Our very own Activities and Engagement Officer, Alex Yoxall, raised a fantastic £2881 for local stroke survivors and carers through completing the London Marathon.

Alex has worked for Think Ahead Stroke for just over 2 years, but has over 7 years of personal stroke experience through his Mum, Amanda - who had her stroke in 2014. It was her post-stroke struggles that lead Alex towards working for Think Ahead in the first place, and remains at the heart of his passion for the work the charity does for local survivors and carers.

In a monumental effort, Alex racked up the training miles and fundraised £2881 in 6 months. On October 3rd he ran the 26.2 miles in the nations capital - finishing in 5 hours 25 minutes. Such an effort will directly help us here at Think Ahead offer free support, advice and information to stroke survivors, carers and their families throughout the borough.

Running has always been a hobby of Alex's, with many 10ks, Tough Mudders and half marathons already under his belt. However, when he managed to secure a ballot place in the 2021 London Marathon event - he knew exactly what he wanted to do - raise funds for Think Ahead Stroke.

Alex passing the Tower of London, around the half marathon mark.

In what would be his first experience of such a distance, Alex knew this was going to be the challenge of his life. On his initial thoughts when finding out he was to run the event, Alex had this to say:

"At first it was disbelief! I had entered the ballot for a few years and never got in. It was becoming a running joke in our family. You enter but pretty much know it means nothing. So when I got the email telling me I was in, I had to pinch myself!

"It was almost instantaneous after that initial reaction what I was going to do. An event that is world renown, the biggest fundraiser of the calendar year, first one back since the pandemic began...I was running it for Think Ahead, no doubt about it."

The charity and voluntary sector has been hit hard since Covid-19 reared it's ugly head, and here at Think Ahead Stroke, we were no exception to that. As a charity, we were unable to run the Think Ahead Dragon Boat Race Day for the second year running - which was our annual fundraising event. Alex's marathon challenge was locked in as an alternative campaign to raise not only vital funds, but much needed stroke awareness and community spirit.

The journey in which he embarked on would see him cover over 650 training miles, smash a 12 week gym plan and have his right knee diagnosed with Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome - and even receive physio for his efforts! However on the difficulty of the entire challenge, Alex said:

"It was certainly tough going at times. During those summer months though, it was even quite good. Nice weather, less mileage - I quite enjoyed that bit!

"However, as we approached race day, and the autumnal nights began creeping in, bringing that colder weather with it - it quickly got harder. Not to mention the mileage was getting higher by the week. Some nights I would get in from work, go for a run for a couple hours, have tea and before I knew it - it was time to go to bed and start it all again!

Alex was soon on the streets of London running the marathon. During the entire process, he kept all his donors and supporters up to date with his weekend event updates on our social media pages - which featured live tracking details. You can see them all below.

In just 5 hours and 25 minutes he had vindicated all the faith bestowed upon him and did not only himself, but his family, Think Ahead and all we support, proud.

"Smile for the camera!" - Alex giving the thumbs up as he runs

On the race itself Alex penned this passionate note on the charity's social media account.

All the funds raised from this fantastic campaign will go towards supporting local stroke survivors and their carers improve their digital skills - through the building of a Digital Media Hub at their very own Stroke Information Centre.

The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns highlighted the desperate need for support in the stroke 'cyber-space', with essential services such as GP's and Banking turning towards online only access. In line with Greater Manchester Combined Authority's pledge to end digital exclusion, Think Ahead will use this fundraiser to help bridge the gap between those most vulnerable, and the proliferating digital world.

On all the support Alex wanted to say a final thank you:

"I can't put into words how grateful I am for all the support not only I received, but what the charity has had as well. Every comment on a social media post, every like, every message of encouragement - it was all banked in my mind and used to motivate myself through each of the 26 miles.

"One more mile!" - Alex catching his breath as he closes in on the finish

"It will stand as a defining moment in my life, and I am very grateful to have represented Think Ahead Stroke on the national stage. It is no secret that I am passionate about the work we do here, and every day I am able to fly the Think Ahead flag is an honour.

"Thank you to all the Think Ahead team - Carol, Mike, Mary, Linda and Linda - for your support in this campaign. Thank you to all of our members for your words of wisdom and support in our support groups and activities. And thank you to each and every person who donated their hard earned money to the appeal."

To get in touch with Think Ahead Stroke and find out how we can help or donate, please call 01942 824 888 or email [email protected].