A 67-YEAR-OLD man has ran the equivalent of more than 18 marathons – the distance it takes to run to Land's End – on the streets of Stockton to raise money for dementia research in memory of his late wife.

John Hirst took part in Alzheimer’s Research UK's Running Down Dementia challenge where participants run, walk or jog as much as they can between April 1 and August 31 – he ran 441 miles.

In 2017, the man's wife died from a form of early onset dementia, know as frontotemporal dementia, at 66-years-old after being diagnosed five years prior.

Mr Hirst said“Eighteen months after her retirement as a nurse in the NHS she was diagnosed.

The Northern Echo:

"Following this, her decline was rapid resulting in loss of speech, an inability to swallow and for the final months she was forced to use a wheelchair.

"Throughout her ordeal she was always able to recognise us all and was aware until very close to the end of her life.”

Since her diagnosis, the dad-of three has been helping to raise awareness of early onset dementia.

"Some dementia is hereditary and, while none of them will get tested, we have three kids together and the chance of none of them having it is low.

"I think about her quite a lot. Towards the end, in nursing home she was in and actually died in I have had to run past.

"I hadn't ran since 1971 until 2014, but now I am a park run fanatic."

The Northern Echo:

Plotting the distance on a map after each run, to see how much closer he was to Land's End in Cornwall, Mr Hirst picked up local facts and history from each location he 'virtually' stopped off in.

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He added: "When I passed through Derby, I was shocked to see a street called Lara Croft Way. The game creator was from there, but it's just something I didn't expect.

"And then there was the place where Alfred burnt cakes."

The runner tackles marathons and takes part in other activities each year to continue fundraising for Alzheimer’s Research, and is hoping to raise £500 from this challenge.

Claire Priestwood, North-East regional fundraising officer at the charity said: “Dementia affects a significant proportion of the population – one in three people over 65 in the UK will die with some form of the condition.

“That is why we are determined to help scientists discover new treatments and find ways of tackling the diseases that cause dementia, but we can’t do this without the support of our wonderful fundraisers.”