When Pat Ainsworth realised she’d raised more than £200,000 for charity she stopped counting  … and that was several years ago.

The phenomenal fundraiser started doing marathons and other runs – including five major overseas expeditions – in her late 40s to raise money for several charities.

She did the 5k Race for Life in Greenhead Park in June and revealed it may be her last charity fundraiser now she’s turned 77.

Pat, of Emley, said: “I think that was my last one, but I’m already starting to doubt it as it means so much to me.

“I was kind of interested in running in my late 40s and had kept fit jogging but I was probably a bit of a couch potato if truth be told. It all changed when I watched the New York Marathon and saw a man running with one leg. I thought that if he can do it with one leg then surely I can do it with two.

“So I applied for the London Marathon in 1994, was accepted, did the run and found it a life-changing moment. The sense of camaraderie, the help the runners gave one another was amazing.”

Pat did the first one in around four hours and since then has done a further 20 London Marathons, the New York Marathon, the Great North Run and countless half marathons, 10k and 5k races.

Pat and husband Jim

The main charity to benefit has been Cancer Research UK as Pat has lost relatives and friends to the disease. Other charities have included Marie Curie, Kirkwood Hospice, the Deaf Children’s Society and her first London Marathon was for the neonatal unit at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary towards buying a special incubator.

She has done five 100km treks overseas – the Himalayas, the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu in Peru, the Abel Tasman Way in New Zealand and one in Japan which included scaling Mount Fuji.

“They were all rough camping, sometimes in -15°C temperatures and no facilities like toilets,” she said: “They were tough going but absolutely amazing experiences.”

She did all these overseas expeditions, a London Marathon and the New York Marathon with husband Jim.

The couple have been married for 55 years and he’s been there to support Pat on her other London Marathons, always standing at the same spot on the Mall and yelling ‘Run Forrest, Run’ when she comes past after the famous film Forrest Gump starring Tom Hanks.

“When I heard him shouting I always tried to inject a bit more pace,” said Pat.

A highlight was being invited to Buckingham Palace in around 2010 to meet The Queen to celebrate people who have done outstanding charity work and celebrities such as Bruce Forsyth and Prof Stephen Hawking were there.

Pat worked as a personal assistant at Fox’s Biscuits in Batley for 30 years and then became a personal assistant to the education manager at New Hall Prison in Flockton.

The inmates were allowed to do Race for Life in the grounds and Pat has joined them as a motivator for several years.

Pat was chosen as one of the torch bearers for the 2012 London Olympics when it toured the country and took it behind the prison gates. The women had made flags and banners and cheered Pat as she ran round inside with it.

The only other time the prison had done anything like that was when Princess Diana visited it to open a new juvenile wing in May 1993.

The Prison Service has a charity fund which staff pay into and then it provides sponsorship and funds to help charities that staff are fundraising for and this has provided Pat with lots of sponsorship over the years. The charity fund gave Pat a gold award for all her fundraising – only the second time it has given such a high accolade.

The BBC filmed Pat nine years ago as part of a project called Get Inspired to attract more older people into being fit and active and you can still watch it here at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/av/get-inspired/26973085

Jim, also 77, who was the general service manager at Sanderson Ford car and lorry dealership in Batley for many years, said: “I hope what Pat has done will inspire people in their 40s and 50s to take up exercise which will be beneficial to charities. I’m so proud of all she’s achieved over the years.”

Nicki Embleton, spokesperson for Cancer Research UK in Yorkshire, said: “Cancer Research UK is immensely grateful for the support Pat has given our charity over the years – taking part in marathons, half marathons and – of course – Race for Life, raising thousands to help us beat cancer.

“She is a great example that you’re never too old to take up a challenge and how fundraising can be such a positive motivation and experience.

“Pat has been a good friend to many of us at Cancer Research UK and it was lovely to see her at our Huddersfield Race for Life, on what could be one of her last ever charity runs, and to thank her in person for all she has done.

“We wish her all the best for whatever she does in the future.”

Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.