Monthly Archives: July 2018


Early in 1993, John Cowan was diagnosed with the Prostate Cancer which would eventually take his life. The diagnosis motivated John’s son, Jim, to create a fundraising event to support the fight against cancer.

Through the summer of 1993, he researched what events already existed and searched for a ‘gap in the market’ – a gap big enough that it could be fully exploited to raise significant funds and increase awareness.

Although his starting point was his father’s Prostate Cancer, he ended up creating an event which raised funds for, and raised awareness of, women’s cancers. That event was to be called ‘The Race For Life.’

Jim had already organised a number of different fundraising events for good causes and also organised some road running events.

Using the road running events as a starting point, he identified that women were seriously underrepresented in running events, often with fewer than 15% of fields. It occurred to him that, surely, more women must want to run these events but, for some reason, weren’t, So, he decided to discover why not?

He found three key things were preventing women from taking part in road running:
1. The distances were generally considered too long. At the time most events were 5 miles and further. 5km road events were few and far between, 5000m being seen more as a track athlete’s event.

2. The events that were available were not viewed as ‘female friendly.’ The general atmosphere was very male dominated and, it was felt, unwelcoming for women.

3. Existing races were overly competitive, very serious and, put simply, just not fun.

Jim realised that, providing a solution to these issues would combine very well with his desire to create a new fundraising event to support the fight against cancer. That solution was to create a series of 5km runs, open only to women, which focused on fun not on competition. He called his idea, ‘The Race For Life.’

Initially, Jim took his idea to a breast cancer charity which, following consideration, declined the idea having decided it would not work. Then a conversation with a friend at his local athletic club opened the door to making an approach to the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF – Cancer Research UK’s former name). That friend was about to start temping at the charity and promised to find a contact name for Jim to approach.

This she did, and on 5th October 1993 Jim wrote to ICRF’s Events Manager, Jill MacRae (nee Baker), outlining his idea. A meeting was arranged, which then led to Jim organising the very first Race for Life in Battersea Park in 1994.

The rest should be a matter of historical record. However, following the successful launch Jill MacRae decided to falsely claim the idea as her own and ICRF, and later CRUK, have denied the idea was Jim’s, coming up with a range of different stories and whitewashing him from any mention in association with the event.

It is time for Cancer Research UK to do the right thing, stop the lies, and recognise Jim for his amazing creation, one which has benefitted the charity by many hundreds of millions of pounds, opened up running to women, and which changed the fundraising landscape in the UK forever.

And, one which should be a fitting tribute from a son to his deceased father.

In the Race 4 Truth, Cancer Research UK is lagging behind.

Below, a copy of Jim’s original letter proposing the Race for Life to ICRF/CRUK.


Following a series of high profile scandals, confidence and trust in the UK’s charity sector recently hit an all time low. You might think that would be a wake up call to the sector but at Cancer Research UK the intention appears to be one of deliberately further undermining that public trust and confidence.

Over the last few years there has been a series of scandals among high profile charities, scandals which have left the British public wondering which, if any, charities they can trust with their hard earned money.

From the collapse of Kids Company to food for sex scandals involving Oxfam, Save The Children, the Red Cross and more, to sexual harassment at the Presidents Club, and to wallet busting executive pay packages; barely a month goes by without another charity bringing the ethics of the whole sector into question.

Surely the wise charity would ensure that ethics and integrity were set to high standards and are well managed given this environment? Surely honesty and transparency would be vital? And what of habits of lying by omission, misrepresenting facts, and sheer bare-faced hypocrisy?

You would think so but, as Race 4 Truth has evidenced time and time again, at Cancer Research UK all of these acts are normal practice, part of the culture of the organisation.

And in not addressing that very poor culture, Cancer Research UK risk not only undermining confidence in themselves, but of further eroding public trust and confidence in the whole sector.

The public should be able to expect the very highest ethics, morals and integrity from charities; to be able to trust that the organisations they entrust with their money can be trusted and believed.

If charities like Cancer Research UK cannot get their house in order to provide this then the Charities Commission and government should be playing a far more proactive role in setting (high) standards and ensuring those (high) standards are complied with.

If they do not then the damage to the sector could spread far wider than solely those charities, like Cancer research UK, who display such poor ethics and low integrity, and end up damaging the innocent along with the guilty.

