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Black Isle man (65) inspired by plight of 'incredibly brave' girl battling cancer steps up to epic running challenges

By Hector MacKenzie

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Finish line in sight for Russell at the 2019 London Marathon.
Finish line in sight for Russell at the 2019 London Marathon.

THE plight of an "incredibly brave" little girl who lost an arm due to bone cancer has inspired a Black Isle man to go the extra mile – and then some – in a heartfelt show of support.

Ailsa Fraser (10) is currently having treatment at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow after the devastating loss of her right arm and shoulder following the diagnosis of osteosarcoma in July last year.

Loved ones of Ailsa, a former pupil at Balnain Primary School in Glen Urquhart and latterly of Hilton Primary in Inverness, have been helped in their challenging plight by the charity, Young Lives vs Cancer.


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Russell Turner (65), who went from "couch potato" to long distance runner after unexpectedly winning a place on the London Marathon a few years ago, is a City Limits band mate of Keith Robinson, the partner of Ailsa's mum, Gayle.

He's stepping out for the Inverness Half Marathon this weekend and its Alloa equivalent a few days later – but those are simply training runs for a double challenge he's taken on for Ailsa.

Explaining his motivation, he said: "Ailsa has been in Glasgow’s Royal Hospital for Children since July receiving treatment for osteosarcoma – bone cancer. In addition to the gruelling chemotherapy, in September Ailsa had to have her right arm and shoulder amputated. Despite going through this horrible time she has remained incredibly brave and smiley."

Ailsa Fraser has spent months in hospital and undergone gruelling round of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with a form of bone cancer.
Ailsa Fraser has spent months in hospital and undergone gruelling round of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with a form of bone cancer.

In April, he'll be taking on two more runs to raise money for Young Lives vs Cancer: the London Landmarks Half Marathon on the 7th and the Virtual London Marathon, from Glen Affric to Kilmorack two weeks later.

Explained Russell: "My wife, Celina, is a long-time runner so I was used to tales of marathons and other races and forgot that normal people don’t all take part in such mad activities. I certainly didn’t, but I entered the London Marathon ballot on a whim, not knowing the very long odds of landing a place. So, of course I got in, did a Couch to 5k and a 16-week training plan then ran – and walked – the 2018 race, which was the hottest-ever.

"I didn’t discover unexpected hidden talent, tottered round in six hours 26 minutes, and enjoyed it so much I signed up for the Yorkshire Marathon, later the same year. If the day had been cold, windy, damp and miserable I might never have tried again."

He's now completed 11 marathons, 11 half marathons, "a bunch of 10k races" and a 50k ultra marathon.

Never one to shirk a challenge he hopes to finish his first 100k ultra in July, a month before he turns 66.

Referring to his connection with City Limits vocalist and guitarist, Keith, he joked: "I could have done more but I can’t take too many weekends off or I might get sacked by the band!

"My times have improved and although I’ll never be a record-breaker it’s satisfying hitting the distance targets in both training and races, and there’s always a great atmosphere at the mass participation events, whether it’s a 10k or a marathon. If I can raise some charity cash at the same time, that’s a bonus."

In the past he's run for Cats Protection and Breast Cancer Now.

Keith said of Ailsa: "She is coming to the end of her chemotherapy. She has been in hospital for the majority of the time since last July.

"The charity has been a great help in getting accommodation with its connection to the Calum's Cabins group. It has helped make life a little easier in a difficult situation and we are very grateful. They have been great."

He said band mate Russell, a bass player, had felt inspired to do something when he learned about Ailsa's plight.

He said it was a lovely gesture.

He said that after the course of chemotherapy had been completed Ailsa would have scans to assess how effective the treatment has been and to figure out next steps.

He said: "We remain hopeful."

To back Russell's fundraising effort for Young Lives vs Cancer, see https://www.justgiving.com/page/bassman66

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