Healthspan News

Live Younger 2011: Healthspan supports a world record attempt in aid of cancer research.

Posted 9 January 2011 12:00 AM by Live Younger

Roger Allsopp's Channel swim in late August 2011 put him into the record books as the oldest person to have completed the crossing at the time. Almost 18 hours of swimming, covering almost 40 miles of open water saw him climb out onto French sand in the darkness of night. 

His physical challenge was matched by a similarly ambitious fundraising target of £750,000 for a cutting-edge cancer research team- and Healthspan’s customers were a key factor in achieving that target.


The background

Based in Guernsey, retired surgeon Roger Allsopp spoke to us in June 2011 about his ambition to become the oldest person to swim the Channel: “Every day for the last four years, I have been thinking about my channel swim this summer. At the age of 65- when I last swam the channel- I spotted the name of George Brunstad on the wall of the White Horse pub in Dover, whose walls are adorned with the scribbled signatures of successful Channel Swimmers. This summer I will be a few months older than George was when he took the record for the oldest person to complete the crossing at 70 Years and 4 days old.”


Roger's previous channel crossing and the £15,000 he raised then  paved the way for ground-breaking research at Southampton Hospital in a field called 'Proteomics'- this area of study looks at how proteins in the blood act as markers for different medical conditions- in this case the research team were looking to see links between these markers and cancers (primarily prostate and breast cancer).

In swimming the channel, Roger wanted to raise £750,000 - with £250,000 of that being pledged by Healthspan Chairman Derek Coates who gave this statement:

"‘As well as his intense training, Roger is also working hard to secure matching grants for this cutting edge research. I want to help his efforts and will therefore be making a personal donation of £250,000 which will make it easier for him to obtain that extra support.
I am also constantly astounded by Roger’s personal commitment and I think of how times have changed from my father’s generation. I find his ‘live-younger’ attitude to life and his continuing efforts to improve the health of the nation to be inspirational. This has far reaching potential, offering the prospect of further innovative developments in many other chronic diseases.
I hope you will join us all here at Healthspan along with our customers in our support for his quest for the break-through in medical research that we all yearn for. One that together we can help become a reality, sooner rather than later."


The build-up

Roger's preparation in the months preceding the swim saw a mixture of sea swimming and gym work, "It is dealing with the cold that puts the most strain on me" he said, "at my age it is tricky to put down enough fat to help insulate against the cold, so I have to balance the amount of calorie-burning training I do with getting plenty of fuel on board." Supported by specialist coaches in Guernsey and the UK and competing in open-water swimming events, he grew in confidence as the Channel swim approached.

Roger in Training   Roger-swiss-ball


At the same time, we drew together some facts and figures about the challenge of swimming the Channel- a feat accomplished by fewer people than have climbed Mount Everest.

Channel Swimming from Dover to Calais


The research

Roger's £750,000 fundraising target was to allow Professor Paul Townsend's team at the University of Southampton to upgrade their equipment and purchase a new mass-spectrometer. This research machine is invaluable in accelerating the analysis of blood samples to help identify biological markers (biomarkers) that could help devise new screening methods for the early identification of certain forms of cancer.

It was due to a chance-meeting with Roger some years ago that Professor Townsend became aware of the Guernsey Cohort- a comprehensive set of blood samples collected since the 1960s that would allow a retrospective study- comparing protein biomarkers of people who did and did not later develop cancer.

In July 2011, Professor Paul commented: "We are not able to move forward as fast as we would like. Roger's commitment.. with the support he is receiving from Healthpan, comes at a very opportune time. It is just fantastic; Healthspan helped us at the very start and here they are again four and a half years down the road."



The swim

Over the course of the 30th August, Roger swam 40 miles in 17hours 51 minutes, clambering out onto the French rocks at 2.15am He then had to swim back out to the boat before a 3 hour boat trip to bring him back to Dover and the awaiting media! You can see his route below and see the effect of the tides on the direction he took.

Roger was all over the breakfast news:  Daybreak, BBC Breakfast, BBC South East, ITV Meridian, BBC radio Guernsey, BBC Kent and BBC Southampton amongst others. 

The official Guinness World Records ceremony took place at 11.30am with the adjudicator handing over the certificate- which you can see in the video at the top of this article. She had this to say: 'To swim the English Channel is a great challenge and to do it at the mature age of 70 years is astounding! We are very pleased to congratulate Roger on this achievement and in doing so setting a new Guinness World Record."

Roger Swim Route

Throughout the build up and event, Healthspan's customers were invited to contribute to Roger's fundraising target- seeing a further £100,000 added to Derek Coates' personal donation.

Following his achievement, Roger was honoured as an Olympic Torch carrier when the relay visited his native Guernsey in 2012, the research team, aided by the mass spectrometer have rapidly advanced their understanding of biomarkers for different types of cancer and Healthspan lay down the gauntlet for the next generation of Rogers to put their good health to good use by fundraising for others with the Healthspan Heroes scheme.

The last word goes to Roger- a truly inspirational individual:

"It is difficult for me to find the words to adequately thank the loyal customers and staff of Healthspan for their generosity in supporting our mission to purchase a new Mass Spectrometer for Southampton University. To have reached the initial target of £100.000 already is truly remarkable. We now have sufficient funds to purchase the machine and that is a fantastic achievement. 

We still have some way to go to raise the final £250,000 that it is estimated that it will cost to run the machine for the next three years so our fund raising will continue.

The support that I have received through the Just Giving site has been an inspiration to me. It has been wonderful to hear from so many old friends from my primary school,secondary school, university and training years as well as the messages and donations from people I have never met. I have been truly overwhelmed by every ones kindness and generosity.

The Mass Spectrometer that will now be purchased will be available to scientists from the whole University in addition to those working on the specific proteomics project under the direction of Professor Paul Townsend.

It is likely  that the Generosity of Healthspan's customers will be rewarded by a whole raft of new and innovative research projects that will pave the way to some spectacular scientific and medical breakthroughs in the years ahead.

A million thanks to you all."


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