Festive fun – a 13-mile run with a dog for company

Alan Lane training in the back streets of Armley with his dog, Billy.
Alan Lane training in the back streets of Armley with his dog, Billy.
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WE all do Christmas Day in a slightly different way. For some it’s a 6am start and a frenzy of present opening, for others a lie-in, relaxed morning and gifts after lunch.

For Alan Lane it’s going to be a 9am half marathon to raise money for charity.

So on a day when we are told not to forget others, spare a thought for Mr Lane, 33, of Armley, Leeds, who will be pounding the streets to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support, a cause which is close to his heart.

The Leeds theatre director decided to raise money for the charity after it helped to nurse his mother-in-law Meg Hind, who died in July this year aged 61, and also because it helped him when he survived cancer at the age of 22.

“It’s the first Christmas Day my wife Lucy and her family are going to have without Meg and the first one is always the most difficult,” he said.

“So I decided to do something difficult myself.”

His mission, he decided, was to run a half marathon, something he never thought he would ever contemplate.

“My wife’s family are all incredibly fit, Lucy’s dad Tony runs Comrades Marathons, 56-mile races in South Africa – and the fact is I am really not very fit at all. I’ve certainly never thought about running a half-marathon before,” said Mr Lane.

“So I thought ‘what’s the most difficult thing I could do?’ and the answer was this.”

Having decided on his target, Mr Lane tried to find a half marathon he could take part in only to discover there aren’t any on the day itself – even the most avid runners appear to enjoy a day off.

Not to be deterred, he decided to run one anyway.

“The whole idea is that it is going to be a difficult day for my wife and her family and so I wanted to do something that would be difficult too – and I thought it would be much harder to run a half marathon by myself.”

So, at 9am on Sunday, while most of us are thinking about stuffing the turkey, Mr Lane will start off in Saltaire – at the town’s train station – and run 13.1 miles along the Leeds-Liverpool canal, finishing in Leeds city centre.

Although he won’t be running it entirely alone – his faithful hound, full name Billy Dog, will be accompanying him.

So far Mr Lane has raised more than £1,600 for Macmillan through a donations page on the internet, with people leaving messages of support and encouragement and one anonymous donation of £100.

“People have been so generous, I’ve been amazed at the response, especially in such difficult times,” said Mr Lane.

“I think it’s perhaps because I’m doing it on Christmas day that people have been so generous.

“I had cancer when I was in my early twenties and Macmillan were amazing with me and also this year with my wife’s mum.

“They do the most difficult kind of work and they do it brilliantly, so using some of my Christmas Day to help raise money for them is something I’m really happy to do. I think Meg would have been really pleased that something like this was being done in her honour.”

Given that people have been so generous and even though his wife Lucy and her family will be at the start and meet him at the finish, how will those who have pledged money know he really is running the half-marathon?

“As I’m running Lucy will take pictures and post them on ( the social networking site) Twitter, so people can keep up with that and I have a tracking application that will record me along the route, which I will post on the internet when I’m finished.”

A theatre director who runs a company called Slung Low, based in Leeds, Mr Lane has been publicising his running effort on an internet page where people can also get involved by suggesting the songs he should download on to an mp3 player to keep him going during his run.

John English, Head of Regional Fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support in Yorkshire, said: “It’s very good of Alan to put himself through a half marathon on Christmas Day. We’re delighted Macmillan was there for Alan when he needed support and the money raised will help many others affected by cancer. We wish him all the best.”

Even though this is his first half-marathon, it isn’t the biggest challenge he faces on the day.

“My wife’s family are coming to our house for Christmas lunch – and I’m cooking,” he said. “I’m not saying I’m going to finish the run in any kind of record time – all I know is that I will finish. And I better finish in time to have the turkey cooked for dinner.”