Star’s epic mission for dad

Star Bickerstaff will be doing a series of ultra marathons to raise money for treatment for her dad Paul Bickerstaff, who has MS.
Star Bickerstaff will be doing a series of ultra marathons to raise money for treatment for her dad Paul Bickerstaff, who has MS.
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For most people, taking on a marathon is a challenge.

Taking on three in three days would probably be unthinkable. And considering doing up to 32 “ultra-marathons” in the space of 12 months would not be something most would even consider.

But that could be the feat St Annes mum Star Bickerstaff takes on this year. She will begin with an ultra marathon in March, on the Jurassic coast, in Dorset – three 26.2 mile runs in three days. She has also been accepted onto an ultra run in the Lakes in July – 110km (68.4 miles) in 24 hours.

She has applied to take part in 32 events in total over the course of the year – but is yet to find out if she will get a place.

She said: “I could end up doing two, or I could end up doing 32. But I am determined to raise the money – even if I collapse, even if I can’t walk, whatever it takes.”

Star’s target is to raise £40,000 for new stem cell treatment, which has the potential to help sufferers of multiple sclerosis (MS).

Her dad Paul was diagnosed with the progressive version of the condition, which affects the central nervous system, more than 20 years ago. He now uses a wheelchair and two years ago, was registered blind.

Star, 24, said: “My dad has never seen my youngest son, who is five months.

“We’ve always been told there was nothing we could do. But we heard about this treatment, involving stem cells. They take the stem cells from the person’s body, then use a high dose of chemotherapy to kill off the immune system.

“MS is a condition which affects the nerves, caused when the immune system doesn’t work properly. In MS, the body’s immune system attacks the myelin sheath that protects nerve fibres.

“With this treatment, the myelin sheath can start to rebuild.

“Some people who have had the treatment have had a gradual improvement, and for some, it has drastically made a difference quickly.”

According to the MS Society, because stem cells have the capacity for self-renewal and their unique ability to produce other types of cells, they have the potential to help treat MS.

The aim is that re-booting the immune system in this way will prevent further damage in the brain and spinal cord.

The treatment however is expensive – hence Star’s 
fund-raising efforts.

Star, who works part-time at a high school, said: “It sounds silly, but I would love to know how tall my dad is.

“I’ve never seen him stood up. When I was little he could walk a bit and my brothers and sisters have talked about how he used to take the children for long walks. People might think it sounds sad, but to us. it’s just normal.

“I would love to be able to give him his life back.”

Star caught the running bug two years ago when she first took part in the Blackpool 10k fun run.

Last year, she ran in the same event again, despite being eight months pregnant.

She said: “The first time when I crossed the finish line in the Blackpool 10k, I felt like I could do anything.

“Every time I run, whether it’s in an event or not, I get that feeling of achievement. If I run a bit further, or faster, I feel like I can do whatever I want.

“I do a bit of strength training, but most of my training is running. I do it five or six days a week, so I cover about 50 to 60 miles a week.

“This might seem like an extreme challenge to some people, but a lot of people do marathons these days, or a skydive, and I wanted to do something different, something really big, which would have that shock factor.

“I will run to the point where my dad can walk, it doesn’t matter how long it takes.

“I don’t know how many events yet I’ve applied for, I will get a place at, but I would love to all of them!

“I will be determined to finish each event. Not only will it be raising money, it will be great experience.”

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