My name is John Williams and I’ve been asked to write a blog because of the way I’m trying to raise a little money for MS-UK. I’ve never done anything like this before so I’ll apologise in advance if I waffle on too much.
First, a little about me.
I’m a lifelong strength athlete who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in the summer of 2018.
I’ve trained for and competed in strength sports for most of my life - 45 years this year (I’m 55 at the moment). My first Olympic Lifting (the type of weightlifting they have at the Olympics) competition was in November 1974 and I went on to be a National Champion by the age of 16.
At the end of 1979 I competed in my first powerlifting competition, which is much more reliant on brute strength. Powerlifting is the squat, bench press and deadlift. A change is as good as rest so I had a go - the next Olympics in 1984 seemed so far away. I had every intention of going back to weightlifting.
I went on to be a multi British, European and World Champion across four weight classes and broke several World Records in the World Drug Free Powerlifting Federation. My last World title was in Russia in 2003, after which my body needed a rest but my need for endorphins runs deep so I switched back to weightlifting instead.
In 2004 I was British Masters (over 40) champion. I followed this up with a third place at the Welsh Open and first in the Welsh Masters. The next few years saw a number of operations, some of which were to repair the damage caused by years of long heavy training sessions and one or two to upgrade internal fixation I’d had put in years before following a motorcycle accident.
I’ve always been the sort of person who loves a challenge, even more so if someone has told me I wouldn’t be able to do it, so in 2009 I started the long road to the 2013 Masters Games. However, it was not to be and in 2012 I completely ruptured my right biceps at the shoulder and either ruptured or partially ruptured all four parts of my right rotator cuff (muscles in the shoulder). As far as recovery was concerned it was by far the most difficult injury/operation I’d had.
By the summer of 2014 I was back on the powerlifting platform representing Wales in the Four Nations Championships. My first competitive outing in a long time and I managed to break three British Masters Records, one of which had stood since 2000. During this time I even entered a strongman contest, a bucket list thing. I knew I had no chance of winning, the next oldest person was just over half my age but I managed to place top 3 in one event and actually won another. I was pleased I didn’t actually come last overall.
It was at this time that I began to notice it was taking longer to recover from workouts and my muscles ached far more than they should have. At first I put this down to 40 odd years of heavy training. I was still competing once, maybe twice a year and broke all the Welsh Masters Records in two weight classes and as I write I hold several open records across two weight classes as well.
My ability to train hard and recover was slowly but surely decreasing and by the beginning of 2018 I seemed to be constantly sore and was sustaining one injury after another – time for a visit to the doctors and a string of visits to the hospital.
Once I got my diagnosis of multiple sclerosis it was a bit of a relief to be honest. It could have been something far worse and at least I could still go to the gym, albeit training very differently.
I’ve always tried to put something back into the sport I’ve enjoyed for so many years, promoting contests, refereeing, coaching and I currently edit the website for the Welsh Strength Association so once I’d settled into a training routine my thoughts turned to trying to use what I could do to raise a little money for MS and the only thing I could think of was lifting weights.
So, that brings us to what I’m doing. Phase one of my goal is to total 600kg over the three lifts (powerlifting) and to set Welsh Masters Records in each lift at the Welsh Cup on 03 March 2019. At the time of writing this I’m on course to it but as you can imagine it will depend on having enough good days to make progress, I am incredibly stubborn and driven though!
I picked MS UK because it offers support and is hands on in its approach to helping - you can see where the money goes!
I’ve opened a donation page for MS-UK on Facebook.
Phase two of my goal will be more difficult – my plan is to return once again to Olympic lifting and compete in the Welsh Masters in November 2019 and hopefully raise a little more money.
If you’ve been inspired by John get in touch with Lucy to order your fundraising welcome pack today! Just email Lucy or call on 01206 226500.
If you feel ready to get going you can set up a Facebook fundraiser today!
'I’ve had a wonderful two months since joining Sportability. I feel that my life is beginning to start again with my MS no longer being a brick in my pocket!'
That quote came out quite naturally in a casual conversation with Mandy, at one of our sporting events. As a former journalist it resonated with me because of its utter simplicity and total authenticity. I was a professional writer and yet I could never have created, or even imagined, such a complete and vibrant description that in just a couple of word encapsulates what Mandy obviously felt as the restraining, the weighing down, effect of multiple sclerosis (MS).
