2016. In 2012 the family home in Homs was destroyed and the family were forced to flee the city, an event which Fawaz believes contributed to his father’s decline.

Now Fawaz, a senior lecturer in computer science at Liverpool John Moores University, is taking on an extreme running challenge to raise money for dementia research in his father’s honour.

Starting on Sunday 11 August, the 37-year-old father-of-three is attempting to run a marathon (26.2miles) every day for 30 days to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

He said:

“It was so hard only having contact with my father by phone or Skype. It was so painful to not be able to see him and support him.

“He eventually forgot who I was. I would speak to him on the phone and it would be like he was speaking to a stranger, not to his son.

“The family home was in Homs, one of the main cities where the fighting has been. The house was destroyed, and my family had to leave the city and move to a village.

“When my dad found out his home had been destroyed, he cried. It was a big shock for him, and I think the experience of having to leave the family home and move somewhere else contributed to his decline.”

Fawaz hopes people will join him for his runs, which will be on different routes around Liverpool. People can run a full marathon or part of it and Fawaz will match his pace with other runners. He can be contacted through Twitter – @FawazGhali – and Strava at www.strava.com/athletes/32624230. To sponsor him go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/fawaz30marathons30days

He said:

“I’m confident I can complete this challenge – I’m already running a half marathon every day in preparation and have run 2,700 miles this year. It is not the mileage that’s the biggest challenge for me, it’s the lack of recovery time. I just hope I can avoid injuries.

“I go running early in the morning so I can finish my run and then take my children to school and go to work. I really enjoy it and I find I’m more productive during the day having been for a run.

“I’m so pleased to be taking on this challenge and doing something positive in my father’s honour.

“When my father had Alzheimer’s, it was so hard knowing that there were no treatments to halt the disease. But working at a university I understand the power of research and I know that, with funding, research will provide the answer to dementia.”

Tim Parry, director at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“With an estimated 50million people around the world living with dementia, which is projected to grow to 152m by 2050, it is the most urgent health challenge facing the world today.

“Fawaz’s story shows the devastating effect dementia can have on a family. It’s hard to imagine how difficult it was for him to cope with the stress and heartbreak of having a loved one with dementia living thousands of miles away in a war zone.

“We are in awe of Fawaz for taking on this incredible running challenge for Alzheimer’s Research UK in memory of his father and we look forward to following his progress every day.

“We can’t thank him enough for raising vital funds to help us in our mission to make life-changing research breakthroughs for people with dementia.”

For more information about taking on your own fundraising challenge for Alzheimer’s Research UK go to https://fundraise.alzheimersresearchuk.org/

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