London Marathon 2017

My name is Steven Henderson. I am 33 years old, and was born and raised in Aberdeen. I live with my wife Angie, and 2 children Zach, age 7 and Abbie who is 2 years old. We also have our dog Buddy who is a 10 year old Golden Retriever (Or as my wife says our 1st born!).

I began running at the start of January 2016 in an attempt to lose weight after a comment my grandmother made, as only grandmothers can, and signed up for various events to keep me focused on a target and prevent me from just stopping. After watching many people take part in the London Marathon in April 2016, it gave me the urge to complete the marathon myself and do it in aid of charity instead of running it just for myself. The moment I saw SHA were a charity linked to the London Marathon, I knew I wanted to run on behalf of them and was excited after finding I had been successful in gaining a place on behalf of SHA.

Having run 10km events before and the odd half Marathon, nothing prepared me for anything like the London Marathon and occasionally, I did wonder what I had let myself in for.

I had it all set out in principle, train and run a 10km, then move onto a ½ marathon and then prepare for the London Marathon at least that was the plan.

A few months prior to London 3 things were apparent

  1. Donations were not looking great and a big push was required
  2. My distances in training were falling way short of I would have liked (massively!!)
  3. I was starting to wonder what on earth I was doing!

It’s at this point I should say that if it wasn’t for Angie, I would have been sitting on my sofa watching TV and training would have been clean out the door

The weekend of the marathon will always stick in my mind. On the Saturday morning I remember sitting in Aberdeen airport waiting for the flight to London, more nervous than I had been in the lead up to the birth of both my kids and our wedding! Arriving in London I headed straight to the Excel Arena for registration to see what could only be described as sea of people and the amount of walking I did on the day before slightly worried me.

On the evening before the marathon, I met all the runners taking part on behalf of Huntington’s Association from all corners of the UK. It was a nice touch which gave me more of an incentive to run. It was also nice to be able to share each other’s stories with one another.

Race Day was here and an early start for breakfast before heading off to a very busy tube to get to Greenwich. This was followed by a “short” walk through the park to wait at the start line for the beginning of the race. With runners as far as the eye could see, it was a spectacle to see, albeit a very nervous one!

The race was started promptly at 10am and by 10 miles in it was looking good and my time also looking not too bad. However by mile 19 the wall started to appear and boy it hit hard. I was pouring water all over my head, arms and legs as though they had caught fire and ran through as many showers as I could just to keep me cool in the London heat but pushed hard to try and meet my 3hr 30 target.

The last few miles were what can only be described as a struggle and one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. With sheer determination, the sight of Angie along with several thousand people cheering me on and handing out Jelly Babies, the end was in sight and the sight of the Mall brought on the emotion of why and who I was doing this for and as I crossed the line the feeling of relief and accomplishment that I had completed the marathon hit me.

My lasting memory of London will always be; the amount of people that took part, the banners that people held up to encourage their friends and family, the amount of first aiders standing with Vaseline in their hands and the sense of achievement of taking part, finishing the Marathon and raising money for such a great charity.

A Scientist Working on Huntington’s Disease

Note: Dr Emma Yhnell is a scientist working in the Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute at Cardiff University, Wales, UK. Here she gives us her perspective on what it is like to be a scientist working on Huntington’s disease.

How I go into science. 

I really loved science at school, I have to admit that physics wasn’t exactly my favourite, but I loved Biology and Chemistry. I had great teachers who encouraged me to ask lots of questions and learn loads about science. When it came to deciding what to do at the end of my time at school, I knew that I wanted to go to university. But when it came to deciding on which university it was hard, they all seemed to offer similar things, but I combined my love of Biology and Chemistry and decided that I would study Biochemistry at Cardiff University.

Before I knew it, 3 years had absolutely flown by, and it was time to decide what I wanted to do at the end of my undergraduate degree. I had a great time during my degree and I loved the city that I had spent 3 years in, so I wanted to stay. I was looking at applying for PhD’s, higher degrees that focus on a specialist subject. Deciding that I was going to start applying for PhD’s was no small step, it was a tough, competitive process and hard work. I went for an interview in the Brain Repair Group, a research lab that looked at diseases of the brain such as Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease and that were researching therapies to try and treat these diseases. I love the atmosphere there and was accepted on to a 3 year PhD scheme funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) to research a mouse model of Huntington’s disease.

Why I chose Huntington’s disease

I have some experience of Huntington’s disease through family connections, there is also an great sense of community among Huntington’s disease researchers and family members.  But one of the main reasons I chose to study Huntington’s disease was that it is a really interesting disease. It has been previously referred to as ‘the most curable incurable brain disease’, this is because the faulty gene that causes the disease was discovered in 1993. It is incredibly rare for a single gene to be shown to cause a disease. This makes Huntington’s disease a special and unique disease and particularly good for research. During my PhD I learnt a huge amount, and I was also invited into the Huntington’s disease patient clinic to meet people and families affected. This was a real turning point for me and after this I applied for more research funding to look at computer game brain training for people affected by Huntington’s disease. I started off in the lab looking at Huntington’s disease and now I spend my time doing clinical research in the patient clinic.

What does a scientist do every day?

So, what does a scientist do every day? Well, in my current job as a Health and Care Research Wales Fellow I am looking at brain training computer games to see if they can help people affected by Huntington’s disease. This means I have a lot of interaction with patients and families. I am also really lucky as I get to travel and present my research. I love my work as a research scientist. The thing I really love about my job is that I get to talk to people about science and help people and families affected by Huntington’s disease.