BBC London’s cricket commentator, Mark Church – known as ‘Churchy’ to legions of Surrey County Cricket Club fans – has set off today on a remarkable and gruelling fundraiser for PCRF, in memory of his dad, Tony.
Tony Church died of pancreatic cancer in May 2017, just six months after he was diagnosed.
Says Mark: “It had come out of the blue. My best mate had been playing golf five days a week, having holidays with Mum and enjoying his retirement. Then this horrible disease came into our lives and it was pretty tough watching the Old Man fight it as hard as he could. But this was a fight he was never going to win.”
To raise awareness of the disease – and money for research - Mark, 44, was keen to undertake a challenge that would honour his dad’s love of cricket and his own love of running.
“Cricket was a bit of a family thing. Dad was a good club player and mum made cracking teas! Dad's two favourite grounds were the Kia Oval and Lord's and I hit on the idea of running between the two grounds four times a day over 50 days – so that makes 200 runs, at 20 miles a day for 50 days, covering 1000 miles in total. As they say in cricketing circles, ‘those are good numbers.’”
Mark will set off from the Alec Stewart Gate at the Kia Oval at 9.30am on Monday 08 October for the first of his 200 runs, and will complete his mammoth fundraiser on Tuesday 04 December.
Mark says: “When Dad died my immediate reaction was...why? It had all been too quick and I didn't understand why there hadn't really been any hope and why Dad never got a fighting chance.
“PCRF is already doing many wonderful things in this regard and I hope in some small way I can help the brilliant work they do. They fund pioneering research to uncover chinks in this cancer's armour to develop new treatments. And they’re finding ways to make existing treatments more effective and working to develop a test to diagnose the disease in its early stages.
“It will be hard work but great fun, and I know the Old Man would have sat in a pub on the route to cheer me along.”
Mark’s fundraising page has already seen pledges of over £11,000 before he’s even started, and he hopes to top £15,000. If you can help Mark reach his total, please go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/200runs
Maggie Blanks, Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund’s Chief Executive, said: “We’re very grateful for Mark’s support. This is a mammoth challenge to take on, and such a lovely, fitting tribute to Tony. The overwhelming warmth in terms of support and donations that Mark has received before he’s even started his challenge has been amazing and is a real testament to him. I’m sure Tony would be incredibly proud.”