A FORMER Westmorland Gazette sports journalist will run the Belfast Marathon in May with the aim of raising more than £500 for the Alzheimer’s Society.

Patrick O’Kane, 29, who recently moved back to Belfast from France, has opted to raise funds for the charity after hearing stories about Alzheimers and dementia through his mother, a carer in the region.

He said: “My mum has done a lot of care work for people with Alzheimers and dementia and it has opened my eyes to just how painful it is, not just for those suffering with the illness, but the families and friends too.

“I have friends who have lost loved ones to the illness and the symptoms mean that as a person deteriorates, they encounter memory loss, which only makes a traumatic time even harder for families. With more than 19,400 people suffering with dementia across Northern Ireland I want to help raise the charity’s profile and show my support to their work.”

Patrick, who now works for Real-time Editing and Design, is looking forward to the run around the streets of Belfast, which will be his third marathon, having completed marathons in Skegness and London in 2008 and 2011.

He added: “The run in Belfast will be quite different to London as it takes on a more undulating route. I picked up an injury in London after 15 miles which prevented me achieving my four hour target, so I am hoping to give it a good go and get around unscathed this time.

“I have dislocated my left knee twice in the past and am having to manage it carefully through my training but I am determined to reach my goals while also helping out a worthwhile charity.”

A report from the Alzheimer’s Society has revealed up to 180,000 people in the UK with dementia feel trapped in their own homes and the charity is currently calling on MLA’s to pledge their commitment as they launch a Dementia Friendly Communities programme in the province.

Heather Lundy, Dementia Friendly Communities Manager, said: “Dementia can happen to anyone and there is currently no cure, but with the right support people can and do live well with dementia. Alzheimer’s Society is working towards creating dementia-friendly communities in villages, towns and cities across Northern Ireland in a bid to challenge stigma surrounding dementia and increase awareness of how best to communicate, relate and support people with dementia.”

Patrick has set up a website for sponsorship at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/paddysmarathon For more information on Azheimer’s and dementia, visit http://alzheimers.org.uk/