Inspired by this we have recently been gathering simple profiles from various people who enjoy our events and activities. These are unscripted self-written comments, devoid of PR frippery and spin, but chock full of sincerity and an earthy originality. The results are truly revealing.
How about this as a powerful message from Roger, a 65 year old living in the Midlands. 'With MS there are two ways you can go, either switch off and wait for a cure or you can find a different way of living your life. Like a river finding a new course. Before my MS I was working 80 hours a week and doing very little else. Since my diagnosis, I have travelled more, had more fantastic experiences, a lot of them with Sportability, certainly more than I ever would have had without my illness.'
Or the frank, honest, open-ness of Jen from East Anglia. 'Prior to suffering with MS, I had always been an outgoing, confident, professional individual. However, I became a very different person as my symptoms took hold, robbing me of all of this, as well as my identity. I found myself experiencing the very unfamiliar feeling of vulnerability, having a total lack of confidence and self-worth. My world became a very small place.'
But she goes on to reveal something of an MS metamorphosis. 'Then I was introduced to Sportability and wow, I haven't looked back! This enabled me to experience a variety of activities, such as gliding, quad-biking and sailing. It's a wonderful feeling to be in an environment where you feel safe, where you are accepted as you are and where people focus on what you can do, and not what you can't. I come away from a Sportability day with a big smile and feeling emotionally energized. My confidence has grown as I realise that there is an abundance of things out there that I can in fact do!'
They are only words, but how meaningful and heartfelt they are. And what insights and, dare I say it, inspiration, they evoke. It is the things that people say, like this, that make us do the things we do.
David Heard, Chief Executive of Sportability
Photo: David Heard and Trish Deykin. At the recent 2018 Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year Awards Trish received The Helen Rollason Award for Inspiration. She is the current Triathlon European Champion, and has been for last two years. She is also a former World Champion.
I came out of a meeting in mid-January and had a text message from my good friend and Tysabri buddy’s husband, Alister... ‘Are you up for this?’ he said, sending a link to the Race to the King event, a 53 mile trail ultra-marathon.
I’d been running for about 8 months and had a few 10k and a half marathon runs under my belt, including the Brighton Marathon. I thought about it, albeit briefly, and replied ‘You know what? Yes! This sounds fun, happy to do it in a day too’. There was an option to do it over two days, but that was far too sensible…
And then I kind of forgot about it. I ramped up my training for Brighton and managed it in 4hr 30m. It was tougher than I’d hoped but I didn’t stick to my race plan and went too fast too soon. Alister assured me that a marathon was far harder than anything else I’d do… I was doubtful.
I signed up for a walking event, which the organiser agreed I could run if I was fully self-sufficient. So I ran 45km of trails on my 32nd birthday. Running offroad was a real eye opener. It took far longer than I expected but was really enjoyable and, as the only runner in a walking event, I won!
Alister was following a 12-week training program, but I was struggling. With a full time job, three dogs, multiple sclerosis (MS) and awful time management skills, I wasn’t getting the miles in. Seven weeks before the ultra, Alister and I hadn’t even run together – how were we going to manage 53 miles in each other’s company? I was starting to worry. As if he read my mind, Alister invited me to join him on a 13.1 training run around town. It went well but there was work to do. Not long after that, I managed to start using the program. It meant some early mornings and late nights, but soon I was racking up 25-40 miles per week, and Alister and I were running every Sunday together, exploring the South Downs between Chichester and Eastbourne.
At this point we discussed fundraising. We should raise some money, but who for? I volunteered that I would like to raise money for MS-UK, and Alister could join me or choose another charity if he wanted to. I explained that the MS-UK website and chat rooms had been beneficial for me post diagnosis, and I’d like to support them. He was keen to join me, and the race begun!
Both of us are fortunate to have very supportive families, friendship groups and colleagues, and our JustGiving pages started seeing a lot of visitors. Whilst my close colleagues are aware that I have MS, it’s not common knowledge, and as I’m field based, I often don’t see people for months. Whilst my email was nonspecific, my JustGiving page was honest and held nothing back, which felt liberating. The email went to the entire business, and I let out a deep breath. Within minutes my inbox was full of kind, generous and supportive messages, some from people I knew reasonably well, and others who I’d only met once. It felt amazing.
