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Helen's story: "I wanted to turn sadness into something positive"

Helen explains why she’s running 300km for Dementia UK in the Brighton Marathon.

Helen shows her medal for running.

While having a drink with family after my Grandma’s funeral in October of last year, an advert popped up on my Facebook page inviting me to run the Brighton Marathon in 2018 for Dementia UK. It felt a little bit like fate as my Grandma had lived with dementia for many years prior to her death. I thought that it would be a great way to honour her life and raise money to support others living with this condition.

It was extremely hard watching my Grandma suffer in those years prior to her death. While sometimes she was like the Grandma I always remembered, she was often confused and frightened. I used to send her postcards with pictures of myself, my husband and two children and this helped her recognise us when we visited. She may have not known how we were related to her but she recognised us from the pictures and that helped.

The hardest part of dementia taking over a loved one is the feeling of loss and grief and having to go through that multiple times; once, when the dementia began to take over and again when she actually died. And it was this sadness that I wanted to turn into something more positive and make a difference for other families who are struggling like we did.

I have done a lot of running in the past but only as far as a half marathon and the idea of running 26.2 miles is terrifying. But I decided that I needed to challenge myself and raise money and this was the best way to do it. However I then began to question whether I could do more and whether a marathon was enough, and so I came up with the idea of running ‘300km for Dementia UK’ in 2018. This would be achieved by running a mixture of 5km, 10km, half and full marathons and began in January with a 5km Parkrun. Since then I have completed two 10km and a half marathon and am all set for a 20 mile race at the end of March as well as the Brighton Marathon in April. The year will continue with more Parkruns, 10km and half marathons and will conclude with a 5km race at Disneyworld, Florida in December. The most unusual of these races, which I have nicknamed ‘Human Buckaroo’, will see me running 10km dressed as a horse, picking up Buckaroo items such as a banjo, horseshoes and dynamite on the way! And I am hoping all this running will help me reach my target of £2000 by the end of the year.

As The Marathon approaches, I am getting very nervous but I know that nothing will stop me crossing that finish line. The help and support that Dementia UK has provided has been amazing. It included a marathon training day in January which literally changed the way I thought about running – I have since knocked minutes off all my personal bests. Meeting other people who are on the same journey as me was so inspiring, and it’s helpful to know that others are working hard to meet their goals too. When April 15th comes around, I am going to be nervous and excited, but I know that as long as I keep the memory of my Grandma in my head, and think about the fantastic work that Dementia UK will do with the money I am going to raise, nothing is going to stop me!