Shipping company boss makes huge waves in charity running challenge

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By Philip Tubby | Friday 24 November 2017

A shipping company executive whose mother died with dementia was the top fundraiser in a charity running challenge.

Paul Sanders, from Crosby, in Merseyside, raised an incredible £3,297 by taking part in Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Running Down Dementia initiative, which challenged people to run 100km between May and the end of October.

The 57-year-old was inspired to take on the challenge by his mother Pauline, who was diagnosed with vascular dementia around seven years ago and died in September aged 85.

Kathy Charnley, Paul Sanders

The father-of-two ran a lot of the distance on and around Crosby beach, including regularly taking part in the town’s parkrun. He finished the challenge by competing in the Mersey Tunnel 10K. He also had to battle through a knee injury picked up while playing football.

Paul’s younger sister Kathy Charnley also completed the challenge, while his youngest daughter Anna, 15, and niece and nephew, Sarah, 15, and John Cooper, 18, ran some of the distance to support him.

Paul, the UK general manager for Independent Container Line, said:

“I’m not a runner, I play veterans football, but when I found out about the challenge I thought it would be a great thing to do.

“I was worried I’d be too busy to do it, but I found out that the parkrun was at 9am on Saturdays and it fitted perfectly, as I always visited my mum at about 10.30am on Saturdays, so I had time to do the run before seeing her.

“I thought I could maybe raise about £500, so I’m absolutely delighted to have raised more than £3,000. As well as my family and friends, quite a few of my customers and suppliers made donations and right at the end my company, whose headquarters are in America, donated a thousand dollars.

“I was delighted my knee just about held up during the challenge, although I’ve not been able to run since the Tunnel Run, as I need an operation to clean up the cartilage. When I’ve recovered I’d like to carry on running as it’s been really good for my fitness.”

(L to R) Paul Sanders Sarah Cooper Kathy Charnley Anna Sanders John Cooper

Paul said the first few years following his mum’s diagnosis were the toughest, but said things became a bit more peaceful once she went into a care home.

He said:

Pauls mum, Pauline

“It started off with her being a bit forgetful and she’d repeat herself quite often. As it progressed more, she’d go out of the house and get lost. She’d often wander to church, going different days of the week, different times of the day. She’d go to the shop and try to buy things without having any money. She’d ring me in the evening and then 10 minutes later I’d get another call.

“Once she went into the home, there was an element of peace. As she progressed into a worse state it was almost easier to accept. It sounds strange, but I could accept she had a real illness, while in the early days you think you can cure her with a bit of tough love and snap her out of it, but of course that’s impossible.

“In the early days she was scared and worried about things she was imagining. But as she got deeper into the dementia those types of feelings and fears disappeared, and she was at ease with herself.

“She had a beautiful voice. Her favourite singer was Deanna Durbin, who was her heroine, and when she sang, her voice was almost identical. Even until the last 12 months we would take her to the beach to sit and look at the sea, I’d play a song on the iPod and she’d sing along. We’d ‘challenge’ her with obscure Frank Sinatra and Vic Damone tunes, and she’d pick them up immediately. But eventually even that was taken from her, which was particularly sad.”

Overall 4,062 runners signed up for Running Down Dementia this year, raising £247,000. They ran 367,178km – nearly the distance to the Moon and more than nine times around the Earth.

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

“We can’t thank Paul enough for raising such an incredible total while taking part in Running Down Dementia. We’re also delighted that Paul became a parkrunner while taking on the challenge as Alzheimer’s Research UK is proud to be the official charity partner of parkrun.

“The vital funds raised by Paul and the thousands of runners who have taken part in Running Down Dementia will power world-class dementia research projects and help bring an end to the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia.”

Anyone interested in taking part in next year’s Running Down Dementia challenge can pre-register at

Alzheimer’s Research UK has launched a new cycling initiative called Cycling Down Dementia challenging people to ride either 300 or 1,000 miles before the end of January and raise £150. To sign up go to

For further information about Alzheimer’s Research UK, or to find out more about fundraising for the charity, call 0300 111 5555 or visit

About the author

Philip Tubby