Entries are open for the Stirling Scottish Marathon on Sunday, 29 April 2018. To sign up, visit greatrun.org/Stirling
A STIRLING double stroke survivor will take on the Stirling Scottish Marathon for the second time next year after dedicating his time to fundraising for children’s charities.
Danny Letford, from Bannockburn, suffered two strokes in 2013 – the first of which affected his mobility, while the second caused mental problems.
Forced to retire from work as a project manager in the construction industry, Danny fell into long bouts of depression, until he started fundraising for a range of good causes around Scotland – which gave him encouragement and motivation.
A keen runner long before his strokes, Danny used to fit running and fundraising around his busy job, but his enforced retirement allowed him to dedicate more time to his charity efforts – including the Stirling Scottish Marathon on Sunday, 29 April 2018.
This year alone, he has taken on several Kiltwalks in and around Scotland, ran the Stirling Scottish Marathon in May and cycled 450 miles from Wembley Stadium to Hampden Park for the Tartan Army Sunshine Appeal (TASA) in June, raising in total an estimated £80,000.
To mark his 65th birthday in March, Danny threw a party in which £3,000 was raised for a disabled youngster to buy a specially-adapted bed.
Danny explained how fundraising in events such as the Stirling Scottish Marathon gives him a reason to get up in the morning.
He said: “After the strokes I spent a long time feeling sorry for myself. I hid away for over six months barely leaving the house or laying in my bed. But there was always something there – when my friends needed support in raising money for a wee one who was no longer with us, that gave me the incentive to buck up and try and be more positive and worthwhile.
“I have always been involved with fundraising. I did a lot less when I worked full time as I couldn’t dedicate the time to it, but for 40 years I’ve been raising money for children’s hospitals and various other charities such as Strathcarron Hospice.
“What I’m doing for the kids, and for charities, gives me such a boost – it gives me the motivation to go and run or ride my bike on a cold morning. It gives me the motivation to train because I need to raise money for a little one.
“If I didn’t have that motivation and support from friends who donate I would not be in the state of recovery I am today. It’s a two-way thing.”
Danny is no stranger to running events having taken on the Great North Run, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Paris and the London Marathon before his strokes, and used to fit his running around his job, which took him around the UK and overseas including his final job at Birmingham New Street transport interchange.
Danny’s strokes were caused by a build-up of cholesterol in the main heart arteries – something which, if left undiagnosed, could have caused a fatal heart attack.
He feels that his fitness built from years of running fooled him into ignoring the warning signs that would have otherwise been noticeable.
He said: “When you hear the stories about those who have taken ill despite being seemingly well, you think ‘how can that happen?’
“I wasn’t getting angina or pains that people who weren’t so fit might have got. They’d get symptoms to say they’re not right. People who are fit don’t get those symptoms because if we get a pain in our chest, or in our legs, we think it’s because we are experiencing soreness from training hard.
“After the strokes, I had two stents fitted. In many ways having a stroke saved my life. The blockages were getting to the stage that my artery was almost completely blocked and I would have had a massive heart attack.
“I know I’m often struggling now but at least I’m still here.”
Danny’s run in Stirling this year was the first marathon he had undertaken since suffering his strokes and, despite a fall midway through the 26.2mile course, he is looking forward to lining up on the new start line on Millennium Way next April.
He said: “I did enjoy the first half but struggled later on. I didn’t train as much as I should have for it. I ran 13 miles in 2.30 which I was reasonably pleased with although 65 minutes more than my best time some 30 years ago, I started to slow down as the fuel was being used up and I had to stop for 20 minutes to get a bit of first aid as my left side became tired and less mobile.
“It took me 6 hours 10 and I was so pleased to complete the course. This year I’m going to put more time into my training as I want to go under 5.30, as you only get what you work hard for.”
It is not always plain sailing for Danny – the consequences of suffering two strokes close together have led to dark days, and he readily admits that it gets the better of him from time to time.
He said: “I get anxious and nervous. I’m still not 100% confident in what I’m saying, doing or how I can achieve something. I have to deal with that every day.
“Every day I start again. Some days, the big black dog takes over. It’s always running about my feet and I can handle it but there are days when it can overpower me and I can’t function.
It wins these days but not all the time. Some days it feels like I walk into a dark tunnel - often the tunnel is short and my anxiety is short lived other times it takes longer to find my way out but I have learned to be patient and that there is always good days to come.
“In the early days of my recuperation I used to hear voices and see things my speech was slurred and my balance was not good often falling over – I thought I was going mad.
“This resulted in anxiety and a feeling of vulnerability not wanting to go out the door, not wanting to meet people often I would take a detour if I saw someone I knew because I didn’t have the confidence to speak to them.
“Due to my vascular dementia every day is a challenge. I learn something new every day on how to combat my condition. Sometimes it gets the better of me but most days I get the better of it.
“Unlike many of the children I meet and support I have a choice I choose to be as positive as I can be and to help those less fortunate.
“I just have to keep going.”
In 2017, Stirling’s inaugural marathon reached capacity months before the event, with 6,500 people signing up for the 26.2mile run through the Stirlingshire countryside in May, and organisers The Great Run Company have unveiled a new and improved course which will showcase the beautiful scenery and historic landmarks of central Scotland.
To sign up, visit greatrun.org/Stirling