INTREPID grandad Keith Wilson is showing no signs of stopping in his quest to harness the power of exercise to fight Parkinson’s Disease.
The Darlington 71-year-old’s inspirational story was told on this page a month ago: how he’d thrown himself into an impressive programme of running, cycling, rock climbing, and singing in a choir to hold back the effects of the illness.
Well, Keith’s a man who doesn’t hang around, and it’s already time for a catch-up. At the weekend, he completed the Lake District Ultra Challenge, walking and jogging 100 kilometres over two days in a circular route starting and finishing in Kendal. To be precise, there are 62.1371 miles in 100 kilometres, but Keith’s quick to point out he actually clocked up 63 miles.
He’s a man who knows all about going the extra mile, having also recently walked and run the distance from Land’s End to John O’Groats. He started on New Year’s Day and completed his mission in stages averaging 50 miles a week.
Now, by conquering the Lake District Ultra Challenge in 21 hours – including overnight rest, sock change stops, and 10,500 feet of ascent – he’s raised more than £1,200 for Parkinson’s UK.
“It was hard, and a lot of people dropped out with foot problems and fatigue, but it followed a fabulously scenic route, and the organisation was excellent,” says Keith who came 26th out of 250 starters and 157 finishers. “I’m proud of that because I aimed to keep up a brisk walking pace and run down the hills to keep to my schedule. I feel a bit spaced out because of dehydration, but it was a fantastic experience.”
But Keith’s not stopping there – far from it. This Friday and Saturday, he’s taking part in the ‘Light The Lakes’ event, in which teams of serving police officers, retired officers, staff and police friends light up the magnificent Wainwright fells in memory of colleagues who’ve been killed on duty, and to support their dependents.
Keith, who lives in the village of Middleton One Row, will be alongside his regular climbing partner, Adrian Green, a Detective Chief Superintendent with Durham Police. A week later, the pair will be heading to the Alps for a 105- mile walk, including a 30,000-feet ascent of Mont Blanc.
“That one’s just for pleasure,” says Keith, who had a career as a lecturer in history and management at Darlington College before becoming Director of Education.
At the end of July, he’s then planning to tackle the Montane Lakeland 50 – the small matter of a 50-mile trek in 24 hours. The moral and financial support he’s had has been “amazing and humbling” – not least from the local running community and the Darlington SING Community Choir. “A lot of people say they’ve been inspired by what I’m doing because it’s positive thinking in the face of adversity, so it makes me more determined than ever to keep going,” he adds.
The logic behind his exercise regime is that by keeping active, and staying focused, Keith is able to generate dopamine and adrenaline to slow down the impact of Parkinson’s. So, what’s next on the agenda beyond this summer? He chuckles, then lowers his voice in case his wife, Jill, overhears: “She’s really, really proud of me but she gets a bit worried about whether I’m overdoing it,” he explains.
Two years after being given the devastating news that he had Parkinson’s Disease, Keith Wilson continues to outrun the odds.
A FEW days before embarking on the Lake District Ultra Challenge, Keith was showing his support for another local hero closer to home.
Former Durham policewoman Viv Pow, who has inoperable stage four bowel cancer, was staging ‘Viv’s Positivity Power Fun Run and Walk’, in Darlington’s South Park, in aid of Cancer Research UK.
The event, well supported by Darlington Harriers, had been promoted on this page and I’m delighted to report than more than 150 people turned out for Viv, raising more than £2,500.
Keith was among the runners, and it was an honour to join him for the three laps of the park. Understandably, he didn’t want to over-stretch himself so close to his 100k mission around Windemere, and that suited me just fine!
Viv gave a speech before we all set off and her message was simple but powerful: “Cherish every moment you’re in this beautiful world because you never know how long it’s going to be for.”
Her best friend, Tracy Kirk, a long-serving Durham neighbourhood police officer, is certainly making the most of her time, by aiming to raise £5,000 for Cancer Research UK with a series of challenges. So far, she’s completed the Brighton Marathon, and forthcoming dates include the Swaledale Marathon, Tough Mudder, the Great North Run, and the London Marathon.
How fitting that Viv and Tracy – the most formidable duo since Batman and Robin – have accepted an invitation to start the Race For Life, in aid of Cancer Research UK, in South Park, on June 19.
Make it a date because it’s an honour they so richly deserve.
- To enter Race For Life events – including Darlington on Sunday, June 19, and Durham, on Sunday, July 3, go to raceforlife.org