How Rufus the dog puts marathon pair through paces

Team Run For It are preparing to run the London Marathon to raise money for dementia sufferers.


After months of rigourous preparation with “personal trainer” Rufus, an Irish setter who accompanies 52-year-old Stephanie Atkinson of Ilkley, West Yorkshire, and her daughter Emily on weekly runs, the duo are ready to take on London. The London Marathon, that is.

As runners for the charity Team Run For It, Emily and her mother will participate in the 26-mile race next month (sans Rufus) to raise money to help the lives of older people.

Charities Age UK and YouthNet have joined forces for the 2018 Virgin London Marathon to create Team Run For It, with the mission of bringing young and old people together to combat the loneliness and isolation that many elderly folk endure. Their aim is to get older people online and up-to-speed with the web, with the hope that they will then be able to connect with the outside world and stay in touch with loved ones.

“My daughter works in a residential care home in the dementia unit,” says Stephanie, who is a GP at the Ilkley and Wharedale Medical Practice. “Because of where she works, we figured it would be a good idea to get involved with a charity that helps older people.

Connecting generations

“We heard about Age UK and saw that they were doing this project to connect older generations with younger generations. As we are people of two different generations, we thought it sounded like a good thing for us to do.”

Team Run For It has 350 members, ranging from 18 to 81 years old, and requires a fundraising target of £1,850 per person. The group is just one of the 600 charity teams running in the marathon. About 25 per cent of all marathon runners are those doing so to raise money for a charity.  In fact, the London marathon is considered to be one of the biggest fundraising events in the world, collating more than £500m since the first race in 1981.

To hit their fundraising target, the Atkinsons have focused on getting sponsors and money around their local town of Ilkley.

“At Christmas we had a band and sang carols in one of the local supermarkets to raise money,” says Stephanie.”

Neither is a novice to running: Stephanie has run one marathon before [in Edinburgh] and Emily has run two half marathons. To prepare for the big day, Emily and Stephanie do three to four runs per week; one is a longer run, the distance of which gets steadily longer as the race date gets closer. They also do two to three shorter runs.

Enjoy the day

“We’re not what I would call ‘proper runners’ – we don’t belong to a running club or anything,” says Stephanie. “We’ve been following the training plan that Team Run For It supplied to us, but we’re not trying to run it in any set time. We’re just aiming to run all the way around the course and enjoy the day.”

The London Marathon takes place on April 21 and will follow a 26-mile flat course throughout the city, taking in some of London’s most famous sites and landmarks.

For more information about Team Run for It visit or call 0800 169 87 87.
To donate to Emily and Stephanie’s fundraising page visit