Gareth Overton, 48 from Edinburgh is gearing up to complete a 26-mile run in this years Virtual Edinburgh Marathon Festival in support of Alzheimer Scotland.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, the Edinburgh Marathon Festival will take place in a virtual format for 2021. Supporters across the country are rising to the challenge and setting out their own routes from 5k’s to full marathons to complete over the weekend of 29th-30th May.
Gareth has experienced first-hand the impact that dementia has on the person diagnosed and their loved ones as sadly Gareth’s Father Martin was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2007 and his Mother Pat also received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease some years later.
Gareth shares with us:
“My dad was a lifelong athlete, a fitness freak really – a competitive cyclist, runner and triathlete. His memory was failing at 60, he was diagnosed with vascular dementia at 64 and he died aged 74 in 2017. Very soon afterwards my mum, who had cared for Dad throughout those difficult years, was diagnosed herself with Alzheimer’s. My brother and I have worked with an amazing support community of her friends, neighbours and later professional carers to keep her happy and healthy in her own home, but we finally had to move her to a care home in December 2020. She’s currently doing well.”
When it came to choosing a way to support Alzheimer Scotland, Gareth looked to the special bond he shares through running and fitness with his parents:
“Both Mum and Dad had very active, healthy lives. Together they ran a local walking group (in their hometown in Yorkshire) for several years, including overseas trips, and they brought much joy to many people through their love of the outdoors. I’ve inherited my dad’s love of running and when I decided to run my second marathon (my first was a long time ago) I thought it would be good to run it in Dad’s memory and to raise funds for a cause close to my family’s heart.
My dad ran several marathons, and I enjoyed running with him before and after his diagnosis. These days I run with my own children, and Dad’s athletic exploits often come up in the running chat.
My mum is also part of the running story, having run with ten-year-old me at the event that got me into the sport, the inaugural Tadcaster Fun Run in 1983.”
Fundraised support enables Alzheimer Scotland to deliver an extensive range of innovative and personalised support services across the country including the 24 hour Freephone Dementia Helpline (0808 808 3000) which Gareth has benefited from using,
“I’ve used Alzheimer Scotland’s Helpline, and I know such services are the first place many people turn to in their time of greatest need. The wish for nobody to face dementia alone really rings true with me.”
Since 1989, Alzheimer Scotland’s Helpline has supported thousands of people with dementia, their partners, family and friends to provides information, signposting and emotional support. During the coronavirus pandemic, the demand for the Helpline drastically increased.
Like many people who take on a running challenge, Gareth has found the motivation and purpose of his challenge to be an important one:
“It has added meaning to my participation in this event, to be running it in my dad’s memory and contributing something to families such as ours who use services such as Alzheimer Scotland’s.
My training and the event itself have taken on a new purpose and meaning. I’ve been amazed by the support I’ve received from friends and family in the very short time since signing up. I’ll be trying to channel my dad as I run, and I’ll make sure I get some photos to share with my mum, and I’m sure we’ll reminisce about Dad’s old glory days.”
TeamAlzScot are grateful to Gareth and all our Edinburgh Marathon Festival runners taking part in this year’s virtual run as they continue to support Alzheimer Scotland throughout the pandemic.