University lecturer leads the way in Running Down Dementia

19 June 2018

A university lecturer whose mum has Alzheimer’s disease is the top fundraiser in Running Down Dementia.

Ian Elliott Running Down Dementia

Ian Elliott Running Down Dementia

Dr Ian Elliott, a senior lecturer in business and public services at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, has so far raised around £1,700 from taking part in Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Running Down Dementia challenge.

Ian Elliott and mum Mary

Ian Elliott and mum Mary

The 39-year-old was inspired by his mum, Mary, to sign up for the campaign, which challenges people to run or walk 100km before the end of August and raise £100. She ran a post office in Northern Ireland for around 40 years but is now living in a care home having had Alzheimer’s, the most common cause of dementia, for around a decade.

Mary Elliott

Mary Elliott

The father-of-two, who lives in Balerno, said:

“My mum was always very hard-working and independent and after 50 years of working life she now doesn’t have the retirement she deserves. Dementia has really limited her independence.

“Her father also had Alzheimer’s, so it was something she was conscious of. But when she started getting symptoms she was very much in denial. She refused to see a doctor or seek any help.

“She didn’t get diagnosed until it was really quite progressed. It was only around four years ago when she was hospitalised with a bad infection and it was clear she needed full-time care, that she was officially diagnosed, but she probably had symptoms for 10 years.

“At first it was just mood changes that were obvious, she didn’t seem like her usual self. She started withdrawing into herself, retreating a bit and not doing things she used to do. For example, she was very house proud and always cleaned the house every night, but she suddenly stopped doing it.

“She didn’t want to, but she had to give up work. She was really committed to serving the community and loved running the post office, talking to people and helping them. It was a huge part of her life.

“Her Alzheimer’s is quite far progressed now, but there are still the occasional moments of lucidity and times when she still laughs, which is lovely. She can’t talk very much, but she will try to say words and she can still communicate through laughter.”

After being astounded by the amount he has raised, Ian decided to double his distance target to 200km.

He said:

“I hadn’t run in years. When I heard about the challenge I thought it would be a really good way to get back into running and get a little bit healthier.

“The whole family have been great at visiting my mum and looking after her, but I live in Scotland so don’t get to see her so much. Doing the Running Down Dementia challenge is one way I feel that I can make a difference.

“I love that the challenge allows you to do the running throughout the summer rather than in one big event where it’s all in one day.

“When I started I couldn’t run 2km without stopping, I was really unfit. I just had to run, walk, run, walk to get myself started. But after just a few weeks I could feel I was getting fitter and wasn’t getting out of breath quite so quickly.

“I’m amazed by how much I’ve raised – my target was originally £100! I’m delighted that people have been so generous.

“I’d encourage other people to take up the challenge. It’s such a good idea as it’s so achievable, even for someone who hasn’t run before or someone like me who hadn’t run in years. It seems like a big target, but when you break it down anyone can do it.”

Ian is among more than 4,000 people taking part in Running Down Dementia this summer. They have so far run more than 175,000km and raised over £185,000.

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

“There are around 70,000 people with dementia in Scotland and Ian’s story shows the devastating effect the condition can have on a family.

“Ian and the thousands of people who are taking part in Running Down Dementia are striking a blow in the battle against dementia. The vital funds raised will power world-class dementia research projects and help bring an end to the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia.”

The Running Down Dementia challenge, which is now in is third year, is open to everyone, regardless of age or fitness.

When someone signs up they create their own supporter page where people can see how they are getting on and sponsor them. Participants can connect tracking apps such as Strava or MapMyFitness to their supporter page to track and record their activity or can manually add runs or walks.

To sign up for Running Down Dementia go to www.runningdowndementia.org/register

For further information about Alzheimer’s Research UK visit www.alzheimersresearchuk.org