In the Race 4 Truth, Cancer Research UK are lagging behind.


Imagine creating a groundbreaking new fundraising event, one which goes on to raise over £1/2 Billion for the charity you shared it with and which changed the fundraising landscape in the UK for good, creating a type of event which has raised many times more than that for hundreds of charities.

Now, imagine you are going for a job and the charity you took your creation to, the one that has raised over £1/2 Billion through it, denied ever having heard of you making your CV look a lie and costing you the job.

How would you feel?

It is 25 years since Jim Cowan came up with the idea for the Race for Life and for 23 of those years Cancer Research UK (and their predecessor the Imperial Cancer Research Fund) have denied Jim had anything to do with the event. They have misrepresented its roots, created false stories, and supported the fraud of someone who lied about having created the event for her own career advancement.

Jim had tolerated the lies, the hypocrisy, the fraud, and the misrepresentations but finally, enough was enough. In may 2018 he vented that frustration on his Facebook timeline.

His post led to an outpouring of support from his friends, and from people he has never met.

Having read the post, we decided the best support we could offer Jim was to run a campaign to uncover the truth and demand Jim receive the recognition he deserves. Jim agreed to our idea and has been (and will be) allowing us to share copies of evidence from the event’s beginnings and from the intervening years.

Jim has also consented to our copying the post he put on Facebook in May, the post which led to such a big outpouring of support and which motivated us to start this campaign. That post read:

“Is there a charity with less integrity than Cancer Research UK?

I thought long and hard before posting this but I am fed up with this charity and their campaign of lies about the origins of the Race for Life. Up to now I have been frustrated by it, annoyed by it, and (of course) missed out of the recognition due for being the creator of the event and, some might say, the change in the UK charity fundraising landscape that came with it.

But now their lie is adversely affecting my next career move.

Yesterday, I received a phone call from the HR department of a large charity at which I had recently been interviewed for a new role. The call was to inform me that, although they felt I was by far the best candidate, they would not be offering me the role.

The reason? They had contacted some of the charities on my CV to check my history and all but one had checked out. The one? Cancer Research UK claimed to have never heard of me and denied I had ever had anything to do with the Race for Life.

Enough is enough. Their continued lying needs exposing.”


In the Race 4 Truth, Cancer Research UK are lagging behind.


The Race 4 Truth has now been up and running for two months and the silence from Cancer Research UK in response has been deafening.

Some might suggest that silence is golden but in this instance, we would suggest it is incriminating.

They are a large charity with their own large legal department. In just two months, we have uncovered and shared lies (both blatant and by omission), hypocrisy, possible fraud, and more. Surely an innocent party would react; respond?

But when you are not innocent, what can you say? Maybe Cancer Research UK think silence is the best option? Maybe they think eventually we will give up and go away?

We won’t. Not until Cancer Research UK do the right thing and recognise Jim Cowan for creating the Race for Life instead of lying about it, making up fiction about it, hypocritically accepting recognition for themselves, and supporting fraudulent claims about it.

Silence from Cancer Research UK is not golden. It is incriminating.

In the Race 4 Truth, Cancer Research UK are lagging behind.


The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has been developing a set of principles that can act as a ‘code of ethics’ for the charity sector and is now consulting on a draft code.

This code aims to support charities, their governing bodies, and those who work and volunteer in and with them in recognising and resolving ethical issues and conflicts. It sets out the key ethical principles and the supporting actions that charities should take to ensure an ethical approach to their work.

Charities and those who work in and with them would agree to uphold the following principles throughout their work:

  • Beneficiaries first
  • Integrity
  • Openness
  • Right to be safe

The NCVO say that by incorporating these principles into strategies, policies and procedures, charities would not only be upholding their fundamental values, but also setting the stage for long term success.

Would Cancer Research UK sign up to such a code? And, given their history of hypocrisy and dishonesty, if they did would they stand by them?

Take the section on Integrity as an example. The draft code states; “Charities and those who volunteer, work in and with them should uphold the highest levels of institutional integrity and personal conduct at all times.”

Given the near quarter of a century history of Cancer Research UK denying recognition to Jim Cowan, the man who created the Race for Life, a denial supported by 24 years of falsehoods about the event’s origins, we must question how such a position would stand up to comparison with the Code of Ethics being proposed?

