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Here at the Race 4 Truth we have highlighted a number of concerns over the way Cancer Research UK deliberately misleads supporters, misrepresents facts, displays serious hypocrisy, and potentially supports fraud. We have gone as far as to question the culture of the organisation and its poor ethics and low integrity.

Now, we are wondering whether all of the above is something the organisation is not only fully aware of but is deliberate policy?

What could possibly bring us to this conclusion?

We have been examining Cancer Research UK’s 2017-18 Annual Report (more on which soon) and have found a rather ‘interesting’ statement on page 42.

At the top of the page, Cancer Research UK cite a reputation risk; “an issue related to our fundraising practices.”

Some might find this a very strange thing to consider a risk to reputation if those fundraising practices were more transparent, honest, and ethical.

We find ourselves once again questioning the culture within Cancer Research UK, the organisation’s integrity, and its ethical and moral compass. For this single line buried deep in their annual report suggests that the many issues Race 4 Truth have already highlighted are embedded, deliberate policy; policy that the senior management know is immoral and unethical but which are deliberate and which they encourage and employ regardless.

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


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.


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.


On 19th June we published an article which asked; “were false claims about who created the Race for Life fraud?

In the article we provided evidence and outlined how Jill MacRae, a former Cancer Research UK employee, had blatantly lied, claiming to have created the Race for Life. We exposed how she had previously acknowledged Jim Cowan as the creator of the event, stating he had “come to us with the original idea.”

MacRae had gone on to build a successful career on the back of her false claim, including high profile roles with other charities such as British Lung Foundation, National Autistic Society, Visibility and, currently, Barnardo’s. We questioned whether including the blatant misrepresentation of her past on her CV might be fraud?

Jill MacRae

Incredibly, MacRae had even contacted Jim Cowan insisting he stop laying claim to her idea! Jim’s response is reproduced in the article and left MacRae in no doubt it was her who should desist.

While we can’t see or hear what she still claims in private, or on her CV, we do know that she did remove her claim from social media, including her Linked In account.


Unfortunately for MacRae, the internet has a long memory and a Race 4 Truth supporter spotted an article on her in which she made her false claim and forwarded a screen grab to us.

The article is a feature on MacRae on the website, ‘Informed Edinburgh’ in their series of ‘Spotlight On’ features. Comments in the article suggest it probably dates from between 2008 to 2011 when MacRae was running a company called Blether Media.

In the article, MacRae is asked; “can you tell me a random fact about yourself?”

Her reply: “I created the Race for Life and organised the very first 5k event way back in 1993 (sic), when I was National Events Manager at what is now Cancer Research UK.”

And it is a blatant lie.

The truth, as MacRae well knows, is that Jim Cowan created the event in 1993 after his father was diagnosed with cancer. He took that idea to MacRae at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (now Cancer Research UK), and he organised the first Race for Life in 1994 (not in 1993 as MacRae suggests).

And Cancer Research UK know the truth, they just choose to tell different stories.

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

If you come across any articles featuring MacRae and her false claims, or anyone else, please forward them to Race 4 Truth so we can expose them. Should you require it (for example if you work with Cancer Research UK or one of the organisations MacRae has since worked with), your anonymity is safe with us. You can contact us here.


Cancer Research UK have announced a new Chief Executive to replace Sir Harpal Kumar, who is stepping down this summer.


Michelle Mitchell OBE has been CEO of the MS Society since 2013. Under her leadership, there has been a 40% increase in access to effective MS treatments and she has developed a £100m research fundraising appeal.

Before joining the MS Society, Mitchell’s previous leadership roles were as Director General of Age UK and Chair of the Fawcett Society. She is also a non-executive director of NHS England, and has been a trustee of The King’s Fund and the Power to Change Trust.

Mitchell has a BA in Economics, an MA in Politics and Administration and an International Executive Diploma from INSEAD. Michelle is an alumna of the Innovations in Government Programme at Harvard University JFK School and of the Strategic Perspectives in Non-profit Management programme at Harvard Business School.

Here at Race 4 Truth we would like to offer our congratulations to the incoming CEO on assuming what will be a very challenging role.

Not least among the challenges she faces are tackling the the charity’s lack of transparency, low integrity, and the hypocrisy of its leadership over recent years. As an OBE, we know she is willing to accept recognition for her exceptional achievements, we hope she will she be more prepared to also recognise the achievements of others than the outgoing CEO who has been criticised for accepting recognition while not affording it to others.


By 2013 Jim Cowan was used to seeing and hearing misinformation and untruths from Cancer Research UK about who created the Race for Life. But what happened in November of that year, even with his near 20 year experience of the origins of the event he created being lied about, took Jim by surprise and raised questions as to where the original lie began.


