Reece Hill from Bretton will be running the Great North Run on 9th September 2018 in aid of leading heart charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY). Reece first became involved with CRY following the sudden death of his best friend, Paul McCann, who tragically died from Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, aged just 32.

Paul, a young father of two, collapsed and died around the 12th mile of the Great Eastern Run in 2016. Family and friends have since worked tirelessly to raise awareness of sudden cardiac death in young people, with the goal of raising £8,500 to fund heart screenings in the local area.

Paul was a trainee train driver for Great Northern and was only weeks away from completing his course when he died suddenly. Reece also works for Great Northern – he secured his job as a train presentation team leader at the rail company thanks to Paul’s help, but his best friend passed away before Reece started in the role. He has since become a ‘shunter’, based in Peterborough, and has ambitions to become a train driver one day. Since Paul’s death, Great Northern’s operator, Govia Thameslink Railway, has named a train in his memory.

Reece hopes to complete all 13.1 miles, spanning Newcastle, South Shields and the North Sea coast in just 1 hour 55 minutes. Reece set this target time as it was the duration of his last chat with Paul.

Reece Hill comments; “Paul was my best friend and like an uncle to my children – we even lived together for a period of time. It was heart-breaking when Paul passed away; he was the man I turned to for help and advice, still to this day I don’t want to believe it’s true. If I were to say he was the nicest guy I have ever met, that would be an understatement. Paul always had the biggest smile on his face, even in tough times. He was just an incredible person, father and friend.”

“I have chosen to run the Great North Run in Paul’s memory for a few reasons, one of them is to try and raise as much awareness for Cardiac Risk in the Young as possible. And, I have found that when I’m running it enables me to have my moments with Paul. I know he will be looking down and pushing me on.”

Every week in the UK, at least 12 young people (aged 35 and under) die suddenly from a previously undiagnosed heart condition. In 80% of these cases, there will have been no warning signs or symptoms, which is why CRY believes that screening is so vitally important. Indeed, CRY’s pioneering screening programme now tests around 27,000 young people aged 14 -35 every year.

Chief Executive of Cardiac Risk in the Young, Dr Steven Cox comments: “It takes great courage for friends or family members who have been affected by young sudden cardiac death to be able to see beyond their own tragedy and want to raise funds for CRY to help save another life and prevent another family having to suffer in the way they have. On behalf of everyone at CRY, I would like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to the friends and family of Paul – we know that so many people from the local area will be rooting for Reece every step of the way!”.

Reece adds; “I’m really looking forward to taking part in this year’s Great North Run, which has become such a high profile and celebrated event.  I have upped my training in the last 8-10 weeks, with distances ranging from 3-9 miles, but I plan on doing at least 11 miles in one go before the big day! It would be wonderful if I could raise as much money as possible to support CRY and to pay tribute to the young people who lose their lives to sudden cardiac death in the UK every year.”

CRY’s hugely subsidised screening programme is overseen by Professor Sanjay Sharma, Professor of Inherited Cardiovascular Disease and Sports Cardiology at St George’s Hospital London and the Medical Director of the Virgin London Marathon -and feeds directly into a world-leading research programme, also under Professor Sharma’s supervision.

Anyone wishing to book into a free, CRY screening local to them, can do so in 3 clicks @ www.testmyheart.org.uk