Brothers aim to run 75 miles in one day – all for the love of Mum

Two brothers and their friends will undertake to run 75 miles in Park Runs in one day in aid of Action Cancer. Alan Ladd tells Joanne Sweeney how his mother who died from breast cancer inspired his love of running

Catherine Ladd and her sons (from left) Jonny, Philip and Alan, at a St Stephen's Day race in 2009

IT WILL be an emotional moment for brothers Alan and Jonny Ladd when they hopefully complete their challenge of running 24 parkruns in 24 hours on June 25.

The challenge is in memory of their mother Catherine, who died from breast cancer at the age of 59 nearly three years ago. She introduced her three sons to running by her own example and encouraging them to start with parkruns, group runs over 5k now held in parks all over the world, including in Northern Ireland, on weekend mornings.

Joined by seven of Alan's running mates from Newtownabbey-based Mallusk Harriers, the brothers will attempt to do the routes of all 24 parkruns across the north, starting in Derry on Saturday, June 23 at 9.30am and finishing, all being well, at the Lakeland Forum, Enniskillen, the following morning. They hope to raise £10,000 for Action Cancer.

"It will be really tough and very tight to run each of the 5k runs in this time," admitted Alan, "But we will have a brilliant team around us who will help spur us all on."

Alan’s mother ran in five marathons, with a personal best of 4.18. She completed her first marathon in Paris in 2001and her final marathon in Perpignan in 2007.

Alan says it was the combination of his mum’s love of running and Eddie Izzard’s 27 marathons in 27 days that inspire him to do something so adventurous.

"I would be very surprised if anyone has ever done it before," he said. "We did a 40-mile ultra marathon at the Connemarathon in April but that was continuous running. We have been practising running 5k and then stopping, so this will be quite different."

The team will travel in cars between each of the 5k parkrun locations, covering running a daunting total of 120kms, or 75 miles, in the allocated time.

Alan, a 34-year-old software developer, is originally from Leeds but settled here with his wife Louise and two sons in Mallusk after studying at Queen's University Belfast.

His parents Catherine and Jeff had a close association with the north, with her running in the Belfast marathon and visiting Alan's family and their other son Phil, who also lives in Bangor with his young family. Catherine spent some time in Belfast City Hospital after becoming ill on a visit and died a few weeks later after being airlifted to a hospital close to her home in Leeds.

"Mum was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and after six months of treatment, we had hoped it had gone away," he explained. "But a year later she called me to say that it had returned and this time it was incurable. She passed away 18 months after that. I suppose I was in a state of disbelief; she’d been through it all already, and now it was back and there was nothing we could do.

“My mum loved a challenge; nine months into her second stint of cancer treatment, my brother Jonny ran 100k for charity. My mum completed 15k alongside him. I do wonder if my mum had detected her cancer at an earlier stage, would this have made a difference to her cancer journey? That's why I am doing this challenge in aid of Action Cancer, to raise money to provide more women in the age category with a free breast screening.

"She never let the cancer break her determined spirit; she remained upbeat and positive right to the very end. She's my inspiration."

Action Cancer is the only charity in Ireland and Britain to offer free breast screening to asymptomatic women aged 40-49 and over 70, those who fall outside the NHS screening age range (50-70).

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