'I look like David Bellamy': Fundraiser grows his beard for 6 months to support cancer research

A 24-HOUR relay race has left one runner unrecognisable – and he hasn’t even stepped on to the starting line yet.

Tuesday, 9th July 2019, 10:09 pm
Updated Friday, 12th July 2019, 3:26 pm

Over the last six months, John Parker has gone from being clean-shaven and bald to substantially more hairy to raise money for Cancer Research UK, as part of its Relay for Life event.

The annual event, which is held across the country but originated in Portsmouth more than 20 years ago, sees teams race around the track at the Mountbatten Centre for 24 hours.

John said: ‘People I know don’t recognise me in the street.

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John Parker grew his hair and beard for six months - here pictured in January and July 2019 with his wife Katy at home in Havant. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘My wife hates it – she much prefers me clean shaved.

‘And I think I look like David Bellamy.’

But John, who has so far raised more than £2,300, said his change of appearance is ‘nothing’ compared to the ordeal of having cancer.

He said: ‘I’m not worried about what I look like.

John Parker with his wife, Katy Parker, at their home in Havant. Both will be doing something brave for Cancer Research UK. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘Doing this is nothing compared to having chemo.’

More than 70 survivors of cancer will take part in the race, which will have special significance for John and his family.

Katy Parker, who will be shaving her hair at the close of the event to raise money, will be taking part in memory of her mother, Sue, who died aged 65 earlier this year after developing pancreatic cancer.

Katy said: ‘We have been doing it for three years with mum.

‘Last year she did it as a survivor, which was incredibly hard.

‘She was very proud of herself – she managed four miles, not long having finished treatment.’

For one of the organisers of the race, Jayne Bowater, the charity’s work is personified in her mother, who received a bleak cancer prognosis 12 years ago – and will now be taking part in the race with her condition manageable.

Jayne said: ‘She was told there was no cure and she would need palliative care.

‘Now its manageable and it’s all down to Cancer Research UK.’

More than 530 people are expected to take part in this year’s event, which has raised more than £58,000.

The relay will begin at midday tomorrow, with a candle lighting ceremony at 10pm, before finishing at midday on Sunday.