An Armley man ran 100km in a month for the British Heart Foundation (BHF), in memory of his father who died from a heart condition.
Michael Stephenson was inspired to take on the challenge after the sudden loss of his dad, Robert, who was just 53 when he passed away last year.
Robert, who had worked as a delivery driver for Royal Mail since he was 16, began feeling unwell during summer 2020, with symptoms including sudden weight loss and a loss of appetite.
The dad-of-three then suffered a heart attack in October 2020 and was rushed to hospital. Although family were unable to physically be with him in hospital due to restrictions caused by Covid-19, they were able to keep in touch with him over the phone.
It was later in hospital where medics discovered that Robert had a life-threatening heart infection.
His wife Diane received a devastating phone call the next day, explaining that her husband of 30 years had experienced a sudden cardiac arrest before he was due to be admitted to intensive care. Although medics had attempted to revive him, there was sadly nothing that could be done to save him, and he had passed away.
Michael, aged 26, said:
“We were all in pieces when we received that phone call. After he was admitted to hospital, we expected dad would be home after a few days, but then to be told he hadn’t survived was just devastating for us all.
“Dad was such a well-loved man. That was noticeable at his funeral, as colleagues and friends lined the street to clap as the hearse drove past. The funeral service was held close to Elland Road, which was fitting as dad was a lifelong Leeds United fan and would go to games every weekend.
“We are a close-knit family and dad taught me and my brothers so much in life. We miss him so much.”
Earlier this year, Michael decided he wanted to do something in Robert’s memory. Due to his dad’s heart condition, he chose to take on a fitness challenge in aid of the BHF, after learning that the charity funds life saving research into all heart and circulatory diseases.
Michael ran 100km over the month of May and was joined by friend Jordan Frudd. He has so far raised over £1,000 for the charity.
“It wasn’t easy, and some days we would run a half marathon or a 10K back-to-back,” added Michael, who works as a claims technician.
“But thanks to Jordan’s support, I got through it. It feels amazing to know that the money I raise will go towards the BHF’s research into finding more treatments for heart and circulatory conditions. I hope this can help prevent other people going through what our family did.”
In West Yorkshire alone, around 260,000 people are living with heart and circulatory diseases, such as coronary heart disease, stroke and vascular dementia. Every 90 minutes, someone in the county dies from one of these conditions.
Becky Beevers, fundraising manager at the BHF, said:
“We are so grateful that Michael chose to take on this very personal challenge in memory of his dad to help raise funds towards the BHF’s vital research.
“This year, the BHF is marking 60 years of funding pioneering research to save and improve lives. Covid-19 dealt a brutal blow to our work and caused our investment in new research to be cut in half last year. We can only fund our life saving work thanks to the generous support of people like Michael, so in our 60th year, we urgently need more people to help us.”
To donate to Michael’s challenge, please visit this website.
Anyone interested in fundraising for the BHF can contact Becky Beevers, BHF Fundraising Manager, by emailing email@example.com or calling 07971 484539.