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Graham's story: honouring my dad by running a marathon for Diabetes UK

Graham smiling with his father

Graham Ward

Graham's father diagnosed at age 3.

Dad had always hoped I would complete a marathon one day.

After watching his father's lifelong battle with type 1 diabetes, Graham decided to honour his wish of his son completing a marathon. Determined to get fit and healthy, Graham kicked off his running journey.

Journey with diabetes

Dad's journey with diabetes

My father had suffered from type 1 diabetes since the age of three. As he approached his 73rd birthday, diabetes had affected his life for nearly 70 years.

Dad was in increasing ill health. 16 years since his right leg was amputated, 13 since his eyesight became too poor to drive and 10 since a triple heart bypass. The effects of diabetes were presenting again. An ulcer on Dads left foot seemed certain to rob him of that leg too. 

Dad was admitted to hospital on 4th November and died 10 days later. His heart could take no more. Diabetes a contributing factor on the death certificate. 

Activity

Stepping outside of my comfort zone

In January 2019 like many, I was feeling the Christmas indulgence. Whilst I’d been going to the gym regularly for a few years, I was in a comfort zone. 5k on a treadmill the height of my exertion. My fitness levels weren’t going up and my weight wasn’t coming down.

My trigger moment came at four year old's party, of all places. Two of my neighbours had started running and I felt left out. I joined their early morning running routine. And as time went on, I gradually upped the pace, distance and regularity of my runs.

Having completed a competitive 10k and then The Great South Run in good times, I felt the time was right to run a marathon. Would I ever be this fit again? 

 

Diabetes UK and me

Deciding to run for charity

I wanted to run either Brighton (my local) or London (iconic), and in the end my decision was made for me.

Wanting to run for charity, there was only one I had in mind; Diabetes UK. With charity places still available for Brighton, I signed up on 31st October. Dad had subscribed to Diabetes UK his whole life.

In 2007, my brother tragically died in a fire and his girlfriend also suffered from type 1. As a result, we held a few events in his memory and raised funds for Diabetes UK back then. I think since then, we’ve felt a natural connection to the charity and so it was an obvious choice to fundraise for Diabetes UK. 

 

Drawing inspiration from dad

Having signed up to the marathon only two weeks prior, my run takes on even greater significance. Dad had always hoped I would complete a marathon one day. Through my twenties, other family members did so, but I couldn’t abide the thought of 26 miles pounding the pavements. That steady 5k on the treadmill very much my comfort zone. 

Now 34, I desperately wanted Dad to see me over the line. That’s not to be, but I’ll draw inspiration from him in my training and on the day.

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