Alister and I went on to raise around £1,700 each and proudly wore our MS-UK running vests as we took on the ultra-marathon on 23 June 2018. We set off from Slindon at 8.15am and ran (yes, we were still running) across the finish line in Winchester at just gone 10.30pm. It was an amazing experience and I genuinely enjoyed every minute of it. Our time was a little slower than hoped, but we had a headtorch malfunction, and both agreed we need to coordinate our toilet stops better in future. And yes, there is a ‘future’, Alister and I have only managed a few Parkruns together since but will be tackling at least one ultra-marathon in 2019 and aspire to complete a 100 mile ultra at some point.
I absolutely loved the mini mudder, it was great. I loved doing this for the charity MS-UK, because my Grandpa has MS, and it was FUN! On the day I was very nervous. I saw the adults doing it. We went to the course and I got ready.
I was running as fast as I could. The first challenge was to get through the rope. We had to squeeze! We had the tunnels they were very slippery. Next we had the monkey swing, it was like the monkey bars, but our hands slipped. That was the hardest! Then we had to run really fast up a thing like a hill. We had the running and jumping in the MUD! I swam in it. That was the most fun challenge.
SUDDENLY I saw there was another challenge! I was so tired. We had to climb under the rope. We had to do the leopard crawl.
I DID TEN LAPS OF THE COURSE!
I felt good for raising lots of money and I enjoyed telling people about MS-UK.
Mini Mudder is a 1 mile obstacle course mud run designed specifically for adventure-seeking kids. The course gives kids the chance to work as a team, get muddy, and experience the thrill of adventure. Rocco did this amazing challenge and raised over £100 in aid of MS-UK - every penny helps us to support even more people affected by mutliple sclerosis, so thank you Rocco!
With both of us having parents who are sufferers of multiple sclerosis (MS), we both believed it would be important to try and raise money to help them as best we can. At first, we looked at participating in a triathlon, but on second thought believed we should do something more extravagant, and so turned to the idea of a skydive. We knew this would put us both outside our comfort zones and looked forward to the challenge. We collected donations for around three months prior to the jump, both setting a target of £500, with an overall goal of £1,000.
As you can imagine, at first both of us made a lot of money but after a while the donations began to dry up. Therefore, we took to advertising our JustGiving page on social media, sending it to friends and family. We also asked around our schools for donations, which contributed significantly. Our jump took place on 03 November at Hinton Skydiving Centre in Brackley.
Family and friends came along to support which was a big confidence boost due to a high level of nerves. We had our briefing, met our tandem jumpers, and set off on the fifteen-minute journey up to 13,000 ft. The journey up was the worst part because it came into perspective just how high we were jumping from. On the way up, we took in the view of Silverstone racetrack and had one final briefing before the long fall back to ground. Alex jumped first, and Dan went second.
Both of us thoroughly enjoyed the experience and both genuinely believed it was the best of our lives. The feeling of falling is very hard to explain, but it's an amazing sensation like no other that fills you with high levels of adrenaline and excitement. We would thoroughly recommend a skydive to anyone thinking about doing one, the experience is so unique, and you will not regret it.
Overall, we are delighted to say to that both met out targets and ended with a total of £1,497. Once again, we would like to thank MS-UK for their unconditional support and we hope our money goes to a good cause.
Dan Wood and Alex Greene
Congratulations to all the businesses across Essex who celebrated their fundraising success at our 925 Challenge awards night on 22 November! Thanks to their hard work and dedication, they managed to raise an astounding £16,700 for people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS)!
Back in September, MS-UK officially launched our first ever 925 Challenge. Nine teams of local companies were handed countdown clocks and tasked with raising £925 before the timer ticked down to the end of 9 weeks, 2 days, and 5 hours.
The challengers - comprised of teams from NatWest, Charles Derby Financial Services, Team Pivotal, Ellisons Solicitors, OPM Response, Whitehall Electrical, White Hart, Push Energy and Direct Solutions - fought to be the first to reach the fundraising target by bringing the workplace together and getting creative.
As each team grappled to get the upper hand, the fundraising events became more and more innovative. We saw a 'dawn to dusk' golf day, a Swimathon, video game characters tackling an obstacle course, a car wash, a race night, and so much more!
The ideas were so good that once the clocks stopped we struggled to pick our final award winners!
