I will always clearly remember the day that Mum told me Dad had MND…though strangely the days that followed seemed to pass in a blur.
It happened one Saturday morning, when Mum sat me and my brother Paul down with Dad and said she had some bad news.
It took a while for the news to sink in. After all, I had never heard of MND before. Mum explained that the prognosis was two to five years – but as always Dad tried to look on the bright side, saying he was sure he’d live longer.
It wasn’t until Dad finally broke down in tears – the first time I’d seen him cry – that I realised how serious the situation was.
Afterwards, it was my turn to cry. I couldn’t believe my Dad only had a few years left to live. But eventually we learned how to get on as best we could, taking each day at a time.
MND has now become part of our lives, like a new and unwelcome member of the family. Every month, Dad grows weaker. He can no longer use his arms and he struggles to hold up his head because the muscles in his neck are so weak. Walking exhausts him and his speech is starting to slur.
So last year I decided to do something positive and take part in the London Marathon. Even though I was your classic couch potato and had never been running before, it seemed like the right thing to do.
I joined forces with my friend Emma who also wanted to run for my Dad and we began training after work. We started with a few miles round the block and gradually increased the distance. Last month I was delighted to manage 24-and-a-half miles!
Everyone is so proud that I am in running in the London Marathon, even if Mum and Dad were a little bemused at first. I hope to raise around £2,500 for the MND Association, and with so many people behind me, I hope this won’t prove difficult.
My target is to finish the marathon in around four-and-a-half hours, but to be honest, the time isn’t important. What matters, is that I pace myself, cross the finish line, and raise as much money as possible.
And if I start to tire, I’ll just think of my Dad. He always said he wanted to run a marathon but now he won’t have the chance. I love my Dad to bits and I’ll finish it for him.
Tracey's London Marathon update
Tracey Watts and her best friend Emma completed the London Marathon in just over five hours, raising around £3,000 for the MND Association.
Tracey said: “I can’t quite take it all in. I can’t quite believe I was part of such an amazing experience.
“I really struggled at around 20 miles. My knee started to hurt and I began to feel sick. It was really tough. By the end of the marathon I was cold and wet and my socks were soggy.
“But the atmosphere was fantastic and children in the crowd gave out sweets, which really helped.
“As I reached the finishing line, my boyfriend was cheering, and at the end, Emma gave me a huge hug. We did it, and we did it together!"