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Story added: 5th July 2022

“Running started as a punishment, now I love it.”

Seventy-seven-year-old Alan Varle was eager to compete in his fifth Run Norwich back in 2019.

However, on the same day he was set to collect his race pack, he was diagnosed with Low-Grade Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, which meant he had to withdraw from the race.

This year, he looks to Run Norwich 2022 as a major recovery landmark.

Alan has been a runner since he was aged 12, so it has played a vital role in his life. However, he did not enjoy running to start with, at times, even viewing it as a punishment.

When growing up, Alan attended (in his words), “an appalling, odious, snob-ridden Grammar School, where teachers resented the working-class kids from council estates, and often didn’t allow them to participate in the Rugby and Cricket teams”.

Instead, they were sent out cross-country running around Chiltern Hills and Dunstable Downs. Most students hated it, however, Alan fell in love with it. He said, “I didn’t just view it as a punishment. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed it from the start. It was freedom, liberation, and gave me a wonderful sense I was getting one over on them by enjoying it so much.

“It was the greatest gift that horrid school ever gave me”.

Alan had kept up running all his life, along with other sports such as Swimming, Rugby, Judo, Badminton and the gym, but back in 2019, he felt his body was deteriorating.

He grew weaker and moved slower, suffering from aches and pains. On top of this, Alan also began to contract a number of infections, and even cracked some ribs when he took a fall, signifying his fragility.

After weeks and weeks of doctor appointments, Alan received the worst possible news.

Alan was diagnosed with Low-Grade Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – a blood cancer, which destroyed all strength in his legs. Alan was quickly fast-tracked onto chemotherapy.

Given his running background, this shattered him both physically and mentally.

Optimistically, Alan thought he could bounce back immediately following his treatment, but three years on, he still finds himself struggling.

However, he has since managed to partake in a couple of 10K events and the odd parkrun – which he claims is predominantly due to his supportive wife, Louise, who is also running in Run Norwich 2022.

Alan also attributes part of his recovery to his brilliant new physio who is acting more as a coach with the first ever structured training plan of his life, which he’s described as a “happy shock to the system”.

Everyone at the Community Sports Foundation and Run Norwich wishes Alan the best of luck on the 17th.

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