Zac’s final blog: 4 days to go!

April – September 2019

Imagine finding out your husband has passed away. Now imagine hearing that news for the first time once again just a few minutes later or having to be the person to break that news, over and over again. This is the reality for my Cousin Joanne and my Aunty Sylv. Aunty Sylv is living with dementia and has recently had to say goodbye to Uncle Ern, whom she was married to for 62 wonderful years. Ern, who also had dementia, lost his battle recently and although this is a sombre note to begin my final blog, I think it is important to highlight the reality of this terrible disease and how it impacts so many individuals, relationships and families. I will now be running in memory of Uncle Ern and all our family and friends have very kindly contributed to the fortybyforty funds to honour his memory.

Anyone who has been following my blogs will know that I was up to 16k around April time and having to really dig deep! I have continued to run week on week and my fitness has really improved as a result. I had intended to get to 20K prior to the race day itself and having recently clocked up a 19K run, decided that was far enough to push myself as far as the long slogs go! The repeated training is now taking its toll on my knees, ankles, legs, muscles….in fact most body part generally need a spot of WD40 to get me going. I am quite simply not built for running, but the challenge has given me the inspiration and drive I needed to turn my fitness around. The distances I have achieved in the past year are beyond my wildest dreams. I began training in September 2018 and could barely manage 3K, yet hear I am, at my target weight and feeling really proud.

It has been an eventful summer to say the least. Leanne and I welcomed into the world our beautiful baby boy – Nathaniel Sefton Jude Hackett on Wednesday 7th August. He will be joining us in Newcastle and will be cheering on his Daddy and the fortybyforty team (in between drinking his body weight in milk).

The Good

  • One of the best things about this whole experience is being part of such a wonderful team. I have made new friends, achieved crazy running goals with very old friends and followed everyone’s incredible progress throughout the last few months. The team encouragement within our Strava club group in particular, has been a real highlight. Everyone has been so supportive (and some a little competitive), which makes me run even further!
  • I really didn’t think I would change my fitness in such a positive way. Over 3 and ½ stone off now and feeling so much better for it. I think having a goal like this has been a really positive way of focusing on an exciting end event, rather than thinking about how much it hurts at the time!
  • I have continued to use our local area – Byrom Woods for my training. I was lucky enough on two occasions to see a large deer (after previously thinking in the distance it was a large greyhound cross….my lenses were blurry). It’s been amazing to see the local wildlife and I will be continuing to explore the local area (maybe just as a gentle stroll though)!
  • Although the goal set at the start of this challenge felt a lifetime away, I’ve continued to set mini challenges along the way. This has included building my distances week on week, reducing my split times and running longer distances without the mini walk breaks! I recently took part in the Brian House 7.5K run in Blackpool with a few other fellow team players. We did the whole thing without stopping, which I was delighted about. Meeting these goals has really helped to keep me going and I am really excited to now be in the final week!

The Bad

  • The weather has continued to be a challenge and although my garden and fire pit cry out for hot sunny days, running in heat is no fun and really tough. A nice cool day, with a north westerly breeze on Sunday would be marvelous!
  • Welcoming Nathaniel to the world was the most incredible moment of my life……running tired however is something I’ve not really experienced on such a hardcore level. I really had to dig deep for a few weeks and had thankfully stocked up on the energy drinks!

The Ugly

  • Other people’s ‘off lead’ dogs have been the biggest pain in the arse! They all seem to think because you are legging it, you turn into a large squeaky toy that wants to be jumped all over. The worst of these was a fat chocolate Labrador who hit me with such force I nearly fell on the floor! This is where Bella Batfink really helped me out and distracted passing mutts so that I could pass without incident!
  • We’ve had quite a lot of heavy rain recently and Byrom Woods tends to get large puddles alongside the pathways. This is Bella’s dream and on the third or forth lap will often happily jump in and out to cool down. This backfired in spectacular fashion last week when all that could be heard was the biggest splash. For those of you who are ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ fans, you’ll recall the famous puddle scene that Dawn French so brilliantly executed. Now I appreciate that it wasn’t Bella’s intention to recreate that scene, but she gave it her best effort. She quickly hauled herself out and checked to see if anyone noticed! Another laugh out loud moment and memory I’ll dine out on for a while.

Well, that’s about it from me. I couldn’t finish my final blog however, without giving a shout out to my incredible best friend Marge. I have never met a more determined, dedicated and creative individual in my life and want to give thanks for everything that Marge has done to make the fortybyforty team a reality. This was her vision, her dream and it is thanks to her hard work that we have such an amazing team heading to race day. The totals today sit at 70%, which is an amazing £28,000. I am so proud of you Marge.

Thank you to everyone who has sponsored our brilliant team and good luck to my fellow team mates on what is going to be a brilliant adventure.

See you all at curtain up!



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Hidden heroes

At Lyrics & Lunch today, ten or so ladies made sandwiches & soup for people living with dementia and their carers. They played music & we all sang. And for those who are no longer able to speak, percussion instruments were given out, shaken and bashed about to make a giant wall of sound. A couple who had just celebrated their 60th (!) wedding anniversary waltzed whilst we sang Moon River. People laughed and people cried.

