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Dartford PC takes on London Marathon challenge in memory of father and grandfather

Dartford PC takes on London Marathon challenge in memory of father and grandfather

12 April 2012

A police officer from Dartford has transformed his lifestyle in preparation for running the Virgin London Marathon to help fight the cancer that killed both his father and grandfather.

Neal Pittman’s well on his way to achieving his target of raising £3,000 for the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund (PCRF) in memory of his father, David, who died in 2010 and his grandfather, Frank.

Crayford businessman David Pittman was the lynchpin of his close-knit family, so his death – only two weeks after doctors informed him that his illness was terminal – came as a great shock. “Although Dad had been unwell for some time, we always thought that he would get better. It was a devastating blow,” says Neal. “He was the ‘go-to guy’ in the family and we all relied on him for advice and support.”

Neal and his father shared a love of golf and cricket, both playing for Farningham Cricket Club. “After he died, they named the cricket club bar after him – that’s certainly something he would have approved of!” says Neal. “And although I love sports - and I’m fairly fit because of my job - I’d never really run before. The training has certainly been tough but it’s been the incentive I needed to go on a health kick and change my lifestyle.”

Neal’s job with the Metropolitan Police means that training time has been difficult to find. “We’re all busy preparing for the Olympics, so training needs to fit in around work at the moment,” he says. “But having the responsibility of raising money for charity has given me an added push and PCRF is a very relevant charity to me. Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all common cancers and, with it affecting two generations of my family, research into the disease is so important to me.”

Some 8,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year in the UK. It has the worst survival rate of any cancer - three per cent – a figure that has not improved in forty years. Despite being the fifth most common cause of cancer death in the UK, pancreatic cancer receives less than two per cent of overall research funding.

Running the full 26.2 miles of the London Marathon course will be an achievement in itself for Neal, who hasn’t yet run that distance in training. “I’ve run half-marathons and hope to build up to the full distance before the real thing, but I’m sure that the atmosphere on the day, combined with sheer determination, will see me through,” he explains. “I’ve also been told that my kneecaps are out of line and that causes me a fair amount of pain, but knowing that I’m doing this for Dad and Grandad keeps me going.”

Donations to Neal’s fundraising account can be made at www.justgiving.com/Neal-Pittman

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