An ‘ultra-running’ doctor and father of four boys, is set to take on a gruelling 12-hour challenge in aid of a Blackpool children’s hospice.

Dr Mark Johnston, who works at NHS Blackpool CCG, will run on a treadmill for a mammoth 12 hours to raise funds for Brian House Children’s Hospice in Bispham.

In September 2013 his five-year-old son, Riley, was diagnosed with an advanced form of kidney cancer called a Wilms tumour. The cancer had already spread to his lungs and lymph nodes at the time of being diagnosed.

He underwent 10 months of treatment – all at Manchester Children’s Hospital – which included; chemotherapy every week; a major operation to remove a kidney; radiotherapy (requiring a general anaesthetic every day for a month); and various other tests and scans.

Thankfully, Riley responded well to this initial treatment, but he will continue to be monitored up until adulthood because of the significant risks associated with Wilms.

Brian House Children’s Hospice provides vital support to families who have to deal with the immeasurable reality that their child’s illness isn’t curable.

It is for this reason that Dr Johnston is seeking to raise as much sponsorship money as possible to donate to the hospice. He said: “To watch our son go through what he has, has been horrendous. For his brothers and other close families members to see what he has had to endure has also been incredibly tough for them. We can only imagine how incredibly hard it must be for families who have to come to terms with a worse situation than which we experienced. The support and care Brian House provide to families at the most difficult times of life is amazing.

“Running provided me with an escape during the dark times of being the dad of a son with cancer. At times I’m not sure how I would have coped without the release of a good hard run. The physical pain was a pleasant break from the emotional turmoil and gave me time to think and get myself straight so that I could be there for Riley and my family. It helped me hugely.”

Dr Johnston will tackle the treadmill from 8am – 8pm on Saturday 22 November 2014 in the lead up to the seventh annual Tinkerbell Ball which is being held at The Grand Hotel, Lytham that evening. The Ball is held every year to raise funds for Brian House.

He is aiming to clock up as many miles as he can during the 12 hour stint. The world treadmill record is 77 miles – the equivalent of travelling from The Grand Hotel in St Annes to Crewe. He hopes to cover a distance that would take him as far as Manchester Children’s hospital where all of Riley’s treatment took place.

It won’t be the first time that Dr Johnston has pushed his body to limit’s that the majority of people would never dream of.

He is what is known as an ‘ultra runner’. The term used to describe individuals who regularly run distances which surpass the standard length of a marathon, 26.2 miles. However, the shortest standard distance that is considered to be ‘ultra’ is the 50 kilometer distance, or 31.07 miles.

In 2011, he completed the Ironman Triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a marathon). When he started to train for this, he couldn’t swim more than 20m, had never cycled further than 15 miles and had not done any serious running for 5 years. This challenge will prove just as difficult as he has not actually been on a treadmill for almost 10 years!

Since then he has completed a number of ultra races, sometimes involving additional difficulties besides the sheer distance, such as severe terrain and routes requiring some navigational skill. These include the Lakeland 100, Ring O’ Fire (135 miles), Lakeland 50 and various others.

Most days he can be seen running from his home in Lytham to work at Bloomfield Road and then back again, covering 13 miles each day. He will then top off his week by squeezing in another 20-30 miles at the weekend.

To sponsor Mark please visit: or

Tickets for the Tinkerbell Ball are available and cost £37.50 each. Please contact Emma Cox by calling 07808821397 to purchase.

All proceeds raised will go directly to Brian House Children’s Hospice.


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