Piper runs 12 marathons in 12 months for best friend who died of cancer

Larbert man Neil Clark proudly displays his latest fundraising total for Macmillan Cancer Support with wife Kathryn Grainger
Larbert man Neil Clark proudly displays his latest fundraising total for Macmillan Cancer Support with wife Kathryn Grainger

A Larbert man completed 12 gruelling marathons in as many months to pay tribute to his best friend who died after a battle with cancer.

Neil Clark (53) began his quest to tick off the daring dozen – which ranged from Falkirk to as far as the Falkland Islands – last April in honour of Brian Aitchison, whose life was cut short in 2016 at the age of just 52.

Since then, Neil has managed to raise more than £6400 on behalf of Macmillan Cancer Support.

Neil first met Brian more than 30 years ago when the pair served as pipers with the Scots Guards. Although their career paths took them in different directions – Neil later joined the police while Brian, of Gorebridge, became a Sergeant in the Army – their natural bond and mutual appreciation of the bagpipes remained.

Not satisfied with merely running each marathon, Neil, who now has his own Falkirk piping tuition school, made the touching gesture of piping a 5km stretch during his final run on Thursday, March 22.

Neil said: “The idea came about after Brian died of cancer.

“He was a great guy and was taken too soon.

“The Stirling Marathon came up and I thought ‘I’ll do that’ because it’s really close to home then I had this stupid idea that people aren’t really that impressed with marathons so I thought I’d do one a month.

“The cancer was in his liver and it spread throughout but I was able to spend the last six months with him.”

To add to the already great difficulty of the task, Neil also wore a fully packed three-litre rucksack during every marathon.

While the dad-of-three’s legs might never forgive him for a slog of marathons which featured finishing lines in Fort William, Loch Rannoch and Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands, he insists the breathtaking views more than made up for the pain.

Neil continued: “It actually became like everyday life after six months but my knee’s quite happy I’m finished. A lot of the pleasure of doing it was you were seeing places you would’ve liked to have seen anyway.”

Neil thanked supporters and wife Kathryn Grainger, children James, Shona and Morag, granddaughter Eden, sports massage therapist Terry O’Neill and podiatrist Nikki Grant for their help.

To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/neil-clark18.