Going to the group is a joyful, yet sobering experience. It is simultaneously heart-warming and heart-wrenching to watch carers trying to keep strong whilst their loved ones are slipping away in front of their eyes.

Up and down the country, volunteers are working quietly away in churches & community centres, helping to fill the gaping hole in our social care system. They provide help, support & an inclusive welcome for those living with dementia and their families. These groups are a lifeline: for many, looking after someone with dementia can be extremely isolating and lonely.

More research needs to be done *now* into cause and prevention. 225,000 people will develop dementia this year – that’s one every three minutes. Crisis is certainly looming…

Dementia is not a natural part of ageing. In the U.K. there are over 40,000 people under 65 with dementia. Overall, there are 850,000 people living with dementia in the U.K. Numbers are set to rise to over 1 million by 2025. This will get to 2 million by 2051.

Our 40 x 40 team will be running in 2019 to raise vital funds for research through ARUK. And boy do we need it.


The search begins

I’ve launched forty by forty today. It’s a bit daunting because I’m not sure whether I’ll reach my goal. But I’m going to bloody well try.

Like all the best ideas, forty by forty came along after a few gin and tonics: how can I mark my 40th birthday in 2019? Would it possible to find 40 people who are willing to raise £1000 each for Alzheimer’s Research? Could we realistically raise £40,000? This seemed like a big enough challenge.

After a few calls to Kelly in the events team at Alzheimer’s Research UK we made a plan to start recruiting early. And of course they’re excited about the prospect of a large team working towards such a great fundraising goal. But it is a challenge – it’s a lot of money, and not everyone is as keen on running 13.1 miles as I am.

So why Alzheimer’s Research? I often look after someone living with dementia (my step dad, the chap in the photo here), so I’m all too aware of how the disease ‘dismantles’ someone’s  personality. It’s truly devastating for the people around them – as they watch their loved one slowly slip away. For my step dad that’s involved him losing his speech, his motor skills, his ability to deal with his own personal care…I could go on.

Unfortunately Alzheimer’s research isn’t particularly well-funded. But there’s a desperate need to up our game in this field if we’ve any chance of getting our act together before the predicted rise in this disease takes hold.

Over the next couple of years I’ll be using this blog to document forty by forty. Hopefully by the next entry I’ll have recruited a few more participants to our team. So if you’re reading this and you fancy a challenge in 2019 – please join our team.

“Many people think dementia is just a natural part of ageing which means they don’t realise that it is something we could, one day, defeat.” Christopher Eccleston

Become a Dementia Friend

A Dementia Friend learns a little bit more about what it’s like to live with dementia and then turns that understanding into action. Whether you attend a face-to-face Dementia Friends Information Session or watch an online video, Dementia Friends is about learning more about dementia and the small ways you can help.

Sessions are run by volunteer Dementia Friends Champions, who are trained and supported by the Alzheimer’s Society. I completed training to be a Champion so I often deliver sessions out and about in the community to groups and businesses.

Each session lasts about an hour and they’re totally free. You’ll learn more about dementia and how you can help to create dementia friendly communities.

If you’d like to book a free session at your workplace get in touch with me. Or search for a public event here.

Zac Hackett – blog update!


December 2018 – April 2019

I find myself a little behind schedule with the blog this time, although the extra month or two gas given me far more to report on! I had just made it to 7K week in the last blog and was adding a further K on every two weeks. This routine worked really well for me and I can’t believe I am writing that I recently did my first 16K week! When the distance achieved was lower, I was really struggling to see how I was ever going to achieve the end goal. Now much further on, I am starting to get quite excited about race day in September and taking part in this amazing event. Don’t get me wrong, I moan to my lovely wife continuously about all my aches and pains, she deserves a medal…or maybe noise cancelling headphones?!

Sadly, the distance I’m running every week is now too far for our dog Bella, especially now the warmer weather is moving in. She made it to 13K and still comes along with me if I do a shorter fitness run. 16K is only doable once a week for me, both with the amount it takes out of my body and the time it takes to complete! I have also switched to adding the additional K on every month, to be in-keeping with the end distance in September. My plan it to make it to 20K in the weeks before race day, leaving the final distance of 21K until the race day itself. I also think attending another event before the Great North Run would also be good for experience purposes. I am considering running the Manchester 10K in a few weeks.

