County Durham dad of three overcomes health battles to take on Sunderland City Half Marathon in aid of Anthony Nolan

A father of three is kickstarting 2020 with a goal of completing the Sunderland City Half Marathon in aid of Anthony Nolan after experiencing the importance of bone marrow registration first-hand.  Paul Walmsley, a 55-year-old retired police officer from County Durham, underwent a successful bone marrow transplant in 2012 and is now aiming to raise vital funds for the charity and to encourage more people to join the bone marrow register.

Paul was first diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) in 2003 and since his transplant eight years ago, he has been in remission.  A second blow came in 2015 with a bladder cancer diagnosis, but after ongoing checks showed he was clear of the disease, he returned to work as a full-time police officer with Durham Constabulary, before retiring in March 2019 after 23 years’ service.  

Since retiring and being back to full health, Paul has been able to turn his attention to his running and fundraising goals.

He comments: “I started running in my late teens before marriage, kids and work commitments meant I could not get out as often and then illness then put physical activity on hold.  Eight years after my transplant I’m so unbelievably different, healthy and back to running and being able to fight off infection.”

Paul is aiming to raise at least £700 for Anthony Nolan in 2020 through his running challenges.  The charity focuses on matching stem cell donors for people with blood cancer and blood disorders to gives them a second chance of life.  It costs £40 for Anthony Nolan to add each new donor to the register, so the charity needs financial support to help it continue to give patients, their family and their friends hope.  Anthony Nolan also carries out ground-breaking research to save more lives and provide information and support to patients after a stem cell transplant, through its clinical nurse specialists and psychologists, who help guide patients through their recovery.

“I completed my first half marathon in Sunderland last year which was such a great experience and I’m looking forward to doing it all again this year, this time on behalf of Anthony Nolan.  My new lease of life is all thanks to my donor who I call Mr X, because of his selflessness in going on the register and becoming my match.  I hope that my experience will encourage others to sign up as a donor,” adds Paul.

Paul, who is also set to take part in the Great North Run in September, has begun training in earnest this month with parkruns, 7Ks and 10Ks planned before extending his distances.

He said: “My first Sunderland City Half Marathon was such a great experience. The crowds were really inspiring and the route takes in some stunning scenery by the river and along the coast.  The feeling of crossing the bridge to the applauding crowds near the end was amazing.”

To support Paul with his fundraising effort,

For more information about Anthony Nolan, visit

The 2020 Sunderland City Runs are being organised by Events of the North, in partnership with Sunderland City Council and Active Sunderland. The event will start with the Sunderland City 5K on the evening of Saturday 9 May.  The 5K will use the iconic Northern Spire Bridge, providing a spectacular venue for runners and spectators alike. The following morning will see thousands of runners take part in the well-established Sunderland City Half Marathon and 10K, and the Active Sunderland BIG 3K.  All three events will start and finish in Keel Square in the city centre.

Places on the 2020 Sunderland City Runs are available now at Runners affiliated to a club can enter the Sunderland City Half Marathon for £35 and the price for unaffiliated runners is £37. Places on the Sunderland City 10K costs £25 and £27 respectively and the price to enter the 5K is £15.  Anyone who enters the half marathon or 10K as well as the 5K will receive a discount code to redeem in one of the events the following year. All event finishers will receive medals, technical t-shirts and goody bags. 

An ‘early bird’ price for the Active Sunderland BIG 3K is available until 16 January 2020 and is £10 per person, after which it rises to £12.  For further information about the Active Sunderland BIG Events, email or call a member of the Active Sunderland Team on 0191 561 4572.