IT was 21 years ago that marathon man Coun Mark Harris first donned his running shoes to raise money for the hospital that saved his life.
Now he is on the fundraising trail again and will next month take part in the London Marathon in aid of St James’s Hospital in Leeds, where staff successfully treated the cancerous tumour that threatened to kill him.
And Mark has a double reason for taking on the 26.2 mile challenge – last year his 22-year-old daughter, Esther, was diagnosed with cancer and was treated at the Bexley wing at St James’s.
Esther was born on April 24, 1988 and on April 24 a year later, Mark was told by doctors his vocal chords would have to be removed otherwise he would not see out the summer.
The operation went ahead and on April 24 1990, Mark completed his first London Marathon in aid of St James’s.
He said: “It’s strange that the date should have played such an important part in my life.
“It’s been like a roller coaster ride – up one year, down the next and back up 12 months later.
“I wanted to celebrate the 21st anniversary of my first marathon and Esther’s diagnosis is a double reason to do something.
“Her prognosis is very good. She was treated very quickly and the staff have done a great job just like they did with me. I decided it was time to raise some more money for them.”
Mark will not be alone when he runs in London on April 17. His son, Joe, 19, and former council sports officer Dave Jackson are also taking part.
Mark, who completed a string of marathons in the decade following his treatment for cancer, said: “It is 10 years since I last did a marathon so it’s going to be quite a challenge.
“I am in training. I stopped drinking on New Year’s Eve and have lost a stone-and-a-half so far.
“I reckon it will take me between six and seven hours but the time I take is an irrelevance to me. I just want to cross both the starting line and the finishing line on the 17th.”
Proceeds from Mark’s run will go to the Yorkshire Regional Cancer Centre at St James’s. Donations, including cheques made payable to the Yorkshire Regional Cancer Centre, can be sent to Coun Mark Harris, c/o Leeds Civic Hall, Leeds LS1 1UR.