RUNNING FOR LOLA AND HOPE – ‘HOPE IS WHERE IT’S AT’

Sgt Ian Corns (40), DGIFC recently ran the Brighton Marathon as part of a promise he made Kevin McGregor, an old friend and ex RAF colleague who he’d not seen for some 18 years.

The reason for Kevin’s phone call to Ian was three-year old Lola Bloomer.  Delightful and cheeky looking, Lola looks like every normal little girl should, but she actually suffers from a very rare condition for which there is currently no cure.

Lola has been diagnosed with Ataxia Telangiectasia (A-T), a progressive, degenerative condition, which causes severe disability and ultimately shortens lives.  Although Lola is full of fun and life now, her future is bleak.  By seven Lola will probably be in a wheelchair and, while not wishing to upset readers with details of her inevitable decline in health, she is unlikely to live beyond her mid-20s.

Ian remembers his initial reaction to the phone call from his old friend.  He said: “I’ didn’t need to be asked twice. I was more than happy to help out an old friend and the run was for such a worthy cause.”  He added: “I read up on A-T Syndrome and, having been told what a wonderful little girl Lola is, was devastated to find out how quickly she’ll be affected by the condition.  As a parent myself, the reality of it sinks in.  It’s incredibly sad.”

Ian is no stranger to long distance endurance events, having participated in the 46-mile Pathfinder March in 2010 and 2012.  However, he only ran his first marathon in November 2012, afterwards promising himself ‘never again’, well, at any rate not for a long time!  His family was therefore very surprised when he announced in January this year that he was about to take part in another one.

With only two months to prepare for the Brighton marathon, Ian found his return to training over long distances quite a shock to the system.  He said: “Preparation was quite grim, 15-20 mile training runs in snow and biting winds wasn’t much fun.  However, I knew I’d be running the Marathon as part of a team and the thought of what my fund-raising efforts might achieve spurred me on.”

Ian was part of a seven-strong team running for Lola and the A-T Society in Brighton, the marathon forming one stage of a specially put together mega-triathlon in an effort to raise £50,000.  The whole event, which took place in April, consisted of a 4km swim, a 180km cycle race and a marathon, 20 people in total taking on one or more of the three disciplines.  Starting simultaneously at 6am on Saturday, 13th April, friends and family members of Lola’s undertook the swim in a pool in Plymouth where she lives, while others participated in the London to Brighton cycle race.  The mega-triathlon culminated on Sunday, 14th April, with the running of the Brighton Marathon.  Ian was joined in his marathon run by Flt Sgt Martin Hine, another former colleague of his, currently working at RAF Marham.

Ian said: “Martin was fantastic.  He got in touch with Lola’s mum before the Brighton Marathon and, having asked who Lola’s favourite cartoon character is, promptly made a Peppa Pig costume, which he ran the marathon in.  Lola was extremely excited and was over the moon when Martin gave her the costume afterwards, proudly carrying the head around after the run had finished.

On what turned out to be a long and emotional day for all concerned, Ian completed the Brighton Marathon in a little under three hours and 30 minutes, 15 minutes inside the time he had planned and one he is very pleased with.  Ian’s wife Amy and their son Ben (12) were both in Brighton to see him run.  Amy said: “I’m very proud of Ian.  I was a little apprehensive and worried at first.  I wasn’t sure if he had given himself enough time in which to prepare for the run, but as always he had the bit between his teeth.  Not content with just turning up, he put in a good time too.”

Lola and her mum, Jo, were in Brighton to welcome everyone home, and once Ian had finished the marathon he got a chance to talk to Lola.  Summing up what the day meant to him, Ian said: “That little girl is such a bundle of fun, so bright and lively.  Life isn’t fair sometimes but Lola’s parents have obviously done everything they can to treat her like every other ordinary little girl.  Unfortunately, her condition is far from ordinary and I just hope, like everyone else who gets to meet Lola, our efforts to find a cure for A-T aren’t in vain.  Lola’s mum was incredibly grateful for our efforts and I found it quite humbling when she personally thanked me for my involvement, “especially as she knew how busy my life must be, being in the RAF.”

Back at work, Ian said: “I’d like to thank everyone who supported me, for their good wishes before the run and the generous sponsorship I received.  Hopefully, by the time all the sponsorship money has been collected, I hope to surpass the £500 target I set myself, adding to the £22,000 plus that our mega triathlon has raised to date.”

Tim Slater, Ian’s boss, said: “As Ian’s Task Group Leader I was fully supportive of his decision to run the Brighton marathon in support of the Ataxia Telanglectasia (AT) Society.  His efforts both at fund raising and running are a credit to the Task Group and clearly demonstrate the selfless support indicative of him as a person. As an individual he should be proud of the contribution he has made towards raising people’s awareness of a serious but little known children’s illness.”

As for Ian’s mate Kevin McGregor, while he thanked Ian for all his efforts, Ian left Kev in no doubt that he’ll happily stay in touch as long as there is no talk of any more marathons just around the corner!