Family pull together to help save annual fell race

A family stepped in to save an annual fell running race after its founder was struggling to organise it due to his Parkinson’s disease.

Mike Breslin organised the first Turner Landscape Fell Race in 2010 and the event in the Duddon Valley in the Lake District has become a popular fixture on the sport’s calendar, including featuring in the Fell Running English Championships schedule. Over the years the race has also raised around £7,000 for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Mike, from Lancaster, fell in love with the landscape during regular family camping holidays on Turner Hall Farm in Seathwaite in the 1970s and thought it would be an excellent location for a fell race. He followed through on his ambition and set up the race when he was inspired to raise money for the UK’s leading dementia research charity after learning the farmer had died with Alzheimer’s.

After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease around 18 months ago, the 78-year-old, who ran his first fell race in 1976, decided to step down as race organiser. He put out a request among the fell running community to find someone to take on the race but when no one came forward he feared the event would have to be cancelled.

However, his sons Andy and Ian, along with their families and friends, helped organise this year’s race in August. It was a big success and they are planning to keep it going, with the race selected for the 2018 English Championships.  

Mike, a retired joiner, said: “During the holidays I would always look up at the ridge and think ‘that would make a great route for a race’, but there was already a fell race in the area so I didn’t do anything about it.

“We got to know the farmer and his family well over the years and it was when I learned later that he’d died from Alzheimer’s that I decided to set up the race and raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

“The first race had 11 people competing – there were more helpers than runners. But then in the third year the race was chosen to be part of the English Championships and we had around 200 runners. That really put it on the map. We went from raising £100 from the first race and £200 from the second to £2,500 in the third year.

“I was worried that the 2016 race would be the last, so I’m so pleased that it is carrying on. It was great that my family came together to organise the race and I’m so proud of them for doing such a good job.”

This year’s race had around 80 runners and raised £1,036 from the entry fees and a tea and cake stall.

Andy, 52, said: “I’m not a fell runner, but my dad is very proud of the race so I wanted to help ensure it kept going.

“It was tough getting everything organised for the race, but when it all came off at the end it was really rewarding and dad was really chuffed to see it go well.”

Gillian Edwards, Regional Fundraising Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Mike has been a fantastic supporter of Alzheimer’s Research UK. The money he has raised is powering innovative dementia research that is shaping our understanding of the condition and opening the door to new treatments.

“It was wonderful to see Mike’s family come together to help keep the race going. This year’s event was a great success and we look forward to next year’s race.”

For further information about Alzheimer’s Research UK, or to find out more about fundraising for the charity, call 0300 111 5555 or visit www.alzheimersresearchuk.org

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