Given the culture of hypocrisy evident throughout at Cancer Research UK, a culture reflected from the top down, we wonder at where that culture stands when compared with an ethical approach to standards and behaviour?

Given the apparent support for their former Event Manager’s fraudulent claims to have created the Race for Life, claims on which she has built a long and successful career, we must ask what Cancer Research UK consider to be ‘ethical’ about their behaviour and hers?

And, given the bold faced lie which led to our launching the Race 4 Truth, we find it hard to find any claims by Cancer Research UK to be of an organisation adhering to this, or any other, Code of Ethics to be laughable. Or. At least they would be laughable had they not done, and continue to do, so much damage to the man to whom they should be eternally grateful for creating their largest fundraising event and to whom the entire charity sector should be grateful for changing the  face of charity fundraising events when he did.

Here at Race 4 Truth we will be contacting the NCVO and seeking to contribute to their consultation on the proposed Code of Ethics. It is a shame that government are not demanding a more ethical approach from the whole sector under threat of loss of charitable status. For the public must be able to have faith in the sector, faith easily undermined by the likes of Cancer Research UK and their actions, to the detriment of all.

In the Race 4 Truth, Cancer Research UK are lagging behind.

More on the NCVO Charity Code of Ethics here.


When Cancer Research UK’s new Chief Executive, Michelle Mitchell, takes up her post later this summer, she will face many of the same challenges facing all CEO’s, whether in the corporate or charity sector. Where is the organisation going? How will it maintain or increase growth? What will the broader economy mean to fundraising? And more, including understanding and improving public perceptions of the charity.

For over and above the recognised and accepted challenges, Michelle Mitchell faces some that should have no place in any organisation but especially not one in the charity sector, challenges which have festered for too long and which will undermine confidence if left unaddressed.

They lie within the culture at Cancer Research UK, a culture whereby low integrity and dishonesty are acceptable, hypocrisy is the norm, and fraud by former employees while in their employ is ignored.

Since launching the Race 4 Truth in May, we have reported on all of the above, citing examples and providing evidence where necessary. The deafening silence from Cancer Research UK speaks to integrity so low that the exposing of this sordid history is not deemed worthy of any comment whatsoever. But then, how do you defend the indefensible?

Our campaign started when Cancer Research UK lied about Jim Cowan having created the Race for Life, costing him a job.

It has traced the many and varied false claims from Cancer Research UK as to the origins of the event and provided evidence, including correspondence from a former employee crediting Jim with taking the original idea to them.

That same employee went on to falsely claim the idea as her own, a claim we queried as potentially fraudulent given it will undoubtedly have appeared on that individual’s CV thereby enhancing her career and gaining her monetary reward. And yet, Cancer Research UK have remained silent over the issue, other former employees even supporting the potentially fraudulent claims. And one can only ponder on whether those false claims were supported with references from Cancer Research UK which helped to embed the lie?

When it became apparent to the charity that the lie was exposed and that they could no longer deny that Jim Cowan created their most successful fundraising event, the policy shifted to one of not crediting anyone (barring one slip by an employee who credited yet another different source).

One can only wonder at the hypocrisy of an organisation, and individuals therein, who refuse to recognise the person who created their largest fundraising event, one which has raised over £1/2 Billion for the charity.

Hypocrisy? Absolutely. For although the charity and its leadership refuse to recognise Jim Cowan, they have been more than happy over the years to accept recognition for themselves; both the outgoing CEO (Harpal Kumar) and current Chairman (Leszek Borysiewicz) have accepted knighthoods in recognition of their own work. The charity and its staff have accepted awards for its work and they also hand out awards to others in recognition of their support.

All of the above in contrast to their refusal to recognise one man, a man who created an enormously successful event, one that changed the fundraising landscape in the UK forever, and one which has raised hundreds of thousands for Cancer Research UK (and continues to raise more). But, a man who Cancer Research refuse to recognise, let alone thank.

Not a single penny from the entry fee supports research.

Along the way we have uncovered other issues bringing the charity’s integrity into question. The (deliberate?) omission of any mention of the fact that not a single penny of the entry fee for the Race for Life supports research into cancer. Even asking a straight question as to how much of the funds raised via sponsorship funds research failed to elicit a straight answer, a straight answer we are still waiting for.

