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City race’s hero veteran runner to inspire more to hit streets for Age UK Sheffield

07 August 2017

Bluebell Smith and Graham BellCharity bosses hope the heart-warming story of a ninety-something D-Day hero who is the oldest runner in Sheffield’s biggest 10K race will inspire others to hit the streets in support of the city’s leading older persons’ cause.

 

Plucky nonagenarian Graham Bell will take part in the Run For All Sheffield 10K alongside fellow Age UK Sheffield supporter Bluebell Smith. 

 

The pair- born more than 65 years apart- struck up a friendship as part of their efforts supporting the charity’s work to give help, advice and company to Sheffield’s thousands of isolated older people.

 

The friends-turned-training-partners hope that donning their running shoes will inspire others to take up one of the charity’s 20 free places in the city centre race on 20 September.

 

Graham fought to liberate France in World War Two and was one of four veterans to be awarded that country’s highest decoration- the Legion d’Honneur- earlier this year. He has also been awarded an MBE for his volunteering and charity fundraising efforts.

 

Graham Bell, aged 91, from Handsworth, said: “I feel extremely proud to still be active at my age and most importantly to be raising money for all the older people in Sheffield who are lonely and living on their own. I am married with three children, six grandchildren and three great grandchildren and feel so lucky to be surrounded by friends and family. But I wanted to do something to help the thousands of people who aren’t. 

 

“I go to the gym twice a week and try to run every day- even if it’s just in the garden. The weather was so bad the other week, I even took to jogging round the house! I’m also always out and about volunteering, including for Age UK Sheffield, for whom I visit fellow veterans and older people living alone.

 

“The work that Age UK Sheffield does is really important. It’s nice to know that if a person hasn’t got any friends, they still have someone they can call for help, advice or company.

 

“Lots of mine and Bluebell’s family will be there supporting us on the day and that will make a big difference.”

 

Bluebell Smith, aged 25, from Heeley, said: “Graham asked me to do the run with him and he’s absolutely impossible to say no to! He is ambitious, determined and completely defies stereotypes about ageing which I commend.

 

“I’ve actually had to do more training for this race than Graham- and he’s 91! Early on we put together a training schedule which we’ve both been sticking to and we’ll also be doing some test runs together. 

 

“I have never liked running, and still don’t really, but that’s what makes it such a challenge. I am having to really push myself and do things that I wouldn’t normally choose to do, because I know it will help to raise as much money as possible for the charity.

 

“Having previously worked at Age UK Sheffield as a fundraiser, I know how important it is that they can keep being there for older people in Sheffield when they need it most. They do lots of fantastic work and it’s great to be able to support them.

 

“Older people in Sheffield can face some incredibly tough times, and can be in situations we couldn’t even imagine for ourselves or our own family and friends. It’s great to know that you’re part of providing a support network for people when times get tough.”

 

“Graham and I want to raise at least £1500 between us. It costs Age UK Sheffield £13 to answer their advice line to an older person who really needs their help, so if we reach our target we could be supporting 115 people, which would be an amazing achievement.”

 

The Run For All Sheffield 10K takes place on Sunday 24 September with a course that takes runners through the heart of the steel city.

 

To take up one of Age UK Sheffield’s 20 free charity places, runners need to commit to a minimum fundraising target of £200. To sign-up, email enquiries@ageuksheffield.org.uk.