Sheffield couple running to break world record and raise money to help friend with MS
Paul Fauset is getting faster as he gets older.“Last year I started the last London Marathon a few metres behind Mo Farah,” he says. “But I didn’t get past him.”
No matter. In just more than two weeks, the 46-year-old will be attempting his own world record - alongside his wife and co-runner Stephanie.
“My sister showed me an article about a world record in Canada for the fastest half marathon run by a married couple,” says Stephanie.
“It was run in a combined time of three hours, 12 minutes and 23 seconds. And she said ‘you and Paul can beat that’.”
And that is what they will be attempting at the Sheffield Half Marathon on Sunday, March 29, in what Paul calls one of the country’s toughest, but friendliest half marathons.
Winning a world record would be great, says Paul, but the real reason for their official attempt to crack a sub three hours 10 minutes aggregate time is to help their friend Phil Swindin, one of Paul’s best friends since their school days at King Edward VII School’s sixth form in Broomhall.
“We were walkers, climbers and partygoers together,” says Paul. “However, in 2004 he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and in recent years it has been heartbreaking to see him slowly lose his strength and confidence.”
Phil’s condition has deteriorated to the extent that he cannot walk more than a yard without support, and may have to move to a wheelchair, which Paul says his friend ‘can’t quite face’.
Supported by his wife Alison and three children, Phil has now booked in for a specialist bone marrow treatment called autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation in an expert clinic in Mexico next month.
Paul says: “This treatment is well practised in the NHS, but for MS, a very strict criteria applies which Phil doesn’t meet.”
Phil says: “It is extremely hard, similar to the treatment for leukaemia, and it’s been compared to 10 rounds with a world heavyweight boxer.
“However, I’m being spurred for this treatment because it’s the only thing which may halt my progressively worsening disability.
“I’m so grateful to Paul and Stephanie. Knowing them for more than 20 years, I know it’s their nature to help.”
The risks are high, but the simple fact that there is a good chance it will improve Phil’s condition makes it a risk worth taking, says Paul.
So he and Stephanie will be asking supporters on the hills of the Sheffield Half to cheer them on in their pink ‘Transplant4Phil’ vests and make a donation if they are able – Phil and his family’s fundraising is getting close to the £45,000 needed, so any additional money raised will go to the AIMS charity supporting people with MS.
“We thought ‘what can we do to help’,” says Paul. “What we do is run, and we know a lot of runners who we hope will help support us.”
Training has to fit round their jobs and their two young daughters, so Stephanie and Paul both run to work.
“It takes me 12 minutes to go 1.4 miles, so it’s quicker for me than driving, and far less faff,” says Stephanie, who works at The University of Sheffield.
Meanwhile, Paul is also training to try and beat his current personal best of two hours, 39 minutes and 51 seconds set at last year’s London Marathon.
He says: “I need to get 70 or 80 miles in a week, and I couldn’t do that without running to work and back.”
After contacting Guinness World Records, the Fauset world record attempt is now official with the backing of the Sheffield Half Marathon race organisers, and the couple hope to get plenty of support en route.
Paul’s Sheffield Half time is about one hour 12 minutes, while Stephanie nailed her half marathon personal best in Sheffield at 1.32:45, so they have a good chance against the current 3.12 record set by Julia Heos and Jake Carter in Toronto last October, despite the Fausets being significantly older.
“I don’t normally tell anyone I’m in a race,” says Stephanie, “and here we are announcing it to the world, so I’m a bit nervous. But if we do it I might get the world record bug. My sister Vicky is already talking about the three-legged race record…”