Andrew Stephens is a well known figure in Llanelli. He has led a busy life. Manager of the St. Elli Shopping Centre and Chairman of the Llanelli Chamber of Trade. Andrew was a keen sportsman at school and as with most of us as we get older, we slide into couch potatoedom.
Andrew actually did something about it and got up and out and joined a running club. He began with park runs and gradually increased his fitness. His journey part documented on his Facebook page is inspirational. Not only was he keeping fit but he was tending to his mother who was suffering from Dementia. It has culminated in the successful completion of the London Marathon in which he raised funds for his favourite charities.
We will let Andrew tell his story.
My story on why I’m doing the London Marathon on Sunday 3rd October 2021
(This photo of Mam in her happy place making a sponge cake will be pinned to my chest on my running vest).
I decided to give myself a personal target in April 2018 to train, not for “Couch to 5K” but “Couch to Half Marathon” with the Llanelli half marathon in February 2019 my initial goal.
Having been my mother’s (Mavis) carer for over twenty five years, she very rarely went out of the house unless I was to take her as she felt she was in safe hands with me.
The 29th December 2017 was the defining day when I felt I couldn’t cope anymore and I finally called out for help. Mam had been hallucinating more frequently over the last fifteen months, and when coming home from work I could see that she was in distress from her surroundings and something had to be done.
A phone call to the Doctor’s surgery at 5:45pm on Friday 29th December 2017 wasn’t the ideal time to call but it had to be done. Mam was admitted to Prince Phillip Hospital Llanelli and within a day or two her state of mind become more frantic. It was clear that Mam would not be able to come back to live with me. The difficulty of seeing the person who raised you and who you have been caring for, for so long not even recognising you was enormously heart-breaking.
Mam was admitted to a residential home and although it has been a difficult adjustment for us all, Mam was looking better than she had for years by having 24/7 attention and being stimulated daily and even going out like she did many years ago.
Mam was diagnosed with dementia the week before her 90th birthday which is 19th March, and even though I’ve received training as a dementia friend, is only when you live with someone with dementia that you truly appreciate what they are going through.
Mam passed away peacefully in her sleep almost one year ago on 24th October 2020 in Prince Phillip Hospital Llanelli, and we as a family were fortunate to say our goodbyes and thank her for being our mother, grandmother and great grandmother.
So from not running since I left school in 1980 I decided at 54, (now 57) to do a Parkrun on 7th April 2018, join Llanelli Athletic Club and started on a C25K program who have helped and supported me all the way, and I’ve surprised myself that I have actually enjoyed running.
April 2019 I became senior men’s captain, was voted most improved male runner of the year, ran various 5Ks, 10K, Cross Country and now 23 Half Marathons, having also gained promotion from division 3 to division 2, through the clubs Grand Prix season 2018/2019. I’ve completed my LIRF (Leadership In Running Fitness) and now help out with Llanelli Athletics Club C25K groups and leading “We Can Run Llanelli” Running group and a trail running group in the National Botanical Garden of Wales and a community ambassador for Carmarthenshire County Council.
I entered the ballot for the Virgin London Marathon 2020 and surprised that I got a place at the first attempt. Training has gone well despite a few injury issues, but I’am determine to start and cross the finish line in London.
Running has helped me enormously both physically and mentally, as it’s not something I would have been able to spend time doing in the past due to work and out of work commitments.
In 2015 I sustained a back injury which resulted in a spell in hospital and nearly six months off work and not being able to drive for over nine months, this on top of being my mother’s carer.
I have set up a Virgin Money Giving page, to support not only Dementia UK but Ty Bryngwyn Hospice Llanelli where I am Vice Chairman of the fundraising committee and Cancer Research UK where I was chairman of the Llanelli Branch.
Andrew took photos and videos during the Marathon and posted the following updates on his Facebook page:
London Marathon Dementia UK Cancer Research UK Llanelli Amateur Athletic Club (LAAC)Actif Sport and Leisure RCS Teamwear
Absolutely amazing atmosphere all the way round. The course was over measured time should be 5:00:56. At mile 16 my foot went over on a full bottle of water and really struggled for the next 10 miles. Time should have been quicker. Also a PB by 1:20:16
You go all the way to London to run a Marathon and the first person you see across the line is Rob McCusker (Scarlets legend) Good to see you today and sorry didn’t recognise you straight away without my glasses on.
Thank you to so many that have sponsored me for Dementia UK Cancer Research UK & Ty Bryngwyn Llanelli Hospice
I was lucky to get a ballot place originally for April 2020, and decided to see if I can help three charities close to my heart.
Below are just some of the messages left on my fundraiser page and this is still open for a few more days.
Once again thank you for all your support and encouragement