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Newmarket jogger Jimmy Smith plans year of race tributes to his dad, Fred

A Newmarket jogger has planned a year-long challenge of long-distance races as a tribute to his ‘amazing dad’ who was once his running partner.

Jimmy Smith’s father Fred was a fit 70-year-old former plumber when he and Jimmy were inspired to take up running together after watching the 2008 London Marathon.

“I was 29 and had never been interested in running but I started to find I enjoyed it and was actually quite good at it,” said Jimmy. “Dad really got into it too with Park Runs and 10k races until he was well into his 70s.”

Jimmy Smith with his dad, Fred. Picture: Submitted
Jimmy Smith with his dad, Fred. Picture: Submitted

That was when Fred and his family had to face up to the devastating diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Dad was okay for a while and we carried on running together as well as walking 40 miles along the Essex Way footpath in three days.

“Those memories are very emotional for me because I had always thought of my Dad as fit and strong and now he lives in a care home and can’t talk or move and I’m not sure that he even recognises me.

Jimmy has raised £510 so far for Alzheimer's Society. Picture: Submitted
Jimmy has raised £510 so far for Alzheimer's Society. Picture: Submitted

“It was heartbreaking when Covid came and we couldn’t visit him. He just went downhill super quick,” said Jimmy.

There is nothing Jimmy can do for Fred, who is now 86, except make the long journey from the home in Cheveley where he lives with his wife Nicole, to Andover in Hampshire to visit once or twice a week.

But he was determined to help with research into Alzheimer’s and, as a veteran of 30 marathons including the Big Six of London, Berlin, Toyko, New York, Chicago and Boston, running seemed the way to do it.

Jimmy came up with the plan to run five long-distance races this year to raise as much money as possible for the Alzheimer’s Society.

The first of four 50-mile races, the South Downs Way 50, takes place only eight days before the London Marathon on April 21.

“It leaves nowhere near enough time to recover properly,” said Jimmy.

“It’s going to be a tough challenge to keep my record of finishing all my ten London Marathons in under three hours.”

After the marathon, there is another 50-mile race in May followed by two in September and December.

Jimmy, who works as a data analyst for the NHS, is no stranger to running long distances in challenging conditions having completed a number of ultra races of up to a hundred miles.

These include the 2018 West Highland Way event over 95 miles between Glasgow and Fort William which took him a gruelling 25 hours to complete and, he said, taught him a lot about strategy and nutrition which may come in useful in the next couple of months.

Anyone who would like to sponsor Jimmy and help him pay his tribute to the man he calls his ‘amazing dad’ can do so via www.justgiving.com/page/james-smith-1709393833326.

He also runs regularly for the Joggers, and was secretary of the group for two years, and will be proudly wearing the club vest when he tackles his tenth London Marathon.