I first began to raise funds for Alice House Hospice (AHH) in the late 1980s, when the organisation was still based in its original premises, in Hutton Avenue, Hartlepool.
Since then I have completed the White Rose Walk several times and have completed 29 Great North Runs (GNRs) and many other activities in aid of this brilliant place.
A road traffic accident on 23rd December 2012 claimed the life of my late wife, Sally and caused me life-threatening and subsequent life-changing injuries, including over 30 broken bones and permanent left side nerve damage.
Doctors considered the possibility that I may not walk again.
I remained in hospital until 21st March 2013, until I had recovered sufficiently to be discharged, with a wheelchair, two crutches, a walking stick and an excellent care package, but not before I had received a visit from Paul, a lifelong friend, who had not run since schooldays.
He offered me a challenge. As I couldn’t participate in that year’s GNR, he would run it in my place, on condition that we would run it together the following year. I accepted his challenge, not knowing how realistic that would be. After all, I was still on complete bed rest until my bones mended.
Through the NHS, determination, hard work, positive thinking and physiotherapy, as well as the invaluable, selfless support of family and friends, I rebuilt my life.
I had some short-term goals; to get our dog, Candy, back home, (she had been involved in the accident, but was unharmed and had been looked after, predominantly by a friend Phil at his home), and to return to running and work.
Before the accident, I had finished 23 GNRs, many for AHH, a charity that Sally had always believed in and supported, and my aim was to complete 25.
How realistic that was, I didn’t know; I now had a life that would be different. Gradually I got stronger and more independent at home, and Candy was slowly reintroduced into my life, first of all visiting for a few hours at home, then going out on short walks with me and Phil.
Soon, Candy would visit for the day, being dropped off on a morning and picked up at teatime. I was not yet confident enough to walk her. Eventually, I plucked up the courage to have her overnight and then for a weekend, and soon she was back permanently with me at home. I was now stronger and could walk her without a stick. One evening, I decided to see if I could move faster than walking, and as Candy roamed around a nearby grass area, I found a pavement area at the edge of the estate. I managed about 30 metres of jogging and knew that it was possible for me to jog again.
In July 2013, I got a routine phone call from Greg Hildreth, from AHH, inviting me to spectate at the September GNR, with the AHH support team, and see Paul finish the run. As he crossed the finish line, I knew that the challenge had become real. I had one year to prepare to run the GNR for AHH again.
As I trained, doing 5k,10k and 1mile runs, my friends suggested a 5k run on Hartlepool’s Headland on Sally’s anniversary in 2014. This developed into a biannual #SallyRun, which still takes place each year on 23rd December and 23rd June.
In 2014, having returned to work, I got a GNR place through AHH for them and had the idea of forming #TeamSally, which comprised 6 people, who raised £5,050.50 for AHH, by completing the run. Each year since the continually growing team and I have raised at least £5,000 by doing the GNR in aid of AHH.
In late 2015, I was invited to a quiz at my adopted local, The Fisherman’s Arms, by a former Landlord, Steve, one of my running friends. As I hadn’t been to the event before, I was invited to join one of the teams, by a lady member called Gillian. I must have impressed, as I was invited, by the team to become a regular member. As some of the team had been on a short foreign break that year, one of them asked if anyone was interested in going away for a week in the sun. I thought that this would be a good idea, and asked if I could go along too. While on the holiday in May, Gillian and I spent time together, and following the holiday, we continued to see each other.
In August 2016, I retired early and in May 2017, Gillian and I got married. Although Gillian had been supporting my activities with AHH, she was still working full time at that point. In July 2017 she also took early retirement, and has since become involved with AHH, volunteering one half day at the Holistic Unit, and a half day with the Fundraising Team, as well as continuing to support the activities of #TeamSally.
Since 2018, #TeamSally has varied its activities to be more inclusive, and now hosts the biannual SallyRun/Walk, annual music days, raffles, socials and quizzes, as well as running challenge, like the Brathay Marathon, with all proceeds going straight to AHH.
Future ideas to enter a float into the Hartlepool Carnival parade, as well as to re-introduce the iconic town barrel push event, with the support of local brewery, JW Cameron, are planned. I am currently undertaking 12 challenges in 12 months, for AHH, ending with my 30th GNR in September, a week after my 60th birthday.