A supermarket worker has come to the rescue of legendary runner ‘Jarra Jim.’
The 94-year-old, whose real name is Jim Purcell, had been due to take part in this year’s Great North Run on Sunday.
But due to problems with his legs he was left heartbroken when he realised he would not be able to complete the 13.1 mile run.
Fearing he would have to pull out altogether, it was during a trip to Morrisons in Jarrow when he came across the idea of taking part in a wheelchair – all he needed was a helping hand to push him along the route from Newcastle to South Shields.
After inquiring at the store, worker Gordon Williams stepped forward and offered his help to ensure everyone’s favourite runner could once again take part in the event.
The Dunkirk veteran, from Falmouth Drive, Jarrow, has taken part in the event for the past 27 years after taking up running after his wife Betty died in 1986.
It broke my heart when I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it Jarra JimJarra Jim
Even having two knee replacements did not prevent the great-grandfather from taking part in the event.
Mr Purcell said: “My legs have not been the same for a couple of months now and I knew this time if I started the run I would not be able to finish it – and I have never dropped out of a race in my life, not even when I was in Dunkirk.
“It broke my heart when I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it.
“I have no idea what is wrong my legs, they just seem to have given up.
“I love the Great North Run, it is a fantastic event and I feel very privileged at times with everything that has happened.
“When Gordon said he would push me in the wheelchair it was great news, as it meant I could take part.
“People said ‘the Great North Run wouldn’t be the same without him’.”
Jarra Jim is raising money this year for Epinay Business and Enterprise School in Jarrow and the Percy Hedley Foundation which provides services for disabled adults and children including school, college and disability employment.
Mr Williams, 31, from Hebburn, said: “I work in Morrisons in Jarrow and Jim is a customer.
“He had come in and said he was not going to be able to take part in the Great North Run this year as he was having problems with his legs.
“With Morrisons sponsoring the event, he asked if anyone was taking part and would they consider pushing him in a wheelchair.
“This will be my second year of taking part in the run so when it was mentioned I said I would do it.
“It has happened quite quickly and is something I haven’t really trained for, but we will just go out there have some fun and take our time.
“It is going to be a challenge – but I am looking forward to it.”