Worthing man plans 21 half marathons in 2021 for Cats Protection

A Worthing man whose alternative therapy practice has had to be put on hold is focusing all his energy on fundraising for Cats Protection in memory of his beloved pet.

James Baydar is well known at the charity shop in Rowlands Road, being a regular bargain hunter there, and the team is amazed by his dedication.

The 52-year-old, of Brighton Road, will be running 21 half marathons in 2021 to raise money for Cats Protection’s Worthing and district branch.

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Gina Rogers, the charity’s challenge events officer, said: “James is a star for setting himself such a gruelling challenge. Fundraising has been badly hit by the pandemic but the work goes on at our branches and centres, so the efforts of people like James is all the more valuable to us and to the cats in our care.”

James Baydar plans to run 21 half marathons in 2021 to raise money for Cats Protection Worthing

Most of the runs will be in and around Worthing and James has three under his belt already, with the next on Valentine’s Day on Sunday.

James said: “I wanted to do something in memory of my cat Nermal, who sadly passed away a couple of years ago, and to support my local branch of Cats Protection, who have felt the financial strain of the pandemic.

“Whilst remembering Nermal and the joy he brought us for 14 years, I couldn’t think of a charity to raise funds for more fitting than Cats Protection. This is for Nermal and the wonderful, dedicated team at the Worthing branch of the UK’s largest feline welfare charity.

“Originally I was going to run the Great North Run 2020 but when that did not happen I came up with the idea of running 21 half marathons.”

The plan is to end the challenge with the Great North Run, officially the world’s biggest half marathon, on Sunday, September 12, but if that cannot go ahead, James will stick to the streets of Worthing.

James was previously a music journalist and moved to the UK from his native Turkey in 1994. He is now a certified energy healer but the pandemic has meant he has had to put his alternative therapy practice on hold.

Having taken up running ten years ago, James has been filling his time pounding the streets, as well as training and learning to play the piano.

James has completed four full marathons, including the New York City Marathon twice, as well as dozens of half marathons, 16 in the past year alone.

Most recently, he completed a 1,743k virtual challenge, covering the distance between Land’s End and John O’Groats in 153 days.

He said: “I don’t know what attracted me to running in the first place. One day I popped out for a run and I haven’t stopped running since. I’m neither Mo Farah nor Eddie Izzard, I’m just someone who enjoys the escapism of running.”

Tackling 21 half marathons between January and September means running one every 10 to 12 days but James is taking it all in his stride.

“It’s 276 miles in total, which is not such a big deal but it does take some planning,” he said.

“Funnily enough, I run much better in the winter. I use a couple of apps to analyse my runs and to post proof of the half marathons on my fundraising page.”

James has so far raised £370. Visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/James4CatsProtection for more information and to make a donation.

Eric White, from Cats Protection’s Worthing and district branch, said: “James is a regular bargain hunter at our Worthing shop and the team knows him very well - and Hugo his dog, too. We are delighted that he has committed to such a tremendous challenge to support our work for better cat welfare in our town.”