Susie Hewer, the knitting marathon runner
PUBLISHED: 01:16 30 March 2011 | UPDATED: 19:07 20 February 2013
Susie Hewer from Robertsbridge is passionate about running and knitting. Known as the Extreme Knitting Redhead, she's about to run the Brighton Marathon to raise money for Alzheimer's Research UK. Here she tells Sue Armstrong why she does it
Meeting Susie for the first time, with her bubbly personality and flowing red hair, she doesnt appear to have a care in the world. But behind her smile lies a great sadness - her mum Peggy died with vascular dementia six years ago. Since then, Susies been a woman on a mission to raise desperately needed money for dementia research. When mum was in her early 80s she had a series of mini strokes, explains Susie. At the time, I was working as general manager of a garden centre gardening is another passion of mine. I gave up my job to look after her, shed cared for me when I was a child, now it was my turn to look after her.
Mum had been living with us for some time so my husband Mike and I didnt notice dementia creeping on at first. She was a bit forgetful and occasionally left her glasses in the fridge but then things got dramatically worse.
She began to see imaginary people children hiding in her wardrobe, Russians sitting on the stairs. She would shout at them and sometimes throw things too. She was so convincing, Mike and I used to go and check there wasnt anyone there. My gentle mum changed into a furious and aggressive person. It was terribly distressing.
Mum became incontinent and incapable of doing anything for herself. She didnt sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time and Id be up three or four times a night changing her sheets. Life became almost unbearable.
In the end, I went to the doctor and told him I couldnt cope anymore. He referred us on to a specialist and within a matter of weeks mum went into care for the last months of her life. It broke my heart.
I ran my first London marathon in 2005, two weeks after mum died. Two years later, for my 50th birthday, I ran a series of five marathons plus two ultra marathons of 35 and 50 miles! I wanted to do something different for the London marathon that year and talked it over with a friend to get ideas. She laughed and said why dont you act your age and stay at home with your knitting instead. Thats when I started running and knitting at the London marathon.
I pounded the London streets and achieved a Guinness World Record for knitting the longest scarf whilst running a marathon, then beat my own record the following year. Ive carried on running marathons across the country ever since and have now completed 20 with another four planned for 2011. The first one is in Brighton on 10 April, swiftly followed by London the week after. Ive had tremendous support and raised thousands of pounds for Alzheimers Research UK. Dementia research is dreadfully underfunded, so Im thrilled to know this money is helping to pay for world-class research to find new treatments and an eventual cure.
When I join the throngs of runners at various marathons this year, Ill be showing my respect to mum and unwavering support to Alzheimers Research UK, for their pioneering work to defeat dementia. Words cant describe how much I want to see a cure for this devastating condition so that other people dont have to suffer.
To help Susie raise money for vital dementia research you can donate online at uk.virginmoneygiving.com/extremeknittingredhead
or phone Alzheimers Research UK on 01223 843899.
You can also follow Susies progress on her blog at extremeknittingredhead.blogspot.com
About Alzheimer's Research
Alzheimers Research UK is the UKs leading charity specialising in finding preventions, treatments and a cure for dementia. It does not receive any government funding and rely on donations to fund our vital research.
Although dementia is commonly thought of as memory loss, the reality is much more complex and symptoms between the different forms of dementia can vary a great deal. Dementia symptoms can include memory loss, confusion and mood swings.
There are 820,000 people in the UK today living with the daily reality of dementia, including 22,000 people across East and West Sussex.
Alzheimers Research UK provides free information about dementia. Call 01223 843899 or visit www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/dementia-information