The Good

  • When the weather is good, running is so much more pleasurable! However, the right balance is often rare. Days without rain by far the best! I have perfected my rain face.
  • Being out running has made me so much more aware of my surroundings and nature. I run at Byrom Woods and seeing the seasons change there has been lovely. This is a far cry from the days Marge had to talk me into walking across Manchester, instead of hailing a Taxi…often bribed with a Prosecco and bag of crisps!
  • The running has continued to boost my fitness. I have now lost 3 stone and am fairly close to my ideal weight. This has made a huge difference to my self-esteem, yo yo weight days are now a thing of the past. The increase in fitness has encouraged me to try new things and I recently started playing football on a Saturday with friends. This is something I never would have thought about this time last year. It is a highlight in the week for me, I really enjoy the session and playing alongside my Step Son is a real joy.
  • One of my most memorable runs so far took place quite recently. I was on the way back from Byrom Woods, clocking about 13K and really having to dig deep. I saw a group of people up ahead and only when much closer, realised it was our best friends Fiona, Darren and their family. They all started cheering and shouting my name, encouraging me to keep going. Then lots of high fives as I ran past. This was brilliant and gave me such a boost. It also gave me an insight into how important supporters are on race day, cheering from the sidelines.
  • It has been brilliant to see the fortybyforty team fundraising page get going. I have done a fair bit of fundraising and social media sharing so far and will continue to do so to try and reach that magic target. I think some additional fundraising activities would be a good idea over the next few months to boost my total.

The Bad

  • …and lots of it! I have struggled with my feet, ankles, back and pretty much every other moving part in my legs. The need to drop to one run a week was highlighted by my struggles and this has helped aches and pains. My feet and ankles in particular have been really sore. I am monitoring everything closely and will seek physio if it gets any worse.
  • As much as the perfect weather makes for great running, the alternative takes real determination to get out of the door. In the last five months, I have run in pretty much every weather combination possible. Snow, ice, wind, hail, fog, rain and more recently some very warm sunshine. Much like everyone else, I will be hoping for the perfect weather conditions on race day, who knows what we will get!?
  • One of the downsides to running such a mammoth distance is the time it takes. Like most people, we have a busy, actioned packed life in our house. I have had to really plan ahead to make sure I have the time for running now. It has become such a fixed part of my routine and I can imagine I’ll continue running after race day now (I may retract that on Monday 9th September).

The Ugly

  • Only I could accidentally get caught up in a running club for teenage boys on a sunny Sunday morning at Byrom Woods. Right at the point they were practising sprint runs up and down a hill. The entire group was halted as I bobbed along with Legally Blonde blasting in my ears!
  • Pink grapefruit isotonic energy gels really are as disgusting as they sound.

My final blog will now be in August, at which point the final preparations for our adventure will be underway. Who knows if I will then be running 20K! We will see.

Zac’s reasons for running

September – November 2018

I can remember the exact day Marge suggested we should do the Movember 5k in 2012. I was then half way to losing what went on to be 6 and 1/2 stone in weight. I laughed out loud at the thought of me running! I knew Marge wasn’t messing about though and reluctantly accepted the challenge. As this was my first ever 5k, were never going to rival Mo Farah, but we did it and jogged the whole way without stopping. Just after I’d proudly collected my medal Marge said….right….Manchester 10k next! Once again a hearty laugh echoed and yet somehow 6 months later I found myself nervously waiting at the start line for the Manchester 10k! I completed it in what was always going to be a PB, as I’d never run that far before. Marge met me at small pub not far from the finish line and handed me a pint. Right, Great North Run next…she said! Only if I can do it on a Segway, I said! All I can say at this point, is Marge is a very persuasive and determined best friend, and yes here I am writing my first blog as I train for a half marathon. Even writing that sentence makes my heart miss a few beats.

Over the course of the last two years my weight has been on the increase. Work, love and life all taking over any fitness time. When I accepted Marge’s invite to the fortybyforty challenge I knew a few things would need to change. I have such a bad relationship with food, my weight has tended to yo-yo up and down my whole life. Commitment to this gave me the kick up the arse I needed to get back on it. I began dieting in September and set myself realistic mini targets, so far I have hit them all (some a few weeks in advance) and as I write this today am 1lb away from 2 stone off. I would still like to lose another stone.

I did my first 3k run at the beginning of September (when I say run, let’s just be clear I mean jogging with the odd walking break in between). I stuck to 3k for two weeks, running approximately 3 times a week. Every two weeks I have added a km on. Most weeks I have managed 2-3 runs a week and also added my badminton club into the mix from November as an extra cardio session. Monday 20th November saw the start of 7k week. I was a bit daunted by this, but every week before when the km was added on, I had the same feeling, stuck with it and achieved it. I appreciate 7k is a very long way away from a half marathon, but it is steady progress.

In terms of running entertainment, I am addicted to musicals, so every musical going plays through my headphones (the more dramatic the musical composition the better)! I also run with my beautiful dog Bella. She is a Pug/Bichon/Miniature Poodle /unhinged ball of energy and faster than a greyhound running to catch the last bus home! She pulls me along like a husky and loves every second and could easily do 10k plus!

Alzheimer’s effects so many people. I have seen firsthand the speedy decline in RA (Richard) and my own Godmother becomes increasing unwell with this vile disease, it’s so sad. Team fortybyforty can really make a difference for this amazing charity and I am so proud to be a part of that. I am not a runner and I’m not interested in PB results. I do however find myself with a reason to get fit again and it has been the best decision to take part in this amazing challenge. At this stage I have absolutely no idea how I am going to run the final distance, but I will keep chipping away at the little plan I have created and hope for the best! By my calculations I should be up to 14k when I next write my blog in February 2019…we will see!

Bella the dog
Bella the dog taking a short break from training