Author and Cancer Survivor Credits Great North Run with Saving his Life

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The 2023 AJ Bell Great North Run will have the privilege of hosting Sir Mo Farah’s final competitive race. While his professional career has enthralled and inspired millions around the world, his personal story also demonstrates the power of running to change lives.

Like thousands of those lining up alongside him, running has had a truly transformative effect on his trajectory. At this year’s Great North Run we’re uncovering the stories of ordinary people whose lives have been changed by running in many ways, big and small, to inspire others to take the first steps on their own running journey.

Like inspirational runner David Lauder. 65-year-old David from York is set to take part in his 19th consecutive Great North Run this year. His running journey began in 2004, after surviving an arduous battle with leukaemia. He decided to run his first Great North Run to raise funds for Leukaemia Research Funds (now Blood Cancer UK).

David explains, ” I was very lucky to survive my initial chemotherapy, particularly when I developed sepsis, I told myself that if I survived, I would start to do more fundraising as a mark of gratitude that at least I was alive.” However, his experiences with the race went far beyond fundraising. “I felt tired just walking down the street and wondered what I had let myself in for,” he recalls of his early training days.

The Great North Run quickly became more than just a race for Lauder. He states, “It was an epiphany. I recall the famous quote from Brendan Foster after the first ever event, ‘It’s been a great day for the region, and a privilege to be there. We have got no choice. We’ll have to have another one next year.’ And that is how I felt, I had to have another one!'”

The event has since become an annual fixture in David’s life and its impact has been profound.

“I am sure running has saved my life,” he says. “I will never forget how running my first Great North Run transformed me from a fragile, weak patient into a strong, fit person ready to take on new challenges or even better withstand future treatment.”

“I believe running has slowed the progression of my leukaemia as there was a gap of 15 years between my initial treatment and the resumption of my treatment in 2019.  This delay allowed me to benefit from new targeted therapies through a clinical trial.

“When I contracted pneumonia in 2018 as a result of my compromised immunity, I am convinced the fact that my lungs were otherwise strong as a result of running helped me recover.  Pneumonia is the most common cause of death for patients with my type of leukaemia.”

Since resuming treatment in 2019, David has run two London Marathons, become an Ambassador for Blood Cancer UK, and published a book, ‘Colours, Medals, and Music: Running My Way Through Leukaemia’.

He hopes his story will inspire others: “I have proved it is possible to live with blood cancer and run marathons whilst on treatment. Perhaps this will even save the life of other patients.”

David continues to run, not only for himself but for the lives he might touch and people he might inspire along the way.

“This, plus running for such an amazing charity as Blood Cancer UK, is what keeps me motivated to keep running.”

David will be taking part in the 42nd Great North Run on Sunday 10 September alongside 60,000 other runners, making it the biggest half marathon in the world. You can donate to David’s justgiving page here. The iconic course starts in Newcastle city centre and finishes 13.1 miles later in the coastal town of South Shields. Many runners will be taking part to support worthy causes, raising an estimated £25 million pounds for charity.

The event will be shown Live on BBC One from 10am until 2pm.

For more information click here.