Cancer patient to begin 60 racecourse running challenge in Doncaster

When Alistair Kettlewell steps on to the track at Doncaster racecourse next week, it will be the start of a new leg in his long-running race against cancer.

Friday, 7th February 2020, 10:32 am
Updated Friday, 7th February 2020, 10:32 am
Step on Cancer founder Alistair Kettlewell
Step on Cancer founder Alistair Kettlewell

The 41-year-old father of two is setting out to raise thousands of pounds for Macmillan Cancer Support by running around all 60 racecourses in the UK over the next 12 months.

It begins at Doncaster on 10am, on Monday, February 10, and everyone – particularly those whose lives have been affected by the disease – is invited to walk or run the two miles alongside Alistair.

The Leeds-based finance worker has surprised doctors by surviving this far with the disease, so may be no surprise if he completes his Step on Cancer challenge.

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Two years ago, Alistair was told he may only have months to live.

Alistair said: “As well as the money, I want to to raise awareness of the importance of remaining active to combat the physical and mental strains before, during and after cancer treatment.”

“Exercise has been a massive part of my cancer journey and evidence is growing of the positive impact it has.”

He added: “Since diagnosis I have run, swum and cycled my way to raising funds for worthwhile causes.

“It has helped me to set myself goals while undergoing treatment. Step on Cancer is my biggest goal yet.”

Alistair requires regular drug treatment to keep his incurable cancer at bay.

In fact, the road to Alistair’s diagnosis with stage four oesophageal cancer began while he was running in 2017.

He said: “I just felt tired all the time. At first I put it down to the fact I was training for a marathon, but once that was over it didn’t get any better.

“Then I put it down to a bug. There were some warning signs, like heartburn, but I did what most men might and put it all to the side.”

He added: “There is probably a message there. If ever you notice something different about your body, get it checked out.”

Alistair with wife Laura and children Mia and Charlie.

As his health got worse and worse, Alistair eventually went to see the doctor.

At first, it appeared he had an inflamed liver, but scans quickly revealed the full extent of the problem.

Alistair said: “Being told you have incurable cancer feels like your whole life has just been taken away in a single instant. I had all these plans for things I wanted to do with work, and especially with my children.

“Obviously it is an incredible physical challenge, but there is also the mental battle for how to go on and face life.”

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome came first, with limited options available to fight Alistair’s cancer and an initial prognosis of just two months to live.

He said: “I was given the option of chemotherapy but advised not to have it – I might get an extra 12 months, or I would die instantly.

“I decided it was worth the risk, and luckily I responded really well to treatment. After a year, the cancer began to grow again and I went for radiotherapy, but after about 21 months it had shrunk to the point where I could lead a semi-normal life.”

Alistair still receives maintenance drugs every three weeks, followed by scans every three months.

He said: “It’s going to be something I always have to live with. Every time I go for the drugs it knocks me, but I can be back to normal in a couple of weeks.

“The difficult bit is the uncertainty going into each scan. It’s hard to know whether you are planning for three more months or two more years.”

He added: “My wife, Laura, feels the same level of anxiety, but as a family we try to make the most of life in the gaps in between.”

Alistair’s focus on physical fitness has also helped him keep looking forwards.

He said: “When so much is taken away from you, you need other goals to work on.

“There are so many other benefits as well to getting out in the fresh air. It gives the medication every chance of working, and it lets me have a bit of mental space to absorb whatever’s going on.”

He added: “Initially I was just going out on small runs, but I’ve built up to longer things like the London Marathon.

“This year, I’m targeting a 55 mile ultramarathon on the Cleveland Way in March.”

Before that, Alistair is taking on the first four legs of his racecourse tour.

He said: “Some friends and I really like our horse racing. We were there last year when one friend said he had been to all 59, and it just seemed like a fun way to raise money.

“We are working with local charities and support groups everywhere we go to make more of an event out of it.

“People can come along and find out about what is available to help them and have a bit cake and a chat.”

One of the key event partners is Get Doncaster Moving, a group of local organisations working to help Doncaster’s communities become healthier through sport.

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To find out more about Alistair and Step on Cancer, go to