The biggest edition yet of the annual Great Strides 65™ South event welcomed 363 walkers and 18 ultra runners (those crazy individuals who run all 65km!) in Surrey on Saturday for the biggest edition of the annual endurance challenge yet, raising over £200,000!
Celebrity supporter Jenny Agutter was on hand to send off each wave of starters, beginning at the rather unfriendly time of 6am. The first ultra runner crossed the finish line in an impressive six hours thirty-five minutes, and the last of the walker groups staggered over the line at 1am.
Among the walkers was 11-year-old Scarlett, who has cystic fibrosis, along with her mum Michelle, Michelle’s partner Michael, and her nine-year-old sister Brooke.
Michelle said: “Scarlett was diagnosed with CF at three months old, due to failure to thrive. Once we were over the shock of the diagnosis, as a family, we threw ourselves into fundraising, with our first challenge event being to climb Ben Nevis, which we did just before Scarlett's first birthday.”
“We have volunteered for the last two years, manning checkpoints 11 and 12. As it's a challenge that we could include the girls in, it only seemed right that one year, we'd take part as well and thankfully our friends were happy to join us."
While Scarlett wasn’t well enough to walk the whole course, she more than made her presence felt in the team. “Despite having CF, while we were puffing and panting, she chatted or sang along to the music we were playing the whole time she was walking,” says Michelle. “I honestly didn't hear her complain once, even on the seemingly never ending path leading up to the finish, when we were all shattered.
“On being told that she didn't stop talking, the following day, she said that this was what she needed to do, to take her mind off of the walking. She loved Great Strides though and already wants to do it again, but insists she wants to complete the whole walk next time.”
Claire Phillips, Community Development & Fundraising Manager at the Trust, paid tribute to all those who helped organise the event, as well as the teams who took part and their support crews.
She said: “Exhausted but exhilarated and each and every one an inspiration sums up all those who took part! Every blister-inducing step was made in the name of a loved one; sons, daughters, grandchildren, siblings and friends for whom every day is a never ending battle against cystic fibrosis.“
Over to you!
Do you have it in you to take up the baton from these amazing individuals? If so the Great Strides 65™ series continues with events in Whitby, the Peak District and the Brecon Hills coming up. Find out more and book your place today.