'My Blenheim run is from the heart'

Jacquii John

Jacquii John

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by

JACQUII John’s father Aubrey died of a heart attack in January, just 17 days after the former Oxford Old Boys rugby player and magistrate underwent successful heart surgery.

Now Jacquii has signed up for the British Heart Foundation’s Blenheim Palace Half Marathon, to run in his honour – and she wants you to join her.

Mrs John, 42, from Abingdon, said: “My dad played rugby for the Old Boys into his 40s and was always a tremendously strong man – in 2000 he even climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for the Epilepsy Society.

“But on Christmas Day last year, while skiing in Austria, he suffered a heart attack.”

Mr John underwent a successful quadruple heart bypass at the Oxford Heart Centre on January 6, returned home to Headington and was making a good recovery.

But on January 23 he suffered a heart attack and died, aged 69.

Mrs John, who works for the Environment Agency, added: “Losing dad was such a terrible blow to us all and still is. He was such a huge part of our lives.

“I signed up to take part in the Blenheim Half Marathon, which raises money for the British Heart Foundation (BHF), on the day of dad’s bypass operation.

“The BHF is a fantastic charity and is very important to all my family, not just because of the great work it does for all heart patients but also because I was born with a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) – a hole in the heart between the right and left ventricle – and Mitral Stenosis – a blocked mitral valve.

“Although it isn’t uncommon now, in 1974 to be born with Mitral Stenosis was unheard of as it usually develops following rheumatic fever.

“My parents have always told me how Sir Magdi Yacoub, a former chair for the BHF, agreed to carry out the surgery and carried me in his arms to the operating theatre saying: ‘This may be the last journey she ever makes and she is not making it on a gurney’.

“Since losing dad, the BHF’s life-saving work seems even more important, and I want to do all I can to help them.”

Jacquii’s experience with heart disease and the effect it has had on her family is not uncommon.

Heart disease is Britain’s bigg-est killer and about 370 people in Oxfordshire will lose their life to it this year.

Mrs John, who will run with husband Paul Blake, said: “It will be a very emotional day.

“I will be cheered on by family and although he won’t be there, I know my dad would have been very proud.”

BHF regional events organiser Hannah Townsend said: “The Blenheim Palace Half Marathon and 10K is a fantastic event to take part in and we’re really grateful to Jacquii for sharing her story and taking part.”

“Last year we had over 3,500 people participate and this year we hope to almost double that and smash our fundraising target.”

The Half Marathon and 10K race on Sunday, October 7, includes a family fun run and corporate relay event.

Registration for the half marathon is £23 (over 17s only). For the 10km it costs £17 for adults and £5 for under-16s. The family fun run costs £10 for adults and £5 for under 16s.

For more details and to register, visit bhf.org.uk/ Blenheim, call 0800 169 3672 or email northwestwales@ bhf.org.uk

  • To sponsor Mrs John, visit justgiving.com/JacquiiVJohn

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