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Marston Montgomery villager runs Paris Marathon for Parkinson's UK

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: April 17, 2014

  • James McMurtry in the 2014 Paris Marathon

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MARSTON Montgomery man James McMurtry, 48, ran the Paris Marathon to raise funds for a charity close to his heart.

Many people in Ashbourne will know his father, Michael McMurtry, aged 77, who was a vet in the area for many years.

For the past 20 years, Michael has suffered from Parkinson's disease.

After seeing the impact of the disease, James wanted to find a way to support Parkinson's UK.

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Since the charity didn't have any places reserved for the London Marathon, James started to look further afield and decided on Paris – a city he called home for several years.

He said: "My dad has had Parkinson's disease for over 20 years.

"On a medical note, they say that you die with Parkinson's disease, not of it, and that may be true.

"But it really affects the quality of life, and gets progressively worse each year to the extent that Dad now needs round-the-clock care and is unable to perform basic functions himself."

James spent the day before the April 6 run with his wife Jill, 46, son Tom, 10, and daughter Louise who is seven, showing them around.

"I showed them the flat I used to live in, although from the road there wasn't much to see except a window with shutters on," he added. "The race experience was fantastic. The organisation was superb – 50,000 runners in several waves all got away without a hitch.

"The drink and food stations were every 5km, and, most importantly, it was easy to take on water and energy snacks – bananas, oranges, raisins, even sugar.

"The crowd support was excellent. I'd written my name on my shirt to help get support from the crowd.

"It's a real boost to have someone you don't know shout out your name as you run past. I saw my family twice along the route and that really helped to spur me on.

"Running in Paris was a real pleasure. It's a beautiful city, the buildings are splendid and the course was flat on the whole."

James told how the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, announced at the start of the marathon: "Runners, today the city is yours."

He added: "That's how it felt, a great chance to run unhindered through one of the world's finest cities.

"The most important thing, though, was the support I carried from all those people who had sponsored me.

"Their support kept me going on the long winter nights of training, when it was cold, wet and dark outside, and I would rather have stayed inside than step out for a six-mile training run.

"And it kept me going, especially on the last six miles of the marathon, when I was struggling to maintain my pace, and my body was crying out for a rest. Just the thought of all those people, and the reason I was doing the race, saw me over the finish line."

Training for spring marathons is generally considered to be one of the most difficult plans to follow, with progressively longer runs on a weekly basis, often in snow and, as was the case this year, torrential rain.

James said: "I trained five days a week from Christmas, although I was running even before then.

"I tried to follow a dedicated training plan from the internet, but I found I struggled to keep to it with work and family commitments.

"So I made sure I did at least one long run every weekend, and as much as possible in the week, trying to vary the routes and the gradients – there are plenty of hills around Ashbourne.

"I did the Stafford 20 four weeks before the event, and the Loughborough half marathon two weeks before, so that was good preparation for the full marathon distance, though nothing can quite prepare you for 26 miles.

"The next step was a somewhat easier walk around Calke Abbey to mark the end of Parkinson's Awareness Week."

James completed the marathon in three hours, 46 minutes, and has raised more than £4,000 for Parkinson's UK, through online donations and via his company, Libra Drinks.

Donations can still be made online at www.virgin moneygiving.com/jamesmc murtry.

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