Dame Barbara Windsor has said she will be with Chris Evans “in spirit” when he takes on the Amsterdam marathon this weekend in aid of the Dementia Revolution campaign.
The 82-year-old, who played pub landlady Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014.
Virgin Radio host Evans and 50 auction winners jetted off from Stansted Airport, Essex, on Friday to compete in the TCS Amsterdam Marathon this Sunday.
They are running in aid of Dementia Revolution, a campaign formed in a partnership between the Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK and which was supported by Dame Barbara’s husband Scott Mitchell when he ran in this year’s London Marathon.
Evans, 53, raised more than £400,000 through a live auction on his show, with winners securing a seat on his private plane to the race.
Dame Barbara addressed her “darlings” in a pre-recorded message played to the runners as they boarded the plane.
She said: “Hello darlings, Barbara Windsor here. Thank you all for donating so much money to Dementia Revolution.
“Your generosity will support vital research that will give hope to people living with the condition.
“Dementia is the biggest health threat facing society. There are nearly one million people living with the condition in the UK and another person is diagnosed every three minutes.
“As you run through the streets of Amsterdam remember, you’re leading the charge towards finding the cure for dementia.
“I may not be with you in person but I will be with you in spirit every step of the way. Good luck and God bless you.”
Stars including Richard E Grant, EastEnders actor Jake Wood and Virgin Radio’s Kate Lawler, as well as athletes Paula Radcliffe, Colin Jackson and Steve Cram also sent messages of support.
Oscar-nominee Grant said: “Congratulations on rising £400,000. Good luck with the marathon. Cheers.”
Soap star Wood said: “I just want to wish you all running in Amsterdam this weekend, whether the 8km, half or whole marathon, a fantastic race, run well.
“Don’t get injured, take your time, good luck up the hills, well there are no hills in Amsterdam, that is a good thing. I have been told you have raised over £400,000.
“That is an amazing amount. I know that Dementia Revolution started a year ago has raised over £4 million, so you all should be very proud of yourselves.”
Long-distance runner Radcliffe said: “Hello everyone, just to wish you all running in Amsterdam this weekend, be it the 8km, half marathon or the whole marathon, the very best of luck.
“You have raised a phenomenal amount of money to make a huge difference to Dementia Revolution.
“So congratulations on that. Enjoy the atmosphere, have a good time, and smash those PBs.”
Evans is joined by members of the Virgin Radio Breakfast Show team as well as sports reporter Vassos Alexander, his wife Natasha Shishmanian and his personal assistant, known on the show as The Frothy Coffee Man.
Dame Barbara’s husband and her friend, Tanya Franks, will run the Mizuno Half Marathon on the same day.
Mr Mitchell, who married the actress in 2000, was joined by Evans and a slew of EastEnders stars to run the London Marathon earlier this year for Dementia Revolution. The efforts have so far raised £4 million.