London Landmarks Half Marathon challenge for Brian and Heather

Thursday March 7th 2024

The Rev Brian Harper, rector of Dunluce Parish, Bushmills, and his wife Heather are training for the London Landmarks Half Marathon in April.

The Rev Brian Harper, rector of Dunluce Parish, Bushmills, and his wife Heather are currently in training for the prestigious London Landmarks Half Marathon.

Wending its way along the streets of Westminster, passing many of London’s iconic sights, 17,000 runners took part in last year’s challenge with a similar number expected to start on April 7.

Parkrun veterans, Brian and Heather are both raising funds for charity. Brian was successful in applying for a ballot place in the run and will be running for Alzheimer’s Research UK while Heather secured her place through Dementia UK and will be fundraising for the charity.

Brian moved to Dunluce last August from Magheracross Parish, Ballinamallard, where he had been rector since 2012. It was in Ballinamallard he first discovered a passion for running 10 years ago after hearing about the Enniskillen Parkrun on the radio.

“I had been doing a bit of jogging, so I did it once and realised there were people taking part who had the same level of fitness as me although others did it much faster,” Brian said.

Now the 5k Parkrun is a weekly fixture and to date he has completed 238 Parkruns! Quite an achievement!

Brian and Heather also volunteer with Parkrun – marshalling, scanning barcodes, timekeeping etc. It was through volunteering that Heather also picked up the running bug.

“I started volunteering in 2015. I have arthritis, and had not been able to run, but my medication changed in 2016, and I saw all these other people out running so I did a ‘Couch to 5K’ training programme and completed my first Parkrun in 2016,” Heather said.

The London Landmarks event will be her first half marathon. “I plan to run and walk – they call it ‘Jeffing’ – a lot of people do runs that way,” Heather said.

The couple will start together but won’t stick together along the route as Brian is not planning on ‘Jeffing!’ “I find walking just as exhausting as running,” he commented.

This won’t be Brian’s first half marathon as he completed the Liverpool race in 2016 in a time of 2hrs 25 mins.

The Covid-19 pandemic interrupted their running schedule as Parkruns had to be called off, but Brian continued to pound the roads, and in fact did a ‘Covid London Landmarks Half Marathon’ on his own in Ballinamallard.

“It was a lot harder and also a lot slower. I had asked people to put different landmarks in their gardens, so the kids enjoyed doing that and I found a landmark on a garden on every street. I was fundraising for Prostate Cancer UK,” he said.

Both are now back in training. Heather is raising funds for Dementia UK in memory of her mother Sadie Hewitt who suffered from dementia for several years before her death in 2017.

Brian said that his choice of charity was also inspired by Heather’s mum. He added: “In ministry, I have encountered the impact of this condition on so many families. ARUK will be able to fund the research required to either prevent or alleviate the mental and physical distress that this dementia can cause.”

The couple are looking forward to the atmosphere in London on race day. “As far as running a half marathon can be, it’s supposed to be a fun event, with music, cheer stations at the different landmarks and lots of people in fancy dress,” Heather said.

The Harpers themselves with not be wearing fancy dress, but will be cheered on by family members and grandchildren who will travel to London to support them.

If you would like to encourage Brian and Heather by donating to their chosen charities, you can do so online via Justgiving Brian or Justgiving Heather.

Brian and Heather Harper are fundraising for Alzheimer’s Research UK and Dementia UK.

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