So over the last few days I’ve given you a teaser of my grand finale for 2018. So it’s time to share what it is and for once this year it’s not on the bike.
But, before I get in to the what, I wanted to share with you why I’m taking on this challenge so perhaps you’ll better understand my madness.
Rewind to 1985.
At just three years old Anthony’s future looked bleak, he had been given just 12 months to live as a result of a devastating discovery a year earlier that changed his life, and that of his family, forever.
In 1985 Anthony’s mum Ann noticed her normal, happy child’s features alter, especially one of his eyes. The doctors at The Walton Hospital in Liverpool spotted a shadow on the X-Ray. Anthony had a brain tumour.
Because Anthony’s tumour was so close to his pituitary gland (a small oval-shaped gland found at the base of the brain below the optic nerve, the nerve which leads to and from the eye) doctors couldn’t operate to remove the tumour. Instead, he had to go through six weeks of radiotherapy treatment. Things soon took a turn for the worse as Doctors told the Ainsworths to make Christmas 1985 the best of Anthony’s short life, as it would be his last.
Along with Anthony’s dad Tony, Ann set about making sure that Christmas was extra special, protecting Anthony and their two older boys from their pain and sadness.
After Christmas, the family carried on as normally as possible. The community were raising money for a local girl who had a stomach tumour – Anthony and his family went along to the fundraiser, unaware that their lives were about to be changed forever.
Make-A-Wish, founded in the UK in 1986 had yet to grant its first wish, volunteers went to the Liverpool fundraiser and after meeting Anthony and his family, they knew that they had to help this special boy.
Anthony’s greatest wish was similar to the wishes of thousands of children all over the world – he wanted to go to Disneyland. And in 1986, after months of pain and suffering, Anthony became our first ever wish child, jetting off to Disneyland in Orlando, Florida for the most magical experience of his life. The family enjoyed an absolutely amazing week in Florida, and Anthony met all of his favourite Disney characters. But whilst the children enjoyed themselves, Tony and Ann were gathering memories as they prepared for the worst.
Anthony created memories on his wish that he would never forget – helping him and his family through an incredibly tough time.
The 7in7 Challenge – A tribute
In the 32 years since that first wish, Make-A-Wish UK has gone on to grant over 11,000 wishes to children like Anthony who have or are facing a critical or life-threatening illness. Wishes are as varied as the child themselves and have included them child starring in their own films, walking with dinosaurs, going on an amazing holiday, meeting a celebrity hero, or having a bedroom makeover.
Wishes might not be a cure, but that doesn’t make them any less important or life-changing. Why, because a wish is magic. It is hope, it is the smile and the laugh of a child, it is respite and it is a life time of memories for a family to treasure and damn it, that is something very powerful.
For me these children, their families and their stories are as motivating as they are moving. I simply cannot imagine what it must be like to face a challenge that no child or parent should have to.
So, this challenge is my tribute to those children, to their families, to the staff and volunteers at Make-A-Wish who work so tirelessly to turn those individual wishes in to reality.
The challenge – from Liverpool, the City where it all started, I’ll run 7 ultra-marathons, in 7 days, arriving at Thames Tower in Reading, the new home of Make-A-Wish UK. If running nearly 200 miles wasn’t enough I’ll do it wearing a different wish related costume each day – that could be as a Superhero, a Disney Princess or a member of our fabulous Emergency Services.
I’d like to say thanks to Jamie McDonald, also known as AdventureMan, for the inspiration for this challenge. Reading about his historic solo run across Canada dressed as the Flash in aid of Sickkids inspired me to do something a little bit different this time, something that reflected the spirit of Make-A-Wish UK.
I don’t know whether I’d call myself a runner – I know that sounds a strange thing to say – I guess I’m just not out there everyday, I’m not racing regularly or even running consistently. But then I have run a marathon (in a painful 5 hours) and a handful of Half’s. Even so, this is going to be one of the most physically demanding things I’ve ever taken on.
I’m known for my challenges being solo and unsupported, so I know I’ve got the mental strength to complete this challenge. But, this is huge and I don’t want to do this one alone. So if you’ve read this and you’re in some way inspired, either by the why or by the challenge itself, then I’d love for you to join me for a few miles (I’m going to try and arrange a little memento for anyone that does come along, as a thank you).
I’ll be sharing the route and itinerary in the coming weeks, but I’ll start in Liverpool on Saturday 27 October and aim to be in Reading for 3pm on Friday 2 November. So get in touch if you’re interested in helping to make some wishes come true.
Otherwise if you’d like to get involved and win yourself one of two prize hampers worth over £150, then head over to my 7in7 Challenge competition page to find out more – it’s free to enter, but if you’d like to donate £2 or more while you’re there it would be greatly appreciated, simply text – MFOR82 and the £amount to 70070.
I couldn’t do any of these challenges without the ongoing support of my sponsors (and family and friends), so once again I’d just like to thank them for their ongoing support and for helping me turn my ideas in to reality.
With the right people in your corner you can become unstoppable