Life

Glastonbury pensioner takes up Causeway Coast challenge for Parkinson's charity

Glastonbury and Worthy Farm may be on a 'rest' year, but one of the founder members of the famous Glastonbury Run, Christopher Bond, is marking his first visit to Northern Ireland by running in the Causeway Challenge to raise funds for Parkinson's UK. The 74-year-old tells Gail Bell why it's a charity close to his heart

Christopher Bond (74), one of the original Glastonbury runners, is taking up the Causeway Challenge in September

THERE may be no Glastonbury Festival run this year – with the rock fest having a fallow year to allow the ground at Worthy Farm to recover, the associated traditional 2k, 5k and 10k charity run by locals and festival-goers is also taking a breather – but it won't be a 'rest' year for one of its founders.

Christopher Bond (74) from Wells in Somerset, will instead be taking part in the Causeway Challenge around the Antrim coast this September to raise funds for Parkinson's UK.

The event will mark the pensioner's first visit to Northern Ireland and he will be running in the 12-mile section in tribute to his late uncle who died from Parkinson's – a disease which now affects over 3,700 people in Northern Ireland

A former magazine editor, he has been running at least twice a week for 35 years and hopes the forthcoming run will help contribute towards a long-awaited cure for the debilitating disease which is caused by a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain known as the substantia nigra.

"My uncle was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 20 years ago and died eight years later," he says. "A cure would be too late for him, but I was just so sad that others may face the same issue that I felt I had to do something about it.

"We have seen cures developed for other conditions and I am determined to run in his memory and do all I can to help deliver one for Parkinson’s disease.

"Even though I am approaching 75 now, I want to use the time I have been given, which was so cruelly denied to my uncle and others, to help in the fight against this disease. It was amazing, but also distressing, to see how [my uncle's] physical limitations did not affect his determination to try to lead a normal life."

The Causeway Challenge run aims to raise money for Parkinson's UK

It may not prove as relaxing a visit as a leisurely tour by car, but Christopher's first visit to Northern Ireland and the Antrim coast will still reveal some of the region's most dramatic scenery, including stunning clifftops, grassy footpaths and, of course, the coastline's famous beaches.

"I am really excited to be visiting Northern Ireland for the first time, as I was in my 70s before I became aware that I have Irish blood myself – on my father’s side," he adds. "This just proves that you are never too late to learn about yourself and to test yourself with a new challenge.

"I have run at least twice a week consistently for the past 35 years or so and I helped to found the Festival Run around the Glastonbury Festival site. I usually do around five miles, so I am pushing myself to manage 12 miles, but I am sure I can do it, as I am convinced it is for a good cause."

Well-known Belfast broadcaster Claire McCollum, whose father has the condition, is also supporting the challenge and is encouraging more people to sign up and get involved.

"Parkinson’s UK is a charity which is really close to my heart," Claire says. "It offers vital hope and support to people living with the condition, like my dad, and their loved ones too.

"I have seen first-hand that it is a condition which can take so much from those living with it. The good news is that, like Christopher, who is a terrific role model, everyone can do their part by signing up to take part in this year's Causeway Coast Challenge."

The event offers three different levels of difficulty – 26, 18 and 12-mile routes – and takes place on Saturday, September 8, with runners starting at Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and heading towards Portballintrae.

Those who have signed up for longer distances will keep on track to Portrush (18 miles) or Coleraine, which marks the finish line and the end of the 26-mile course.

Runners will have the option of staying at Ulster University (breakfast included) on both Friday and Saturday night at an additional cost of £44 per night.

Bookings can be taken with registration forms which are available at www.parkinsons.org.uk/causewaycoastultra

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