The inspirational stories of the North West’s marathon heroes

Ben Read playing for UCLan Rams. Image credit: Hannah Mason

Last weekend’s 40th London Marathon was one like no other with the race taking place virtually, as 43,000 competitors ran in various corners of the world.  

After numerous cancellations due to Covid-19, the event – which was originally scheduled for late April – took on a unique twist to become the first major marathon scheduled for this summer to be completed.

Elite races in the men’s, women’s and wheelchair categories still took place in London and North West interest came in both the elite men’s and the wheelchair women’s races despite a limited number of entrants… 

In the men’s race, Jonathon Mellor of the Liverpool Harriers and Barrow-born Chris Thompson came 13th and 19th respectively, whilst unfortunately Blackpool-based two-time wheelchair race winner Shelly Woods was unable to finish. 

As just a selected few laid their claim in the capital on Sunday, hundreds more adorned the roads of Lancashire in what was a totally new experience. 

Runners still received an official race number whilst a special feature on the London Marathon app also included audio commentary to spur entrants on – with athletics legends such as Paula Radcliffe and Steve Cram getting in on the action. 

Two of those completing their marathons in the local area were Ben Read and Professor Muntzer Mughal. 

The pair, who took on totally differing marathon routes, are 43 years apart in age but their stories are truly inspirational in their own ways.  

Professor Mughal has been in the medicine profession since 1977 and after studying at the University of Salford, he practiced in Lancashire up until 2011. 

Whilst still owning his family home near Chorley, the 66-year-old works as a Consultant Surgeon at University College London and completing his marathon is made all the more special after he suffered from Covid-19 back in March and also suffering an ACL rupture and last year.

Mughal suffered mild symptoms of Covid-19 and was not hospitalised but did suffer a lot of muscle soreness and weakening – something that wasn’t prescribed as a Covid-19 symptom at the time.  

“My fitness level was definitely much less (than before),” said Mughal.  

“I certainly found I couldn’t do the same pace, so I was looking at the marathon with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.”   

This worry turned to wonder on Sunday however, as the professor completed his route which included a stretch of the Leeds-Liverpool canal. 

He added: “I’ve always loved running in this part of the world, and It was really enjoyable I have to say.

“The varying scenery and the twists and turns and not knowing what’s over the next hill is actually quite stimulating.” 

Meanwhile, Preston-based Ben Read decided to run much closer to home, lapping Moor Park which is overlooked by Preston North End’s Deepdale stadium.  

Ben, 23, graduated from UCLan in Preston in 2018 but has remained an active pillar of the community since.  

The Sports Science graduate has volunteered for numerous foundations around the area and is also a keen American Footballer, having worked with GB’s national side and coaching/playing with the Lancashire Wolverines. 

His love of the game, alongside his passion for running with the Preston Harriers, inspired him to out-do a previous feat of running in his American Football gear.

This time around he set about implementing the same idea, raising funds for ‘A Smile For a Child’ – a charity that provides disadvantaged children in the UK the chance to play sport. 

Read said: “I did the Great North Run in 2018 in full American Football kit and that sucked so I thought I’d double the distance, double the pain, and double the money hopefully.”

It is not the first time he’s doubled this distance though having completed marathons in London, Birmingham and along the Great Wall of China.  

Speaking on his continued support of ‘A Smile For a Child’, he added: “They are all volunteers who help run the charity. 

“I feel it’s the small charities who have been really affected during Covid so we can try and help them the best we can.”

Read’s contribution to the wider society is clear to see, with roles such as coaching the Lancashire Wolverines and his work with Bolton University’s Students’ Union proving his worth to Lancashire’s younger community.

You can donate for Ben’s cause here: https://www.asmileforachild.org/