Runner’s World magazine recently celebrated it’s 30th anniversary in the UK and in its 30th Anniversary issue ran a feature on ‘Running Game Changers 1993-2023.’
The article was introduced with the words; “Our running community has gone through some pretty seismic changes in the three decades since Runner’s World arrived in it. Here, we salute 30 key figures who have been instrumental in changing the game.”
And, at number 2 on the list, in amongst famous names such as Jessica Ennis-Hill, Paula Radcliffe, and Usain Bolt, Runner’s World listed ‘Jim Cowan, Creator of Race for Life.’
The piece described how, inspired by his own father’s battle with cancer, Jim’s vision changed the running landscape in the UK by opening up the way for the many running charity fundraising events now a feature on the calendar. Along the way it also became Cancer Research UK’s biggest fundraiser securing over £1Billion for the organisation over the thirty years.
While Cancer Research UK continue to deny the fact that Jim created the event, Runner’s World knows the facts. Indeed, before Jim even launched the event, he was talking to Runner’s World about it and, through their then Women’s Running Editor Alison Fletcher, they came onboard as one of the Race for Life’s very first official partners.
While Cancer Research UK clearly lack the moral compass to correct the record and to recognise Jim Cowan as the creator of the Race for Life and that the event is his father’s legacy, the truth is gradually being recognised by more and more people and organisations.
Ask Google, “who created the Race for Life?” The search engine will tell you it was Jim Cowan.
Wikipedia corrected their entry when provided with evidence as to who created the event and now recognise Jim Cowan as that person, inconveniently for Cancer Research UK, also providing a link to a letter from Jill MacRae on Imperial Cancer Research Fund letterhead (CRUK’s former name) clearly stating the fact. MacRae was later exposed as someone who had laid false claim to being the event’s creator after cutting all ties to Jim Cowan.
And now, one of the world’s most prestigious running publications has recognised Jim for his amazing creation, a magazine that would know because they supported Jim when launching the event in 1994.
Cancer Research UK continue to back themselves into a corner and deny what the evidence supports and what is patently clear to a growing number of others; Jim Cowan created the Race for Life.
When will CRUK and its leadership under CEO Michelle Mitchell, rediscover some integrity, some honesty, and admit they got it wrong. By now, they must know the truth making their continued denial little short of a lie. A lie they happily spin to any and all who will listen.
In the Race 4 Truth, Cancer Research UK is lagging behind.
Given Cancer Research UK’s continued lies about Jim Cowan and the claim he did not create the Race for Life, even recently costing him a job offer, you would think they would offer an alternative as to where the event started, as to how it was created.
After all, they must have records of the discussions and the meetings which led to the event’s creation? And, given that, surely they paint a consistent story as to the events beginnings?
Well, no. They don’t. But that is the problem with falsehoods, eventually you forget what you claimed and claim something else. And, of course, you have no evidence to support your fiction because it is just that, fiction. No records of discussions, of meetings, of correspondence. Because they don’t exist.
Interested in checking out Cancer Research UK’s false claims, we did a little research which has exposed a story which keeps changing. There may be more and different claims, but in less than a day’s digging, this is what we have uncovered:
In a letter from Jill MacRae (nee Baker), its then National Events Manager, what was then the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) credited Jim Cowan with coming to them with the original idea for the Race for Life. This was the last time they were honest about who created the event.
After severing all ties to Jim Cowan, Jill MacRae started to claim she came up with the Race for Life herself. It would appear that ICRF/CRUK believed her. She went on to build a successful career in the sector on her false claim.
In an article in the 19th July issue of Athletics Weekly, an ICRF/CRUK spokesperson claimed that the Race for Life was based on, “a concept from America called Walk for a Cure.”
In the same issue of Athletics Weekly, a letter from Louise Holland, the Race for Life’s then Director, stated, “the concept was taken from the Susan Komen Foundation.”
In November of 2013, Jill MacRae contacted Jim Cowan via Linked In and email threatening legal action if he did not stop claiming to have created the Race for Life. Supported by Jane Arnell, Tony Elischer, and Sarah Guthrie (former colleagues of hers at ICRF/CRUK), she claimed they were all “shocked” by Jim’s “misleading claims.”
MacRae claimed to have never heard of Jim Cowan and asserted that her colleagues had not either. This 1994 letter from Jill MacRae to Jim Cowan puts the lie to that lie. Since launching Race 4 Truth last year, we have shared other evidence that includes correspondence to and from Jill Macrae to support Jim’s position.
Also in November of 2013, Jill MacRae amended the Race for Life entry on Wikipedia to state; “Race for Life was created by fundraisers Jill MacRae (nee Baker) and Jane Arnell at what was then the Imperial CancerResearch Fund.” At Jim’s request, supported by evidence, Wikipedia amended the page to show the truth, that the creator of the Race for Life was him.
On 12th December, Jim Cowan responded to Jill MacRae’s threats stating; “To say that I am surprised at both your claims and you 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.”
He added, “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.”
Jim has not heard from MacRae, or her colleagues, since.
Jim Cowan was advised that the website ‘Informed Edinburgh’ had carried an article titled ‘Spotlight on Jill MacRae’ in which she stated; “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.” The article was removed after Jim contacted the website advising them that, “Ms MacRae knows this not to be the case.” Indeed, she doesn’t even seem to know in which year the first Race for Life was staged (it was 1994 and was organised by Jim Cowan).
In May 2017 , Nicki Ford from Cancer Research UK stated, “We do not publicly credit anyone with originating the event.”
In September 2017, Cancer Research UK’s Chairman, Prof. Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, stated, “We do not credit anyone with originating the event.”
