A GRANDFATHER who had never run until his diagnosis for cancer has set himself a challenge of running five consecutive marathons to raise funds for a cause close to his heart.

Richard Wilson, 63, who is now a keen runner, is taking on the arduous back-to-back marathons he’s dubbed the ‘5alive’ challenge for St Benedict’s Hospice in Ryhope, Sunderland.

Richard, a member of the Sunderland Strollers running club, had never run before his diagnosis for non-Hodgkins Lymphoma five years ago.

Said Richard, of Barnes, Sunderland: “The diagnosis came as quite a shock and I thought I’m going to get as fit as possible because I knew I’d be having quite a few hospital appointments.

“I started off walking and went out a couple of times by myself on the track when someone suggested I come along to the Strollers. I thought I can’t do that, I’m not a runner. Then I stuck at it and I just kept on improving.”

Today no one can say Richard isn’t a runner. He’s completed several marathons and the gruelling Lakeland 50 ultra – and has lost two stone along the way. He’s currently on a ‘watch and wait’ list for his cancer and his consultant’s advice has consisted of: ‘carry on doing what you’re doing’.

Now, to celebrate five years of good health since his diagnosis, Richard’s challenge will tackle the London Marathon on April 23 followed by four local consecutive marathons.

In keeping with his five theme, he hopes to raise £5555.55 for the hospice with wife, Denise, and their five children and five grandchildren cheering him on all the way.

“I’ve gone from a place of shock and fear to where I am today. I put it down to prayer, running and diet,” said Richard.

“I wanted to do five challenges as it’s five years since my diagnosis and running this many marathons one after another is something I’ve never done before. It’s a big challenge. I’m excited but nervous too.”

The couple, who still help out at the family business, Wilsons Convenience Store, recently renewed their marriage vows after 28 years of marriage and asked for donations to be made to the hospice in lieu of gifts. The pair, who worship at Hope Church, in Sunderland, met after both being widowed and went on to adopt each other’s children.

Richard’s connection with St Benedict’s Hospice goes way back to when his first wife, Susan, passed away in the hospice from breast cancer. Susan’s parents also worked for the hospice.

Catrina Flynn, fundraising manager at St Benedict’s Hospice, said: “We’re really grateful to Richard for setting himself these marathon challenges to raise funds for us.

“He’s done fantastically well to keep himself so fit and well and to run these marathons back-to-back will be a great achievement.”