Epic run to raise funds for Rare Dementia Support

March 26 2021

Training partners: Ed Speleers, left, and Tom Morison

Training partners: Ed Speleers, left, and  Tom Morison

Teacher Tom Morison and actor Ed Speleers are in training to run a 200km section of the South West coastal path next month, raising money for Rare Dementia Support.
Their endurance run is inspired by Tom’s father who has a Rare Dementia - Logopenic Progressive Aphasia - which impairs speech and language. They aim to raise £30,000 for the charity which is committed to improving the outcome and quality of life for all those affected by a neurological condition. Rare Dementia Support is funded by the National Brain Appeal who are campaigning to establish the world’s first centre of excellence for rarer dementias.
Neighbours in Bishopston, Tom and Ed are regular running buddies. Having raised £16k for the NHS last year, they’ve increased their training runs to tackle the Western Peninsula route around the coast of Cornwall. Starting at Portreath on May 29, the friends will follow the 200km route via Sennen and Penzance, completing the run the following day at Portscatho.
Tom says: “My dad was diagnosed initially with Alzheimer's 18 months ago. What he really struggles with is forming sentences and getting words out.
“I hope that the suffering that the impending 200km will provide will go some way to ease the pain of watching this dreadful illness take hold of such a loving, talented and clever man.”
Tom’s running partner is Ed Speleers, known for his roles as pirate Stephen Bonnet in the TV series Outlander and Jimmy Kent in Downton Abbey.
“Tom always comes up with ideas for running challenges,” says Ed.
“I find that running gives me a very meditative state and I’ve always taken a lot from it. When he asked me to do the South West Coastal Path this year, I was keen to go.
“There’s something about these endurance runs, especially if you are doing them for charitable causes, in feeling like you need to go through something too. It’s about putting yourself through as much pain as possible.
“I’ve got to know Tom over the many years that we’ve been neighbours and having heard his dad’s story prior to him contracting this horrific illness, I want to be there at the end of the run with him and try to raise awareness, as many people are affected by this at some point in their life. Physically, to get to that point at the end and to finish with all limbs intact would be a real achievement!”
Tom, a PE teacher at Clifton High School, has his local community in Bishopston and Sefton Park School cheering him and Ed on.
“The number of people in the community who’ve already engaged with giving money is heartwarming. I did a little running challenge at the weekend and the number of people who came and gave me a pat on the back is amazing. Some people came along to join us on the route so we’ve also encouraged more people to go running.
 “Running gives me a mental space where I can leave everything behind, including my worries.”
“Dad was a housemaster, teaching at two boarding schools in the west country so he had a big impact on lots of other people, not just me and my sisters. He remains very passionate about education and maths, his subject, but also he was really keen on sports, especially cricket, which has always been a topic of conversation. Obviously we still see those traits in him now but the depth of conversation has gone.
“Having to introduce your children to him and remind him who his grandchildren are is upsetting. Once he’s got over that and figured out who it is, there’s a definite passion there and he wants to try to get back to what he’s lost but he’s not quite sure what it is. I can see that he’s half-recognising these people and is thinking about where do they fit in my family?”
Tom’s dad is currently being cared for at home by his mum, Judi. Sadly, the family have seen a marked downturn in Oliver’s condition during the lockdown.
Tom added: “I’ve probably already had my last meaningful conversation with my dad. And that’s hard to cope with.”
To support Tom and Ed on their run, see: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tom-morison