The father of a little boy with a rare muscle-wasting condition will push him around a 10k running course so that he can experience the ‘thrill of the race.’
Wayne Armsden, dad to four-year-old Archie, encouraged people to take part in the second annual Muscular Dystrophy UK Leicester Town and Gown race on March 4 to help his son and other children “who will never be able to run 10k.”
Archie has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which causes muscles to weaken and waste over time, leading to increasing and severe disability. The condition affects not only muscles used for movement, but also the heart and vital breathing muscles too, cutting lives short.
The Town and Gown series has also been held in Oxford for 35 years and Cambridge for six, and raises around £150,000 each year to help those with muscle wasting conditions.
The run, which is chip-timed and costs £16 to enter, starts at 10am and follows a three loop route incorporating Victoria Park and the University of Leicester campus.
Wayne and his fiancée Samantha Hurst have raised just over £60,000 through their fundraising group Archie’s Army in the last 18 months, including £21,000 from a charity football match with the Leicester City Legends in July. The family were also the event starters for last year’s Leicester Town and Gown, with Archie sounding the klaxon to signal the beginning of the race.
Wayne, 34, said: “Archie had fun opening the race last year, and this year the plan is for me to run it again but with Archie in his pushchair, which I really want to do so that he can experience the thrill of taking part.”
Archie was diagnosed just before his second birthday, after he started walking late. A routine blood test showed that he had extremely high levels of creatine kinase, an enzyme which leaks from damaged muscle, and after three days in hospital he was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Wayne said: “On balance, I think it was better to know earlier rather than later. As horrible as it was to go through that time, we’ve achieved and done so many things since that we wouldn’t have done if we didn’t know. We try to make the most of every moment of our lives and try to be positive.
It’s only when people see how much it affects his life and his family’s life that they realise how serious it is. Archie and other boys with this condition will never be able to run 10k, so we need to do it for them.
“I didn’t think that I could do it before last year, but you do it because it’s for such a good cause, and ultimately what we’re trying to do is raise money to find a cure. Seventy-five per cent of the money Archie’s Army and our supporters raise goes straight to Muscular Dystrophy UK because we want to put as much into the research that’s going on at the moment that we can.”
Wayne said that the family had been overwhelmed with support from the local community since Archie’s diagnosis. Oliveti Construction, where Wayne works, EL Group & YMD Boon Architects were all part of organising and arranging the football match with the Leicester City Legends, made of up former Leicester City players including Matt Elliott, Gerry Taggart and Muzzy Izzet.
Wayne said: “I am no footballer, but I was asked by the lads organising the event if I could be on the pitch for 15 minutes to play. Playing against ex-professionals was really hard work! We have set up an Archie’s Army football team and as we already have sponsors set up for next year, we are hoping this will become an annual event.”
He said that as well as running the Town and Gown for Archie, he also intends to run for his fiancée to say thank you for all the effort she has put into raising money and organising events.
Wayne said: “The first year after Archie was diagnosed, my fiancée Sam did everything with the charity and fundraising. She set up loads of events and a charity ball, and it exhausted her. She initially wanted to run as well, but in the end there wasn’t enough time to train for the event. She does so much organising in the background, so I will be running for her as well as Archie.”
Muscular Dystrophy UK is the leading charity supporting the 70,000 people in the UK living with muscle wasting conditions.
The charity’s Honorary Life President, the late Lord Richard Attenborough, spent many years on the University of Leicester campus where the Town and Gown is held.