A FORMER international rower is stepping into his running shoes instead of a boat to tackle his “one and only marathon” inspired by his Alzheimers’ stricken uncle.

Fergus Graham, who was a silver medallist in the World Junior Rowing Championships as a teenager, wants to raise at least £5,000 for the Alzheimer’s Research UK in the London Marathon on April 13.

And the only reason he is doing it is his uncle Jamie from Dauntsey, a leading light in the charity’s nationwide campaign.

“Uncle Jamie was a real inspiration to me growing up as he always had a story to tell and was great fun to be around,” said Fergus, now 40.

“He was such a personality but now you just can’t bring that out of him. He is a great man and he and my father were great buddies. I lost my dad many years ago and he became even more important to me and my brother.”

The sales director for De La Rue joined his uncle and other veteran crew men on a 25-mile row between Henley and Eton back in 2010 and again 2011. Between them they raised £180,000 for the charity.

“For my one and only marathon I wanted to raise money for a charity that is very personal to me,” he explained. “My uncle was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s aged 59. He is now 65 and his condition continues to deteriorate.

“He is unable to look after himself or hold a conversation, which is really hard on him and the rest of the family. But he’s physically fit and he has a positive mentality.”

He added: I’ll be thinking of him on the day, especially towards the end of the race as I don’t want to let him down. Jamie used to row too, so we’ve always shared that interest. In rowing you need a never-give-up attitude, so I’ll be taking that mind-set into the race.”

Jamie and wife Vicki are high profile champions of the charity and have taken the campaign as far as Parliament.

Vicki said her husband’s diagnosis in 2007 turned their lives upside down. He had to give up his high powered job in information technology and he could no longer drive, use a computer, read or write.

“But despite everything, his sense of humour remains firmly intact and he still likes to keep active.

“Needless to say we are very proud of Fergus and honoured that he’s running this year’s marathon in support of his uncle. I think anyone who can run a marathon is truly amazing. Fergus and his brother Calum are very close to us all and it’s lovely to have their support through this time.”

Visit bmycharity.com/ferguslondonmarathon2014 to sponsor Fergus.