DUBAI // A personal trainer hopes to break a world record at the Virgin London Marathon this month to raise awareness of prostate cancer.
He is embarking on the gruelling challenge in memory of a friend who lost his battle with the disease.
Lee Ryan, 29, personal trainer, will run the 42.2 kilometre race on April 22 wearing a weighted backpack.
He hopes to take the Guinness World Record title for fastest marathon run with a 9 kilogram pack.
The current holder of the "fastest marathon wearing a 20lb pack" record is Sam Payne, an Englishman who finished the Edinburgh Marathon in 3 hours, 49 minutes and 14 seconds in 2009.
Twenty people have tried and failed to beat the record, said Mr Ryan, who lives in Dubai.
He has completed seven marathons before, including the Virgin London Marathon, which he finished in 3 hours and 22 minutes.
"By attempting this world record, I hope to broaden the awareness of prostate cancer and raise awareness here in the UAE," he said.
Mr Ryan's friend, James Bacon, 30, passed away in October 2010, just two months after being diagnosed.
"I learnt a lot about the disease," said Mr Ryan. "There are no clear symptoms. He had trouble going to the toilet for a month and went to numerous doctors who kept giving him medication.
"By the time they worked out what was wrong the prostate cancer had already developed and he was diagnosed with bowel cancer, lymph node cancer and prostate cancer."
Mr Ryan said that his friend was healthy, exercised regularly and did not drink or smoke.
"It doesn't have to be an unhealthy lifestyle for you to get this cancer," he said.
Last year in the UAE, 100 cases of prostate cancer were reported.
"Despite the fact this form of cancer is the most common in men, we find people have little or no awareness about it," said Dr Hanan Obaid, the head of community health services programmes at the Dubai Health Authority.
She said the authority would launch an awareness campaign this month, focusing on the importance of regular screenings for men.
Mr Ryan likewise urged men to get tested. "They need to understand that it is common but a lot of people can survive prostate cancer if it's caught early," he said. "They need to swallow their pride and go get tested."
Mr Ryan is running an average of 150km a week and eats more than 6,000 calories a day to support his training. He hopes to raise money for the Prostate Cancer Charity, a UK group that funds research.
He has set up a donation page at JustGiving.com and has collected more than Dh9,500 so far. Whether he beats the world record or not, Mr Ryan said he would have honoured his friend by competing.
"The last time I saw him was at the London Marathon and he said, 'Next year I will do it with you', but he never did. That's why I am carrying a picture of him in my backpack, so in a sense I can say he ran the marathon with me."
To donate to Lee Ryan's run, click here.