A top dancer is planning to put her best foot forward at the London Marathon in aid of Parkinson’s UK Cymru.
Angharad Harrop, who lives in Llandudno, has been inspired to undertake the gruelling run, which takes place on April 23, by the determination of the members of her dance and movement class who have Parkinson’s.
The mother of three has an undergraduate and a masters in dance from De Montfort University, and will graduate from her doctorate in July. She leads the Dance for Parkinson’s classes at the Pontio centre in Bangor. The classes are run through National Dance Company Wales and are affiliated to the English National Ballet.
She has taken on the challenge despite breaking her cruciate ligament twice.
“I was looking for a new challenge after submitting my PhD and a message came through from Parkinson’s UK asking people to run the London Marathon on behalf of the charity. I’ve never even run a half marathon before. I’ve only ever run a 10k.
“I tore my cruciate ligament when I was 15 so that put a stop to my running as a teenager. I tore it again just after having my daughter Dalyth and I had to have surgery to fix it. The surgeon told me afterwards ‘Don’t run any marathons and you’ll be fine!’
“But after having children I needed some time outside of the house so I started jogging during the lockdown. I thought if I built it up slowly it might be fine. That’s what I’ve done and it’s been okay so far.
“The most I’ve run in a day so far is 16 miles. The week after that it’ll be 18 miles, and the week after that it’ll be 20 miles. That’s the cut off point. After that you’re tapering – if you can run 20 miles you can run a marathon.”
Angharad explained what motivated her to take on the London Marathon, saying: “Through the Dance for Parkinson’s programme I’ve got to meet some wonderful people and the condition is so unfair. It’s something that can happen to anyone.
“When you speak to people you find that there are more people out there who have Parkinson’s, some of whom don’t want to tell anyone they have the condition. But if they come to something like Dance for Parkinson’s, the gentle movements help them so much.
“It helps them move, but also to meet other people who have the condition so they don’t feel like they have to deal with it alone. The members of the class come not because it’s necessarily in their comfort zone but because they know that it’s good for them to come. They’ve also made friends and that’s why they come back. We want to build up our group in Bangor to get more people in.
“I want to raise awareness of Parkinson’s UK and what they do to help people who have the condition as well as raise money for the charity.
“The members of the dance class have inspired me to do this. I wanted to do something that was totally outside of my comfort zone.
“I’ve also asked my family to donate money to Parkinson’s UK through my fundraising page instead of giving me birthday or Christmas presents this year.”
There are over 40 symptoms of Parkinson’s, which is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world. But the three main symptoms of Parkinson’s are a tremor (shaking), slowness of movement and rigidity (muscle stiffness). Almost 8,000 people are currently living with Parkinson’s in Wales.
The Parkinson’s community is currently gearing up for World Parkinson’s Day on April 11, which will be marked by a series of events across the country to raise awareness of the condition – and shine a light on the determination and creativity of many of the people living with it.
Keri McKie, Regional Fundraiser for Parkinson’s UK Cymru said: “On behalf of Parkinson’s UK Cymru, I would like to thank Angharad for what she is doing to raise money for the charity.
“As a charity, we’re very lucky to have a number of runners taking part in the London Marathon this year and we’re very grateful to them for their efforts.
“Parkinson’s is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world. There’s currently no cure. But as the largest European charitable funder of Parkinson’s research, we’re determined to change that. We’ve invested over £100m in vital research that has delivered groundbreaking discoveries, new medications and better care.
“The money that is donated will go towards improving the lives of people who have Parkinson’s and funding important research into the condition which has the potential to lead to better treatments. We wish Angharad good luck for the marathon.”