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From 400 metres to 5k - Norwich man to remember his RAF veteran father in poignant race

PUBLISHED: 17:14 12 September 2017 | UPDATED: 17:14 12 September 2017

Simon Alcock. Photo: The Big C

Simon Alcock. Photo: The Big C

The Big C

A Norwich man will mark a year since his RAF veteran father was diagnosed with terminal cancer by taking part in a challenging race - having previously not run further than 400 metres.

Simon Alcock’s father Norman was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in September last year after a lesion on his head didn’t respond to antibiotics.

Simon was at work as at assistant practitioner for Norfolk social services when he first heard of his father’s diagnosis.

He suffered the news badly and it took him several months to fully process the news and later his grief.

This was something he attributed to dealing with numerous cases at work, where he’s taken referrals around the time of a cancer diagnosis, through to the time the patient passes away.

As a result, Simon found it difficult to reconcile his professional persona with how he felt about his father’s diagnosis.

Two weeks after diagnosis, 84-year-old Norman was admitted to hospital and by his second day in hospital, he became a palliative patient. He remained in hospital - at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and then the Norwich Community Hospital - until he passed away on January 12, 2017.

When Simon was a child, Norman would take him to various sporting activities, mainly football, cricket and judo.

And when Simon was diagnosed with asthma at 13 - and with Norman being a decent runner when he was in the RAF as a youngster - he tried to encourage Simon to take up running to help control his breathing.

Simon wasn’t really interested at the time. However, just after Norman’s diagnosis he decided he was going to have a go.

This time last year Simon could barely manage 400 metres before his breathing issues kicked-in.

But after rigorous training he achieved a respectable time at his first race last March.

And he has since joined Norwich Road Runners and taken part in several informal and formal runs around the county.

Simon said: “My breathing and all-round fitness has come on in leaps and bounds since I started running. Since my first race in March, my personal best for 5k has improved by over seven minutes and I now feel confident tackling longer distances.

“Initially I found it very difficult to divorce the benefits I was getting from running from my reasons for initially trying it. I don’t mind admitting that I bawled my eyes out for about 10 minutes after I got home from the first Wroxham race. I was also quite teary for several hours after a subsequent 10K race.

“It wasn’t lost on me that dad started running as a result of being in the RAF, that my first try at 10K was on an RAF base and the reason I started running was because of dad’s encouragement.

“I’d like to think that I’ve moved on from that and that running is something I now do because I enjoy it.”

Now, Simon will face his latest challenge by taking part in Norwich’s inaugural Go Dad Run 5k on September 24, at Eaton Park.

The race, which takes place all over the country, is for men and boys and raises money for men’s health charities.

Norfolk’s cancer charity, Big C, is the official local charity partner for the event.

Simon said: “Over the last year, running has helped me tremendously. Initially I thought it would be something my dad would like to have seen and that gave me comfort and satisfaction. But it’s now become more than that, so many positive things have come out of it – I’ve made new friends, improved my overall health and wellbeing, improved my asthma symptoms and managed to help raise awareness and funds for a deserving charity.”

In 2016, Big C Centres had 3,435 visits from men affected by cancer, either with a cancer diagnosis, or as a friend or relative of someone affected by cancer. In the same year, 1,017 of those were visits from patients who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

The charity’s Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn Centres host support groups specifically for men affected by prostate cancer.

Clive Evans, Big C’s director of income generation, said: “Big C is there to support anyone affected by cancer and help people to get the best cancer care here in Norfolk. We are proud to be funding research into prostate cancer as well as many other types, here in Norwich, where advances are being made all of the time.

“We are a natural partner for Colin Jackson’s Go Dad Run and it will be fantastic to see all the men, boys, dads, grandads, uncles, sons and nephews take part in such a fun event to help improve the lives of those affected by cancer.”

Norwich is one of seven monthly Go Dad Runs that will be taking place in different locations around the UK in 2017.

Big C is offering EDP/Evening News readers the chance to take part in Go Dad Run Norwich for free.

To claim one of 10 free spaces, please email caroline.allen@big-c.co.uk

For more information on the race, please visit godadrun.co.uk

Colin added: “As well as having all the men pulling on their Go Dad Run pants with pride, we’d love to see the women in their lives there to cheer them on and I’m looking forward to a great Autumnal morning in Eaton Park.”

To learn more about the work Big C does to improve the lives of those affected by cancer in Norfolk and Waveney, please visit www.big-c.co.uk

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