Mike Sutton's grandson runs marathon in his memory
- Credit: Supplied by George Sutton
While the people of Hellesdon turned out to pay their final respects to former Norwich City player Mike Sutton, his grandson was more than 200 miles away, forced to watch the service over the internet.
George Sutton is a physiotherapy student at the University of Liverpool, and Covid restrictions meant he had to stay on England's west coast while his dad Chris – also an ex-Canary - and the rest of his family gave Mike a final send-off.
But that didn't stop him from making his own tribute to his granddad. Straight after the funeral, on Monday, February 1, he set off and completed his first marathon by taking a random route through the city's streets.
Mr Sutton said: "I had to watch the funeral on a webcast because it was too much of a risk going home, with the family. Because I wasn't there it felt like there was nothing coming from my way.
"I texted my family to tell them I was going for a run – I just didn't tell them how far."
He had been planning to run the London Marathon in April last year, but the coronavirus outbreak saw the event cancelled.
I wanted, to be honest, to do one for him before he died, but it just didn't happen," he said.
Mike Sutton died in December, aged 76, following a battle with dementia. Now a BT Sport pundit and newspaper columnist, his son Chris has been a vocal campaigner to urge football to take the disease seriously.
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George said he decided to do a marathon in his granddad's honour as physical health and fitness had always been important to everyone in his family.
He said: "My granddad was so into his fitness – he's probably the reason why we're all into it. Dad always says he owes his career to granddad, after making him get up early and instilling that mentality into him.
"I looked up to him. He was such a strong, determined man, and he was so fit. He used to go on the rowing machine every day, and even with his Alzheimer's he only ever stopped when he forgot how to.
"I've done half-marathons in training before, but I wanted to do something really difficult. I didn't plan a route – I just went out the door and started running. Granddad used to get up early, run on the beaches with weights on his back and do slope runs, so I thought I needed to do something challenging.
"It was quite enjoyable for the first 20 miles, but then I hit 'the runner's wall'. It took everything I had from there, and that probably comes from both my granddad and my dad."
Mr Sutton added that one of his final conversations with his granddad was discussing the 26.2 mile race he wanted to run to raise money for the Alzheimer's Society.
"People with dementia, they sort of slip in and out of understanding what you're saying," he said.
"I remember one time I told him I was going to do the London marathon, and he just said "crikey, that'll be hard". Seconds earlier he hadn't been making sense at all, and then he said that.
"I think that was one of the last times I actually got granddad rather than talking at him and just getting the odd smile here and there. That helped drive me on."
Mr Sutton, who has been working with Covid patients in Liverpool as part of his university placement at Whiston Hospital, has now raised more than £2,000 for the charity.
Less than 12 hours after completing the run, he was back on the ward "with aching, very sore legs – very much in need of physio myself".
But he added it was worth it to help support a charity which he said had done a lot for him and his family.
He said: "Alzheimer's Society provides support to families and carers, and also lobby the government about dementia care. And then they do research as well, so I think they cover most aspects.
"Dementia Friends is also a charity which really helped me to understand granddad's condition. They have a website and a video that I would definitely recommend to others."
To find out more about George's story, or to donate, visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/GeorgeSutton2.