Low integrity, misleading supporters, dishonesty, support for fraudsters, hypocrisy. We can only imagine the depths to which these issues go when considered against the breadth of Cancer Research UK’s activities as oppose the recognition of one man’s brilliant creation.

The challenge of bringing about the cultural change needed to reverse the above wrongs cannot be underestimated. We wish Michelle Mitchell well as she takes up her new role and hope she will lead from the front and restore the integrity to Cancer Research UK, integrity which has been absent for far too long, starting with giving Jim Cowan the recognition he so rightly deserves..

Not to do so, will only undermine public confidence, in turn undermining the chances of success in those other challenges we mention at the beginning of this piece.

In the Race 4 Truth, Cancer Research UK are lagging behind.

Do your bit to help Jim Cowan gain recognition for his amazing creation and nominate him for a Pride Of Britain Award.


The Race 4 Truth was established in order to bring public attention to the way Cancer Research UK have denied recognition for Jim Cowan, who created the Race for Life.

Over the last quarter of a century, Cancer Research UK has told a range of tales about the origins of the event, all excluding its actual creator. There is evidence that, initially, this might have been because they were misled by former employee Jill MacRae who falsely (possibly fraudulently) laid claim to being the event’s originator.

More recently, perhaps realising they have believed (and promoted) fiction rather than fact, instead of showing the sort of integrity you might expect from a charity and acknowledging their mistake, they have taken up a policy of refusing to recognise anyone for the Race for Life’s creation.

In doing so, they have left the door open to accusations of hypocrisy, accusations which reflect reality. How?

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines hypocrisy thus:

Hypocrisy (hɪˈpɒk.rɪ.si); a situation in which someone pretends to believe something that they do not really believe, or that is the opposite of what they do or say at another time: “There’s one rule for her and another rule for everyone else and it’s sheer hypocrisy.”

And in refusing to give the recognition rightly due to Jim Cowan, every time they accept recognition (individually or as an organisation), or bestow recognition on others, they are acting hypocritically.

Their outgoing Chief Executive, Sir Harpal Kumar, was happy to accept a knighthood in recognition of his own work, yet refuses to recognise Jim Cowan as creator of the Race for Life. Hypocrisy?

They Tweeted using Father’s Day as a marketing tool and calling on people to honour fathers affected by cancer while (still) ignoring Jim Cowan and denying him recognition for creating the event and in full knowledge of the fact that the inspiration behind Jim’s creating of the Race for Life was his own father’s cancer diagnosis in 1993. Hypocrisy?


Cancer Research UK have annual Flame of Hope awards in recognition of their volunteers’ achievements, something we applaud. But every time they Tweet, or otherwise share, details of Flame of Hope Award winners without also recognising the man who created the Race for Life, isn’t it hypocrisy?

Nicholas McGranahan, group leader at the CRUK-UCL Lung Cancer Centre of Excellence, recently won the MD Anderson Wilson Stone Memorial Award and Cancer Research UK were quick to applaud the award, to promote the achievements of one of their own. But what of Jim Cowan? Still nothing. Hypocrisy?

And what of their Chairman, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, who was knighted in 2001 in recognition of his work. Where does he stand on recognising Jim Cowan for the creation of an event his charity has gained so much through? He refuses to recognise Jim at all. No, it is fine for others to recognise him but not for him to recognise Jim. Hypocrisy?

The above are examples of the dictionary definition hypocrisy which now runs through the fabric, the very culture, of Cancer Research UK. What is good for the charity, its people, its leadership, is not good for Jim Cowan. Hypocrisy? Without a shadow of a doubt.

We do not criticise the recognition of any of the above, we take that recognition at face value and assume it to be deserved. But we ask Cancer Research UK, doesn’t Jim Cowan deserve recognition too? Doesn’t the person who created your biggest fundraising event deserve the recognition you accept and bestow on others?

The charity’s new Chief Executive Officer will be starting work soon. Michelle Mitchell already has an OBE so we know she is willing to accept recognition for her achievements. We can only hope that, unlike those who preceded her, she is not a hypocrite and will be keen to ensure recognition to all who merit it both within the organisation and without.

Recognition for Jim Cowan is long, long overdue. Will change at the top at Cancer Research UK finally bring it or will hypocrisy continue to reign supreme? Time will tell.

In the Race 4 Truth, Cancer Research UK are lagging behind.