Marathon begins year-long charity running challenge

Keith and Catherine Fowler will be running a combined 5,000 miles, including races and training, throughout 2016
Keith and Catherine Fowler will be running a combined 5,000 miles, including races and training, throughout 2016
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A WORTHING couple begins a year of challenges today to help raise funds for Heart Research UK’s next aortic dissection masterclass.

Keith and Catherine Fowler will be running a combined 5,000 miles, including races and training, throughout 2016, in memory of Catherine’s father, Tim Fleming, who died suddenly aged 69, from an aortic dissection last year.

The aim is to raise £1 per mile to hit the target of £5,000, with Catherine running her first marathon and Keith his first ultra-marathon as part of the challenge.

“Dad spent this life lending a hand to those who needed help, offering advice, support and in his final few years of retirement helping others win back their livelihoods,” said Catherine.

“Dad always held a deep-seated belief that everyone was entitled to justice.

“We will both be taking on a number of first time running challenges in Dad’s memory, to raise money for Heart Research UK, which directly funds research into early diagnosis, improving the life of those who have suffered and ultimately preventing deaths from aortic dissection.”

The condition means the main artery from the heart ruptures and can be life-threatening if left untreated. In some cases, patients may require emergency aortic arch surgery to repair the aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body. It affects three to four people in every 100,000 in the UK.

Regular runner Keith, 37, is a member of Worthing Striders. He has set a physical trial of seven marathons and ultra-marathons throughout this year.

His first is the Dark Star River Marathon today, a demanding 28.2-mile muddy run up one side of the River Adur and back down the other side.

Keith, who is head of client services at Black Isle Group, has run five marathons in the past seven years but has never attempted an ultra-marathon.

He said: “We are raising awareness and funds for the condition that took Tim’s life so suddenly and unexpectedly. We’re taking on an epic challenge for an epic man.

“I have never done so many marathons in a single year and the short time between some of the runs will be a challenge.

“We want to raise money for Heart Research UK because of the dedicated aortic dissection research and masterclasses they fund. We struggled to find anyone as dedicated to it in the UK.”

Catherine, 39, is a senior manager at EDF Energy. She does not consider herself a regular runner but has completed a half marathon. She is attempting three smaller runs and taking on her first marathon in honour of her father.

She describes Tim, who lived in Richmond, as an immense inspiration: “He was an amazing husband, an incredible father and grandfather. We all miss him so much, and it makes the pain all the more difficult to bear when we understand that AD is something that could be prevented.”

Catherine said her father always believed in a level playing field and that everyone deserved a fair chance, so now they were running the 5,000 miles to give people who suffer an aortic dissection a fair chance.

She added: “I am most excited for the London Marathon and running the 26.2 distance for the first time. The support will be immense and I know that Dad will be with me every step of the way.

“I hope that some good can come from all this pain and sadness. I hope we can make a difference and I hope we can save a life. I only wish it could have been my father’s.”

From April to October, Keith will be running on a selection of terrains, from the streets of Brighton with a backdrop of the sea during the Brighton Marathon to the scenic countryside of Worthing in the Three Forts Marathon.

He also plans to tackle a tough 50km race along the paths of the High Weald Challenge, running over a picturesque route of rolling hills and ancient woodlands. Other races include South Down Marathon, Bacchus Marathon and Beachy Head Marathon.

Keith and Catherine will run together in the Richmond half marathon on September 18, the day before the first global Aortic Dissection Awareness Day.

They hope their family will join them there, including their two children, Clodagh, six, and Paddy, four, as there is a mini mile run.

Keith and Catherine will be covering all entry fees, so every penny raised will go directly to the masterclass fund, as well as supporting other research into aortic dissection treatments.

Heart Research UK has already funded two masterclasses in the last two years, where cardiac surgeons can learn specialist knowledge and skills along with added hands-on experience with leading experts in surgery techniques. These can then be used and shared in centres across the country.

The next masterclass will cost £25,000. The charity has recently created an Aortic Dissection Fundraising Support Group on Facebook (www.facebook.com/aorticdissectionHRUK) which has brought together people who want to raise money and awareness of aortic dissection and build a strong community of those wanting to make a difference in this field.

Besides the masterclasses, Heart Research UK has also awarded grants which will aim to help aortic dissection patients. Recently, a team led by Dr Alberto Figueroa at Kings College London and St Thomas’s Hospital completed a Translational Research Grant of £93,032, to research the use of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to provide a virtual model of the diseased aorta.

The results were promising and showed MRI is a safer method than using the currently used CT scan. It will help doctors making decisions on how and when it is best to treat aortic dissection.

To donate to Catherine and Keith’s cause, visit www.runningforAD.org or text TIMF69 and an amount 70070.

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