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Amazing Alan hopes to hit £100k target with Boston Marathon run

Alan Johnstone, who lost his wife Anneka to a brain tumour, is representing The Charity in the Boston Marathon on 15 April.

Alan’s Story

Alan Johnstone stands with his daughter after completing the London Marathon in 2023.
Alan with daughter Sienna after last year’s London Marathon

When Alan Johnstone, 39, completed his first marathon – London – for The Brain Tumour Charity last April, he declared that marathon would be his first and last. But when he was selected by The Charity to be their only representative in the Boston Marathon next month, he didn’t hesitate to say yes.

Alan’s wife, Anneka, was just 33 when she lost her life to a glioblastoma in 2019. Anneka, a dietician, sought medical advice after she started to suffer from dizzy spells, and fell while holding baby daughter, Sienna. She died just six months after learning of her devastating diagnosis. Little Sienna, now 5, was just 13 months old at the time. Since Anneka’s death, Alan has thrown himself into fundraising, building a huge following on social media, and campaigning to raise greater awareness of brain tumours.

His incredible efforts – which include last year’s London Marathon, and in 2022, his 214 mile trekking challenge, along the Southern Upland Way – have raised over £90,000 for The Brain Tumour Charity so far – and he hopes his Boston Marathon run on April 15th will help him reach his £100,000 goal.

Anneka Johnstone lies in her hospital bed with her daughter.
Anneka with daughter Sienna
Anneka Johnstone lies in a hospital bed after her brain tumour diagnosis. Her husband will run the Boston Marathon in her memory.
Anneka Johnstone

To be chosen to run in honour of Anneka is a privilege – it helps to keep her name and what happened to her in focus. And it gives me a platform to share with others how devastating a rare but awful disease such as brain cancer is, and how it can affect both the lives of who is diagnosed and the family that surround them.

Alan Johnstone

Training for the big day

Alan, who is one of thousands who signed the Charity’s Open Letter to the government calling for a National Brain Tumour Strategy, has been training hard for the race, balancing dad duties with running. He’s well aware that the Boston Marathon course will present plenty of challenges:

 “I’ve heard that there are delights to expect such as the aptly named “Heartbreak Hill – sounds enthralling! I believe it is much hillier than London, and that alone gives me a little more trepidation with regard to completion. But, it’s one foot in front of the other, and as long as I manage to do that, I will get to the end. 

“I’ve recently injured my calf muscle and I’m worried that I might pull it during the race. That might be ok at mile 25, but if it happens early, it’s going to be a very painful day for me. But I’m positive for a full recovery before race day, so I’ll just keep crossing my fingers and hope that the injury resolves itself.

“If the worst happens, I’ll dig deep like I’ve done previously. Thoughts of Anneka, of everyone who’s sponsored me, all the well wishes, plus the fear of failure will push me on to the finishing line”. 

Making memories with Sienna

Alan and his daughter stand in a tunnel of vines
Alan Johnstone smiles in a selfie with his daughter. He'll be running the Boston Marathon in memory of her mother.

Waiting at the finish will be daughter Sienna, who cheered her dad on last year in London, and supports all his fundraising efforts. Alan said:

“Sienna has been the mainstay in my life since she was born. After Anneka passed away, she is the single person that I have had to be almost exclusively responsible for. I have had to try and nurture her, teach her and laugh with her, and in turn she gives my life focus and drive to be a little better each day.

“I want her to be there for me, and have memories of her own as to what her dad has done – not just for The Charity, but in memory of her mum. I don’t want to tell her afterwards what we have managed to do, or raise – I want her to be there to soak up the atmosphere, see a new and exciting city, see the crowds, not hear from a story. I want her to have experienced it and have some memories of her own, while living the experience with me.” 

As well as for Anneka and Sienna, Alan is running for better outcomes for other families affected by this awful disease.

“It’s shocking to me that there’s not been more investment at government level. Much more needs to be done to help rid the world of cancer and brain tumours and I hope the money I raise will help in some way. It’s the reason why I stick on my trainers and run 20 miles in the cold Scottish rain! Hopefully people sponsor me and I reach my £100k target – and drive some change along the way.” 

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