RPS Fellow Alastair McMurray runs 30 half-marathons in 30 days to raise money for cancer charities

An oncology pharmacist from Scotland who has raised more than £53,000 for cancer charities by swimming, cycling, playing tennis and running is now doing 30 half-marathons in 30 days.

McMurray Running 19

Alastair McMurray, an oncology pharmacist and Fellow of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, is spending September 2019 running 30 half-marathons in 30 days to raise money for three cancer charities. 

After cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats, playing tennis for twelve hours straight, and swimming a “mind-numbingly boring” 20km in his local swimming pool, this ‘30 in 30’ forms the final phase of what McMurray has dubbed ‘Sportathon 2019’.

The sporting efforts are all being completed in a bid to raise £100,000 for cancer charities Bloodwise, Bowel Cancer UK and The Brain Tumour Charity. At time of publication, he has raised more than £53,000.

McMurray was chief pharmacist at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre from 1984 until 1997, and now, as managing director of Medac Pharma, he works to develop medicines for cancer and several other diseases. However, when asked what led him to support cancer charities, he replied: “It’s personal”.

“My best friend, Pat Beausang, who was a consultant geriatrician, died ten years ago from leukaemia,” he said.

“[The time] from diagnosis to death was three weeks. It hammers home what a devastating illness leukaemia can still be. I’ve also had pals die of brain tumours and I’ve known somebody else who died of bowel cancer.”

McMurray’s Sportathon 2019 began on 3 August 2019 with a 12-hour session of tennis. “I played against 12 different opponents at hourly intervals,” he said.

“I tried to make it competitive: if I won, my opponent had to give me £100. If they won, they had to give me £50 for the privilege of playing me.” 

Taking only a few days to rest, he then cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

“The most I’d ever cycled before that was about 60 miles — and I went from that to 120-odd miles a day,” he said, describing the first four days of the ten-day journey as “absolutely awful — horrendous wind and terrible rain”.

He adds that he is in no rush to repeat the experience.

“Doing it in ten days was a bit much. Most normal people would do it in around 14 days,” he explained.

“And then I only had a week off before I did my swim. If I’m perfectly honest, the swimming was the single most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life. It was brutal. It was mind-numbingly boring.”

At the time of publication, McMurray had completed his third half-marathon in September 2019. With 27 to go, The Pharmaceutical Journal asked how he found the time to do such a gruelling set of tasks.

“Well, I’m still working so I’m having to do it at lunchtime,” he explained. “I come in early in the morning, do a half marathon at lunchtime, and then get back to work.

“I’m trying to raise £100,000 and I appreciate that, in this day and age, people do a lot for sponsorship and people are always being asked to dig into their pockets. 

“So, how do you do it? You need to do something that’s just so stupid that people think: ‘Look at this guy, putting himself through that. I’m going to make it worthwhile’.

“But at the end of September 2019 I’m done, and I’ll never do anything like this ever again! I’m 58: recovery at my age just takes that bit longer.” 

McMurray’s progress can be followed at https://twitter.com/alloutally and donations can be made at bit.ly/Sportathon2019.

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The Pharmaceutical Journal, RPS Fellow Alastair McMurray runs 30 half-marathons in 30 days to raise money for cancer charities;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20207026

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