(TLDR: go to my “just giving” page here!)
At the end of last year I made a decision that I am currently questioning. After too many years of relative inactivity, and steadily getting more and more unfit (also known as fat), I decided that something must be done.
It’s been too long and I’m too old and delicate to return to rugby, so instead I’ve started running quite slowly in a straight line.
Running for long periods of time has never really been my thing. I’ve always preferred there to be a reason. Motivation was required. So, I have committed to running the Liverpool half marathon on April 15th.
That commitment was to myself, but in the cold and wet evenings of Liverpool, it’s easy to reconsider/see sense. Instead, I’m making the commitment to a local charity, North West Cancer Research, and I’m asking for your help.
A worthy cause
NWCR set out to help deal with some of the common cancers that disproportionately affect the people of the North West of England.
For example, did you know that liver cancer rates in the North West are 28% higher than the national average lung cancer 26% higher and oesophageal cancer 24% higher. The major cancer charities are obviously great. However, their funding strategies are not specifically tailored to the local need.
Since 2000, NWCR have funded more than £40 million of world-class research, addressing cancer inequalities and championing the local research community to pave the way for a cancer-free future.
The science is great. The one positive aspect of higher than normal cancer rates locally is that we can access the most appropriate patients to further our research, and, importantly, are in position to move the research back to the patients as quickly as possible. We really do have joined up services leading from bedside to the lab bench and back to the bedside again.
Of course, the research that is supported affects everyone around the world; for example Liverpool Head and Neck Centre can legitimately claim to be the best in the world.
There are a variety of reasons why the rates are so bad locally, but partly it can be put down to income and treatment inequalities. NWCR do more than supporting scientific research, they also support research into the underlying drivers behind the health inequalities and, importantly, try and find ways to rectify the root causes.
Supporting top quality research in the North West also has an indirect effect; it attracts more people to come and work here. This in turn further enhances the research environment. Once you hit that critical mass in a specific area, the bigger funders begin to take note, bringing in more money to our region. £1 given to NWCR can lead to the equivalent of £5-10 research in our region. Good bang for the buck.
For local people, there is an extra point to note; donated money not only goes to research that is relevant to the local population, but also the money supports people. Excellent scientists, health workers, psychologists, and clinicians come to the North West to live and work. This means that these people are paying council tax and using local shops and services, enriching the environment and giving back some of the money you donate.
On top of all that, there are lower overhead costs on the grants as we don’t need to pay London weightings on salaries, and the charity isn’t spending a large chunk of its donation on building a massive building in prime real estate.
Full disclosure, my lab has benefited from NWCR funding. One member of my team (Dr Lee Troughton), is working on an exciting project trying to turn off a molecular switch associated with head and neck cancer (read about that project here). However, NWCR funding is very competitive; every other grant application I have put in to NWCR has not been successful! I’ve sat on the NWCR PhD applications assessment panel and the success rate is below 10%.
Donate via my “just giving” page here!
I’ll probably do little updates on my training in the next few weeks (you can follow me on Strava). For now, just a couple of pics and comments.
1. Liverpool is beautiful. I already knew this, but as my training runs have been getting longer, I have been getting to see more and more of our wonderful city.
Running from my home in Aigburth, my favourite routes take in Sefton Park, Princes Park, parts of the riverside promenade, Festival Gardens then on Otterspool, or through Sefton Park, Greenbank Park and on to the Mystery. Even at night, they’re all stunning in their own ways.
2. It hardly ever rains but there are puddles everywhere. Actually it rains a lot but its quite easy to find a gap in the weather. I’ve started run commuting 2-3 times a week and, while I don’t mind getting soaked on the way home, mostly its just a bit chilly.
3. I’m old and easily broken. I knew this already too. The general complaints that my legs have been making have changed from an initial “WHAT WAS THAT?!” to a more tolerable “OK, at least we’ll get a day off.” The real issue has come when I not respected the rest periods. Breaking a few toes in December didn’t help either! Today my calf is hurting (again) and, again, I am concerned about the lost training time. Waiting for recovery is hard.
4. I’m learning a lot. I now listen to podcasts while running so that I have something other than the distance travelled to think about! Science, economics, history, comedy, it all works and I’m always looking out for more suggestions.
Donate via my “just giving” page here!