IT was meant as a fun tribute to football fan Jak Trueman, in recognition of the teenager’s brave cancer battle.
But now when marathon runner Michael Douglas slips on the colours of Jak’s favourite team and sets off to run the London Marathon, every step of the 26-mile route will be sheer torture.
For Michael is a lifelong Celtic fan. And after last weekend’s agonising Old Firm match, the last thing he really wants to do is wear a Rangers’ top for the run. He said: “I am now thinking that maybe it wasn’t my best idea. But I’ll do it for Jak. If nothing else, it’ll make me run faster so I can finish quicker and take it off.”
Jak, 15, a pupil at Mid Calder High, was diagnosed with rare T-Cell Lymphoma in August 2014. He lost his fight in February last year, just days after fulfilling a promise to his girlfriend to take her to their school prom. Despite his illness, the brave teen announced his wish to help other young people affected by cancer. In the week before he passed away, he raised £33,000.
In the past few weeks, the Team Jak Foundation has broken through the £220,000 barrier, and in December, the first “Jak’s Den” opened in Livingston.
Michael, who works at the Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters at Gogarburn, heard about Jak through wife Laura, a teacher at Jak’s school. She was among the staff who helped arrange the last-minute prom.
Livingston father-of-two Michael said: “I was really touched by this lad who loved his football. He reminded me of myself at that age. So when I got back into running, it made sense to run for Team Jak.”
Jak played in goal for Mid Calder Colts and was a regular at Ibrox with his grandfather, Walter. Jak’s gravestone is inscribed with the Rangers’ legend, “Simply the Best”.
Michael said: “Jak and Walter had a great connection with the club. It’s the wrong team for me but I can relate to that. My family are all diehard Celtic season ticket holders. Some are quite appalled that I’m even putting this top on.” Michael, who is now the charity’s treasurer, is also planning to run the Edinburgh Marathon and take on the Tough Mudder challenge. He added: “Some people are really enjoying my pain but I’m hoping it might encourage them to give me a bit more sponsorship money. But it could be worse. At least my race number is green.”
Jak’s mum Allison Barr said: “Regardless of rivalry, this is exactly what should be happening – fans of all teams coming together to support young cancer patients and their families.”