It would appear that, unable to prove any of their previous claims Cancer Research UK and Jill MacRae had made about the creation of the event, the policy was now to simply shut up and claim nothing.
Maybe she didn’t get the memo shared by Ford and Borysiewicz, or maybe it was just time to change the claim again. In May of 2018 Cancer Research UK’s current National Events Manager, Annette Quarry, stated that the original pilot was from yet another different source, this time the American Cancer Society.
Writing on behalf of Cancer Research UK’s new Chief Executive (Michelle Mitchell), CRUK’s Complaints Manager (Graeme McCluskey) repeated the “we do not publicly credit anyone with originating the event line.” This was in response to Jim Cowan offering to sit down and share documents evidencing his being the event’s creator.
Indeed, rather than accept the offer, CRUK’s stance was to state the blindingly obvious, that they have no documents from the beginnings of the Race for Life. Rather than correct the misinformation they have shared for 25 years, rather than get the history of the event right, they deliberately chose to continue their integrity fee campaign to erase Jim Cowan from the event’s history.
We now wait with baited breath for the next claim as to the creation of the Race for Life. There are two things we know for sure though:
While CRUK’s story keeps changing, Jim Cowan’s has remained consistent throughout.
While CRUK and their various employees (current and former) have offered no supporting evidence for any of their claims, Jim Cowan has.
The truth is consistent. Cancer Research UK are not.
In the Race 4 Truth, Cancer Research UK are lagging behind.
In 1993 when serial fundraiser Jim Cowan’s father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he came up with the idea for the Race for Life and he took the idea to Cancer Research UK (then called Imperial Cancer Research Fund – ICRF) and their Head of Events, Jill MacRae (nee Baker).
The proposal was simple; Jim would organise the event at a growing number of venues every year beginning with a central London run in the summer of 1994.
What followed saw Jim written from the event’s history by MacRae, her successors at Cancer Research UK (CRUK), and by the charity itself; while MacRae built a career in the sector on the back of falsely claiming the idea as her own.
Jim did organise the 1994 Race for Life, staged in Battersea Park, and then began work on expanding to six venues in 1995 and twelve in 1996. However, before he could proceed he received a phone call from MacRae informing him that his services were no longer required.
Jim sought legal advice to be told that an idea could not be copyrighted and that therefore there was nothing he could do. Frustrated and angry but seeing no alternative, Jim turned his mind to other ideas and projects; ideas and projects that have raised many millions for a range of other charities.
The Race for Life went from strength to strength growing into the event Jim forecast his idea would become. Unfortunately, his name was whitewashed from its history with CRUK choosing to tell a range of different, false stories about the event’s origins.
Meanwhile, MacRae had started claiming that she was the creator of the Race for Life. On the back of that barefaced lie, she went on to build a successful career in the charity sector.
But then something happened, something that could not have been predicted in 1994. Social media arrived and exploded. Suddenly, MacRae’s friends were asking her who Jim Cowan was? Why was he appearing on Linked In, Facebook, and elsewhere claiming to have created the Race for Life when MacRae had (or so they thought)?
Boxed into a corner MacRae gambled that, over twenty years later, Jim would have none of the original paperwork. She wrote to Jim brazenly accusing him of falsely claiming what she described as her idea, insisting he stop doing so. She claimed she did not even know who Jim was, that she had never heard of him. She copied in former colleagues from CRUK, effectively making her accusations libellous by sharing them in print. She also edited the Wikipedia page for the Race for Life, amending it to give her and former colleague Jane Arnell as the originators of the event.
Jim responded in robust fashion, reminding MacRae that she had actually written to him acknowledging the event was his creation, stating how excited she was at the prospect of meeting and working with him. He added, “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.” He then made it clear that Macrae, “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 also contacted Wikipedia, providing evidence as to his truth (and therefore MacRae’s lie) and they promptly corrected the page to reflect facts.
Jim has not heard from MacRae (or her colleagues) since and, following Jim’s robust response any claims to her being the creator of the Race for Life disappeared from her social media profiles. Unfortunately for her, it is the nature of the internet that a lie once told cannot be taken back and stories continue to emerge of her making her false claim.
However, the damage was done. Cancer Research UK continue to refuse to recognise, let alone thank, Jim for his incredible creation. Their current position is that they credit no one, a somewhat ridiculous position given that for the previous 25 years they have credited a range of different (incorrect) origins for the event. Given they have admitted that they have no records from the event’s beginnings, suspicious in itself, how they could make these various claims is anyone’s guess.
It is also worth noting the hypocrisy of an organisation always happy to accept recognition from others but who refuse to give the recognition due to Jim.
And what of MacRae?
Her lie certainly enhanced her CV and has not held her back in her career since. After leaving CRUK in 1996, according to her Linked In profile she has worked in a range of high profile roles: British Lung Foundation (Fundraising Manager) National Autistic Society (Fundraising Manager) PZA Consulting (Associate Consultant) Blether Media (Director) AmbITion Scotland (Specialist Advisor) Scottish Women In Business (Committee Member) Visibility (Fundraising & Business Development Manager) Barnardo’s (Business Development Manager and, currently, as Acting Assistant Director Business Development)
And, while MacRae’s suspect CV has done her no harm (if she has lied about the Race for Life, could she have other fictional episodes recorded?), Jim’s honest CV has been brought into question when Cancer Research UK told a prospective employer fact checking his CV that they had “never heard of him.”
It is a tale of a man whitewashed from the history of the hugely successful event he created and who has then subsequently been lied about and ignored; and a tale of a woman who stole that idea and who has built a successful career on the back of that barefaced lie.
In the Race 4 Truth, Cancer Research UK (and Jill MacRae) are lagging behind.