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“The pressure was building. What happened if I couldn’t do it?”

Sarah Cook.jpgSarah Cook, our amazing fundraiser of the month, on her biggest challenge – running 100k in one week

I’ve always loved running for as long as I can remember. Any sporting activities at school that involved running – 100m, 200m, 800m, hurdles – I was put forward. ‘Sarah will do it.’ I remember my Dad saying ‘I think you’re better at the 200m hurdles without the hurdles!’

Over the last couple of decades, running has been my one constant. From moving out of home at 18, going to university, moving city, changing jobs, moving city again, having children, changing jobs again, starting a business, starting another business – all the usual things that happen in life.

Then the most unusual thing happened – Covid-19. I was scared, frightened, worried, and uncertain, just like everyone else. I didn't know what to do to relieve the stress and feel calmer. Then I just thought I’ll do what I always do but just a bit more – running.

So whenever I felt a little anxious I’d go running. If I felt very anxious I’d go running. I ended up running quite a bit! It can release lots of emotions and I cried a number of times while running. All good Corona therapy I decided.

Things started to get better. One day I realised I’d run 57k in a week! I was amazed. But it wasn’t difficult so I thought I’d set myself a challenge. I’d run 100k in one week.

Finding purpose

I told one of my running buddies while we were doing a run and, by the end of a muddy 10k, I’d decided there’s no point doing a challenge like this if it doesn’t have a purpose.

I needed to make sure it could actually make a significant difference to other people.

There was one clear, obvious choice. I wanted to make a difference for people with multiple sclerosis (MS). My wonderful mum has MS, and if I could do anything in the world to take it away, I would, but I can’t. But I could run. And run a lot and try to raise as much money as possible for people like my mum.

I told my mum about my challenge and asked her which MS charity she’d recommend I support. She didn’t hesitate and said MS-UK.

Sarah Cook 3.jpgChallenge set

I set a date. I cleared my diary. I bought new trainers and kit. I prepared myself for seven mornings of running and afternoons of tea and cake! I set up a JustGiving page and then crossed my fingers that a) I’d be able to do it b) people donated c) it didn’t snow and scupper my plans!

Within just 24 hours I’d received so many donations from friends and family – every time I checked, there was another donation. I was utterly gobsmacked! I’d asked my daughter what I should set as my JustGiving target, and she said £1,000! I thought, flippin’ heck, I’m never going to reach that! But I decided that’s the point of a goal, to push yourself further. It didn’t matter if I didn’t reach it, but let’s aim high anyway.

I hadn’t realised that the charity would be notified of my challenge and start receiving the money straight away. Lucy from the fundraising team rang me and we immediately had a heartfelt conversation. We had a mutual connection in our passion for helping people with MS, for making a difference and making a real impact on their lives. During our call Lucy checked the JustGiving total and it had gone up again while we’d been chatting! The feeling was incredible. I felt amazing and, each day in the run up to my challenge, I received more and more donations, so much so that we increased the target to £1,500! I felt overwhelmed by people’s kindness and generosity.

Each day my son would ask me ‘How much money do you have now Mum?’

The pressure was building. What happened if I couldn’t do it? What if I let all these people down? One of the first to donate was my lovely friend Deb. She said, ‘We’d sponsor you to sit on the sofa all week and eat cake. So doing this is amazing!’ Maybe that’s my next challenge, 100 cakes in seven days!

Day one approached. I’d calculated I needed to run 14.3k per day for seven consecutive days to equal a total of 100k. I was fairly apprehensive, but knew that once I had day one under my belt I’d be on a roll. I decided for my own sanity, and to stay connected, I would do a Facebook Live each day, during or after my run. Maybe this would budge people to donate too?

Sarah Cook 4.jpgIt worked

Well on day one I had £80 donated within minutes of my Live! This certainly made my mind up about doing a daily broadcast.

I also decided to add to my challenge and run a different route each day, to make things a little more interesting. The best runs were those I did with running buddies. One of those was Becky, who before our run I’d never met in person before. So this was even more special than I’d ever imagined.

Countryside adventure

I met Becky in Wotton-Under-Edge (proper countryside for a city girl like me). We headed out of Wotton on a beautiful winter’s day towards Kingswood, through the lanes to Alderley (past the manor house where the Sotheby’s chap lives – his children were friends with Princes William and Harry!) We then took a lane that leads to the Ozleworth Estate. We passed estate cottages where they rear turkeys for Christmas and we saw a shoot trailer transporting the beaters. (Becky gave me a countryside lesson on the lingo.) They were even dressed head to toe in tweed (extra countryside bonus points). The weather was phenomenal, the company second to none, and I added 15k to my tally.

On the very last day of my week’s challenge I was £53 off my £1,500 target and, after sharing this information on Facebook, two friends both instantly donated £53 each! Yet another gob-smacking moment to add to the growing list that week.

Throughout the whole experience I was blown away with people’s generosity and kindness. I’ll never forget their support for me and for MS-UK, especially during such a hard year and just weeks before Christmas.

Lucy and I continued to communicate throughout my challenge, with her addressing emails to me as the ‘MS-UK Champion!’ I feel incredibly honoured to be supporting this wonderful charity and to have the genuine enthusiasm and kindness from Lucy and the team.

In total, including the gift aid donations I raised nearly £2,000 for MS-UK. To say I am proud is an understatement.

This is an epic way to end a truly challenging year.

If you are considering doing a similar challenge or any type of challenge for that matter then all I can say is go for it!

If you'd like to donate, you can find Sarah's JustGiving page here www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sarah-cook100k4ms

If you would like to take on a personal challenge like sarah then call lucy on 01206 226 500 or email Lucy@ms-uk.org