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?
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.
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