A personal trainer from Camden is preparing to run the London Marathon for a cause close to his heart after surviving meningitis as a baby.
Ray Buckton, from West Hempstead, will be taking on his first marathon to raise lifesaving funds and awareness for Meningitis Research Foundation, in a bid to help other families struck by the illness.
Ray, who owns his own fitness & wellness company, FITWORKS, was just 18 months old when he contracted meningococcal meningitis. His parents, who describe the ordeal as “terrifying”, said Ray became unwell between Christmas and New Year. The pair had gone to a shopping centre to return some Christmas presents and shortly afterwards, Ray became poorly. His Mum, Lorraine, took him to the doctors where he was initially diagnosed with flu. However, his condition continued to deteriorate. He didn't like the light and became stiff so his Mum followed her instincts and rushed him straight back to the doctors again. From the time they had left the house to arriving at the doctors, Ray was covered in a rash, which the doctor recognised to be a symptom of meningitis. He was given an antibiotic shot and was rushed to the hospital where he was spent two weeks in intensive care. It’s was a long road to recovery for Ray who came very close to dying during his illness, which has left him with irreparable damage to his left eye making him partially blind.
Lorraine said: “It was a terrifying experience. He went from being a very advanced, athletic child who was able to ride a trike to basically a new-born baby, unable to hold his head up. Ray underwent physio for quite a long time after and also needed to wear a patch on his unaffected eye to stop him from getting a lazy eye.”
As a meningitis survivor, Ray said he is determined to help prevent other families from going through the same ordeal.
“I suffered from bacterial meningitis as a baby and have lived with partial blindness as a consequence, but that’s nothing compared to the devastation some families endure,” he said.
“The Meningitis Research Foundation does incredible work supporting families and individuals who have been affected by the illness as well as trying to eradicate it from the world, so nobody needs to suffer from it. Having the opportunity to represent them, raise awareness and hopefully raise some money for such a worthy cause is something I’m so grateful for. I also get to do it whilst taking part in the greatest race in the world in the greatest city in the world.”
Despite having trained countless clients for running and endurance events throughout his career, Ray is relatively new to long distance foot races and hadn’t run more than 5km since his early 20’s. Keen to put his own training methods and programming into practice he took on the Royal Parks Half Marathon last year, which he completed in 1 hour 26mins. Over the last eight months, his focus has been on building up the additional miles and he has set himself the challenge of completing the 26.2 mile course around the streets of the capital in 3 hours 20 minutes.
Ray says it has been daunting challenge.
“If you want to achieve something significant, it always requires sacrifice,” he said. “I haven’t gone out with friends and drank for months. I trained hard every day whilst on holiday, and I chose running in the most abysmal weather when all I wanted to do was to sit in the warm and chill."
“It can feel like you’re torturing yourself sometimes, but I believe there really is no greater feeling than the sense of fulfilment and accomplishment you get from working hard and achieving goals you set out to achieve. That speaks true for all aspects of life, not just health and fitness related goals.”
Ray will be one of more than 180 Meningitis Research Foundation runners racing to defeat meningitis, raising vital funds and awareness, ahead of World Meningitis Day 2022, which takes place just three days after the London Marathon on Wednesday 5th October.
Globally, bacterial meningitis kills 1 in 10 people who contract it and causes life-long disability for 1 in 5 survivors. Symptoms can be confused with other illnesses, like COVID or flu, and it can kill within hours.
Every year, people from all over the world come together for World Meningitis Day to raise awareness of the disease. This year, for the first time in history there is a Global Road Map to Defeat Meningitis by 2030. By turning the World Health Organisation’s road map into reality, it could save more than 200,000 lives every year and significantly reduce disabilities caused by meningitis. To mark World Meningitis Day activities will be taking place worldwide to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms, the vaccines available and that it is a disease that needs global attention and effort to be defeated.
Ian Beningfield, Head of Fundraising for Meningitis Research Foundation, said: “Meningitis can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time and is a race against time because it has the potential to kill within hours. Our vision is a world free of meningitis and the clock is ticking to make every day to 2030 count. We are incredibly grateful to Ray and all our marathon runners who have trained tirelessly for many months, at times in extreme weather conditions, in preparation for this year’s event. Not only are they helping to bring greater attention to a global health issue that needs to be defeated, but every penny raised will be used to help fund vital research and support families impacted by this devastating disease.”
For information about how to get involved in World Meningitis Day and join the global effort to defeat meningitis, visit: www.worldmeningitisday.org
To sponsor Ray visit: justgiving.com/fundraising/ray-buckton1