A group of 16 friends will be putting their running shoes on in support of older members of the local community on Sunday, May 5.
Former Ballyclare High School student Dr Jude Tweedie will be running as part of a relay team in this year's Belfast Marathon in a bid to raise funds for Age NI.
Dr Tweedie, who used to be an avid runner before experiencing a number of injuries, decided to collect money for Age NI after her family received support from the charity when her late father, Ken, was ill.
Jude, who will be competing alongside 15 friends, said: "In 2017 my daddy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Lewy Body Dementia. It was the little things we noticed first – difficulty driving, forgetting where the keys had been put and getting confused about dates and years.
"It took a bit of time to get a diagnosis and even with my background as a doctor, we found navigating the healthcare system bewildering. It was often unclear where to go for help or how to get help as daddy’s symptoms progressed.
"There were often long delays in appointments by which time there would have been huge changes in what daddy was able to do and the help we needed.
"This is where Age NI stepped in. They were accessible, friendly and absolutely knew their stuff. The Age NI staff gave us advice on a whole range of issues – big and small and they did
it all with care, compassion and expertise.
"We are all aware of our massively overstretched social care system, Age NI are doing an invaluable job bridging the gap between what we have and what we need."
Jude, who currently lives in London, added: "As a small local charity they can often get overlooked. It is not always clear that they are separate to the big UK charities and desperately need our support.
"We wanted to do our bit, so 16 friends have come together to get our running shoes on for this year’s Belfast Marathon. We have three fantastic relay teams entering with runners coming from all over the UK to take part.
"We even have a friend who has being living in Australia for seven years coming to join us. We are friends from all works of life – growing up, high school, university, work and from social activities.
"The friends taking part are all of totally different abilities when it comes to running from complete beginners to competitive athletes, but we are all in it together. We have one shared
objective; to support everyone in later life to enjoy better health for longer, to remain as independent as possible and to receive the best quality care in later life (and to get over the finish line!).
"I used to do quite a bit of running but, unfortunately, completely ruptured my Achilles twice on my left side. I developed a bit of fear around running and hadn’t done any in a couple of years.
"It was my friends who got me back into it last summer with some ‘gentle’ encouragement. I started off with the park runs, which are a fantastic resource and very accessible to anyone, and now I love being back and, surprisingly, am now running faster than I did before.
"The charity effort is a lovely way to honour my dad who was just the best father a daughter could ask for."
Thanking Jude and her friends ahead of the race, Rosalind Cole, Regional Fundraising Manager said: “We’re absolutely delighted that the teams have chosen to run for Age NI in the Belfast City Marathon.
"By lacing up and taking on this amazing challenge, they will be helping Age NI provide a range of information, support and advice to older people across Northern Ireland, to help them make the most of later life.
"Funds raised will make such a huge difference, enabling us to be there for older people who need us every step of the way. We wish them all the very best of luck, and will be cheering them on all the way."
Dr Tweedie is a ST7 trainee in Cardiology and general medicine (one year away from consultant level). She currently undertaking research at University College London (UCL), but will be returning to Northern Ireland in August to finish her last year of cardiology training.
An online fundraising page has been set up to raise money for Age NI. At the time of going to print, over £2,500 has been raised.
If you would like to make a donation, go to https://www.ageni.org/fundraisers/ktmarathon