Updated: Saturday, 15th June 2019 @ 8:23am

Run, father, run! Flixton dad's Manchester Marathon charity challenge for poorly Eva, 6

Run, father, run! Flixton dad's Manchester Marathon charity challenge for poorly Eva, 6

| By Nick Statham

A Flixton father is running Sunday’s Manchester Marathon in aid of his six-year-old daughter in the race to beat cystic fibrosis (CF).

Jon Higgins, 41, and his running buddy, Andrew Gilbert, 36, have come through months of tough training for the 26-mile race.

Trafford council worker Jon told MM: “I’ve always raised money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust since Eva was diagnosed with the disease.

“But, up until now, I’ve been doing things that I wanted to do. I’ve abseiled down Old Trafford on to the pitch and also played a charity football match with loads of Manchester United-supporting mates. There have also been events like parties and auctions.

“I’ve been fundraising for the last six years and it seems like you’re always asking the same people for money – it feels a bit cheeky when it’s things I’ve always wanted to do!”

Last year, Eva, 6, was selected alongside others with the disease to appear on fundraising literature for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

And it was seeing his daughter’s face on the CF Trust banners along the route of last year’s London Marathon that inspired Jon’s latest challenge.

“When I saw all these people running to raise money for CF under banners with Eva’s face on them, I knew that if something was going to get me to run a marathon it would be her face above me,” he said.

“I just thought that would be a proper challenge. I’ve never done anything like this distance. I just about managed about a two-mile run before.

“In fact, this time last year I’d be struggling to do that.”


MARATHON MEN: Jon (left) and Andy in their running gear

Training has been tough for Jon, and he credits his friend, father-of-two Andy, for getting him through it.

“I was going to give in with sore knees a few months ago, but Andy kept me going and wouldn’t let me give up,” he said.

Jon’s other inspiration is obviously his daughter, who has been through so much herself at such a young age.

Eva, who attends St Michael’s Church of England primary school in Flixton was diagnosed with the disease within days of her birth and underwent emergency surgery.

Like most people with the condition, her life revolves around a vast daily intake of drugs, time-consuming physiotherapy and isolation from others with CF to avoid cross-infection.

Jon said: “Running for CF kept us going when training got tough. When I was in pain I thought of my daughter when she was little with needles in her arm. She didn’t want that, but she fought through it.

“So when I’m finding it difficult I think ‘well, it needs to be done’.”

Jon and Andy are hoping vocal support from family, friends and neighbours will get them over the line come Sunday.

“We ran 18 miles the other weekend and we wondered how on earth we were going to complete the last eight, it was so sore and painful,” said Jon.

“Then we realised the 20-mile mark of the marathon takes us past the end of Church Road where I live – so we’re hoping for lots of support at that point to help us reach the end.”

The keen United fan says he is really encouraged by the advances the CF Trust is making in its search for a cure for the life-shortening disease.

“We follow the seminars that the CF Trust put on and the progress at the moment is incredible.

“A couple of treatments have been discovered recently, including a drug called Kalydeco, but it depends on the type of gene mutation someone has.

“Eva doesn’t have the mutation that Kalydeco treats, but it’s all really encouraging.”

Jon also hopes to have a small CF Trust charity stall with the official banners featuring Eva at the race.

Cystic Fibrosis directly affects around 10,000 people in the UK.

It is a life-shortening genetic condition and only half of those affected live to celebrate their fortieth birthday.

To help Jon raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust you can donate by visiting his JustGiving page.