Sheringham teacher, 26, with rare disease completes 100-mile charity run

Charlie Ponder running on a Norfolk beach. Charlie Ponder running on a Norfolk beach.

Friday, August 8, 2014
4:10 PM

A young teacher who was struck down with a rare auto-immune disease has fought back and raised nearly £2,000 for charity after running 100 miles.

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Newly-qualified teacher Charlie Ponder on Cromer Pier.Newly-qualified teacher Charlie Ponder on Cromer Pier.

Charlie Ponder, 26, from Sheringham, discovered he had Granulomatosis with Polyangitis – commonly known as Wegeners or GPA – on Valentine’s Day 2012 when he was just 23.

Despite his illness, he ran from Great Yarmouth to Hunstanton from July 28 to August 1 and has so far raised £1,781.05 for Vasculitis UK which raises money for sufferers of auto-immune diseases and their families.

Mr Ponder, who has just qualified as a drama and English teacher, said: “Over the past two-and-a-half years this disease has changed my life. I lose one day each week due to illness from my weekly drugs. I find nights out with friends difficult because I don’t drink any more, but worse than any of those things is having the feeling in the back of your mind that you are and always will be ill. This is a difficult thing to accept.

“However, what this disease has taught me is that I have more resolve and determination than I ever realised I had.”

During that time he has travelled around the world twice, completed a university degree, qualified as a teacher and landed a job at a Berkshire school which he starts in September.

He described the period of his life after the diagnosis as “incredibly difficult” as he was in the middle of his first year at university.

“At first I was really terrified and bemused as to what was happening to me,” Mr Ponder added.

He praised the “wonderful” support of medical staff in the rheumatology department at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital who helped him get back on his feet within six months to a year of being diagnosed.

Mr Ponder said: “Running around the Norfolk coast has been the most physically tough thing I have ever done.

“The point of this run has been to prove to myself that, even though I may never be rid of this disease and it might always affect my life in some way or another, I can do anything that I set my mind to and nothing will stop me. It has been a wonderful but intensely gruelling experience.”

During his run he scaled cliffs, was cheered on by friends and strangers and briefly disrupted a Cley wedding.

He thanked everyone who supported him along the route and called them amazing.

As well as supporting sufferers of autoimmune diseases and their families, Vasculitis UK helps to fund research into the complicated illnesses.

Granulomatosis with Polyangitis causes the walls of blood vessels to become inflamed, leading to poor blood flow to tissues throughout the body. Around 500 men and women are diagnosed with the condition each year in Britain.

To donate to Mr Ponder visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com and search Charlie Ponder.

Visit www.vasculitis.org.uk for more information.

Do you have an inspirational story? Email sophie.wyllie@archant.co.uk

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