6th November 2013 started as a normal working day for Jim Cowan but that changed when shortly after lunch he received both an email and a Linked In message from Jill MacRae. Jim knew MacRae as she was the Cancer Research UK (then called Imperial Cancer Research Fund, or ICRF) employee to who he had taken the original idea for the Race for Life back in 1993.

What surprised Jim was that MacRae was claiming to have come up with the idea herself and also claimed that she did not recall ever meeting him, going as far as saying she was contacting former colleagues at ICRF to see whether they had heard of him. MacRae demanded to know why Jim was telling people he created the event?

Jill MacRae

Initially angered by the bold faced lie, and used to years of a variety of lies, about the origins of the event Jim decided to ignore the email and message, determined that if MacRae were serious she would contact him again repeating her false claim.

Which she did. On 30th November 2013, MacRae again contacted Jim, this time by letter, email, and Facebook Messenger. MacRae wrote:

“Your claim for ‘coming up with the original idea for, designing and launching the UK’s largest women’s participation event, the Race for Life’ is untrue. I have been in contact with the fundraising team that was in place at Imperial Cancer Research Fund when Race for Life was created and launched, to secure their support in setting the record straight. Tony Elischer, who was the Head of Fundraising, Jane Arnell, who was the Director of Fundraising Development, and Sarah Guthrie, who was my fellow fundraising manager, are all as shocked as I am by your misleading claims. They are copied into this email.”

MacRae went on to demand that Jim remove his “misleading references” and to “refrain from misrepresenting your role going forward.”

We can only assume that MacRae thought Jim had not kept any records from 1993 and that, with the backing of her former colleagues, she could continue to falsely lay claim to being the creator of the event. That support was underlined when Jane Arnell replied to everyone copied into the email with the comment, “brilliant keep us posted (sic).”

Jim was also made aware that MacRae had edited the Wikipedia page for the Race for Life, removing his name and replacing it with the false claim, “Race for Life was created by fundraisers Jill MacRae (nee Baker) and Jane Arnell at what was then the Imperial Cancer Research Fund.”

Confident he could evidence the idea as his own, Jim decided on a forthright response to MacRae’s claims, sent by email and post, making it clear that should she pursue her false claim, he would defend himself vigorously:

“To say I am surprised at both your claims and your accusation would be an understatement. Your cynical duplicity in laying claim to the original idea is preposterous and your accusation that my own claims are untrue is a gross misrepresentation of the facts.

Not only did I come up with the original idea for the Race for Life, you have previously acknowledged your excitement at my idea when replying to my original letter proposing the Race for Life and confirmed the fact that the original idea was mine, in writing.

Suggesting to others that I am lying about these facts is defamation of my character. It also appears that at some stage you made a conscious decision to claim the idea as your own, whether by misleading your colleagues at the ICRF or with their collusion is unclear.

You should be advised that should you continue to make false accusations against or about me and which may lead to personal and/or professional damage I will defend myself and my reputation vigorously.”

Jim copied his response to MacRae’s former colleagues to ensure they were also aware of his stance and ensured that the Wikipedia page was corrected, providing evidence when requested in the form of a letter from MacRae herself confirming the original idea was his.

What happened next?


Jim hasn’t heard from MacRae since although it is interesting to note that she removed any reference to the Race for Life from her Linked In page following Jim’s letter. Whether Arnell thought Jim’s honest and factual reply was as “brilliant” as MacRae’s false claims, we don’t know because Jim hasn’t heard from her since either.

But what of fraud?

It is reasonable to assume that MacRae began claiming the Race for Life as her own creation not long after Jim first took it to ICRF. It would explain why she cut all ties to him in 1995 and might explain why, initially, ICRF/CRUK did not recognise Jim as the creator of the event, mistakenly believing their own employee. It would also be reasonable to assume that she would include such a huge success on her CV begging the question as to whether her ensuing career was built on that lie, a lie told to prospective employers in order to secure paid employment? We will leave it to the legal minds as to whether that is fraudulent but feel the question must be asked.

And while MacRae’s lies might have initially led to her then employer at Cancer Research UK not recognising Jim as the Race for Life’s creator, that is no longer an excuse as they have had plenty of time in the intervening years to view and assess the evidence.

Further reading:
Correspondence from Imperial Cancer Research Fund Confirms The Original Idea Was Jim Cowan’s
If Not Jim Cowan, Who Do Cancer Research UK Credit With Creating The Race For Life?
The Race For Life Was Jim Cowan’s Original Idea, As His 1993 Proposal Letter Proves
Yet Another Letter From CRUK’s Jill MacRae Confirms Jim Cowan As Creator Of The Race For Life