Save the date:  MS Society volunteers will be out in force at the 2024 TCS London Marathon on 21 April. This year, around 340 runners will take part in the 26.2 mile race for the MS Society and are aiming to raise over £800,000 to support the work of the organisation.


But what is MS? I spoke to MS Society’s Head of Community and Events Fundraising Mark Haymes, who answered some questions about the charity, and the condition it supports.

What is MS? How does it affect people?

“Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition that affects the brain and spinal cord. In MS the immune system attacks the coating protecting our nerves and disrupts messages being sent around the body, which impacts how people move, think and feel. The symptoms are different for everybody and are often invisible. They can range from mild to severe and include fatigue, pain and mobility issues. MS stays with you for life, and there is no cure.”


How many people in the UK suffer from it?

“Over 13,000 people live with MS in the UK, and around 130 people are diagnosed every week.”


What kind of support does the MS society offer?

“This year we are celebrating our 70th anniversary. We support everyone affected by MS through pioneering research, campaigning and a wide range of services. You can call our free helpline for confidential emotional support on 0808 800 8000, or you can go to our website at for information. Our local groups across the UK bring people together to reduce isolation and offer events, exercise classes and more. We campaign together to improve the lives of people with MS and their loved ones. This includes access to treatments, services, care and financial support.”


Tell us a bit about this year’s marathon.

“Last year our 330 runners smashed all targets and raised over £1 million to support our work. This year we will have around 340 runners - our largest group yet!”


As well as reaching out to the MS Society, I had the opportunity to talk to Paul Provins, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis back in 2016. After seeking help from the charity, Paul was able to get back on track with his life, and even picked up a new hobby. When asked about how he is coping with his condition, Paul explained that after receiving his diagnosis he wanted to keep the symptoms of MS at arm’s length by running:


“I was born in Greenwich and grew up watching the London marathon so it has always been on my bucket list. During my second round of treatment in 2018 I decided I was going to get fit to try and do all I can to keep the MS at bay. I plan to keep doing it for as long as I can for my health both physically and mentally.”


For Paul, MS affects him through fatigue and short term memory loss. “After the optic neuritis resolved in 2016 I have been relapse free. It (MS) affects my day-to-day in the form of fatigue mainly. My short-term memory is also fairly poor, so keeping notes and writing things down is a must!”


This year Paul is taking part in multiple charity events that will keep him active.

Preparations are already underway for April’s fast-approaching London Marathon, where Paul is hoping to achieve “a new personal best”, and for “some friends and family to cheer me on as I go round.” 10 days later, Paul will be retying his laces ready for the Isle of Wight Ultra, a 33 mile run across half of the island. “It’s a mix of road, mud and cliffs and is a seriously hard challenge but I’m looking forward to seeing how I get on.”


Paul started his preparations for the concurrent runs back in January of this year and has been adapting his training since to ensure he has all the coaching he needs. Paul also ran the Isle of Wight Ultra in 2023 with his friend Nick; they covered the coastal route of 54 miles in under 15 hours, and he enjoyed it so much that he's back again for more.


“Having MS is different for every single person that has it. I suffer with my memory and fatigue so planning runs around work, kids and life along with not knowing if I’ll be up to it on the day can be really tricky. I never take a day for granted now and if I wake up well, it’s a good day.”


More information and help regarding Multiple sclerosis can be found at