After some tough deliberation we came to our decisions. The awards for ‘most money raised’ and the ‘team spirit award’ were scooped by the White Hart pub in West Bergholt who raised an incredible £6,000 by involving the community in their fundraising efforts.
Other awards went to Ellisons Solicitors for their quirky ‘Wacky Hat Wednesday’ event, OPM Response for their outstandingly fun fundraising films, and Direct Solutions for their innovative ‘Display for MS-UK’ initiative. As well as great team work, MS-UK recognised some individuals who went above and beyond during the challenge including 6 year old Shara Stevens who individually raised £300 and swam over a mile during local business networking group Team Pivotal’s Swimathon.
Collectively teams in our first corporate challenge raised a wonderful £16,700, which smashed our target of £10,000. We are delighted with the energy and enthusiasm all teams have shown for the challenge bringing colleagues, clients and customers together to raise both awareness and much needed funds for MS-UK.
This weekend our amazing #TeamPurple runners will be taking on the challenge of the Royal Parks Half Marathon - good luck!
The event kicks off at 9am on Sunday 14 October and is set in four of London's Royal Parks: Hyde Park, The Green Park, St James's Park and Kensington Gardens. It is the perfect autumnal tour of central London’s most exquisite outdoor spaces, and we can't wait to cheer everyone on!
If you can't make the event but want to stay updated, you can follow @MSUK6 on Twitter and enjoy the action in real time!
Good luck from all of us here at MS-UK, your efforts mean we can support people affected by multiple sclerosis to really make the most of each day - thank you!
It's Monday morning, but we are still excited from the amazing weekend! Our amazing #TeamPurple swimmers Jeremy, Janice and Kirsty all braved the cold waters in Hyde Park on Saturday 22 September at Swim Serpentine - and they all achieved their London Classics medal!
Swim Serpentine is a one-day open water swimming festival staged in the heart of London. Organised by London Marathon Events, the festival is held in and around the beautiful Serpentine in Hyde Park, the venue for the open water swimming competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Early Saturday morning myself and Laura from MS-UK set off in the rain to make sure we were ready to cheer on our dedicated swimmers, and we were not disappointed!
Now in its third year, a record breaking 6,000 people entered Swim Serpentine this year...the atmosphere was electric and it was fantastic to hear so many people were going to complete a 2 mile swim and enter the London Classics hall of fame...The London Classics is a challenge that recognises participants who have completed all three London Classic events - the Virgin Money London Marathon, the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 and Swim Serpentine. What an achievement!
For Jeremy, Janice and Kirsty, they realised this dream on Saturday and I was so proud to be part of the moment they grabbed their weighty London Classics medal - congratulations guys!
If you're inspired to join #TeamPurple, visit the fundraising section of our website to find out about all the different things you can do, or get in touch with the fundraising team. Plus don't forget to check out the photo album from Swim Serpentine on our Facebook page!
To all the swimmers on Saturday, a massive well done from MS-UK!
Fundraising Manager, MS-UK
Fancy being in with a chance of winning a £25 Debenhams gift card?
This weekend is the last chance to make sure your voice is heard in our supporter survey - so please do let us know what you think by taking our survey! The survey closes on Monday 24 September 2018.
The prize draw will be on Tuesday 25 September, so by next weekend you could be going shopping!
Good luck, and thank you for giving us your feedback, it really does help us plan for the future,
Fundraising Manager, MS-UK
My name is Charlie Stebbings and, along with a 14 strong team, I cycled from London to Paris between 04 - 06 May.
Myself, Mortimer McKechnie, Paris Baker, Millie Bampfylde, Tom Sater, Alicia Hanmer, Rob Gibson, Occy Cobb, Paddy Rogers, Lucy Munday, Robin Butler and Tom Everard decided to commit to this challenge in aid of three fantastic causes - MS-UK, Cancer Research, and SUDEP Action. Along with our amazing and indispensable support drivers Jack Smail and Helen Callaghan, not to forget our two broken bone casualties Katie Barton and Minty Naylor, we made a formidable fundraising team intent on giving as much support as we could to these fantastic causes.
MS-UK has been a fantastic support to our family over the last eight years since my mother was diagnosed. The work they do for suffers and their families is integral to all those affected by multiple sclerosis (MS) and therefore it is always a privilege to fundraise for them. Having said that, the pain you experience near the top of the mountain on day two at mile 95 was accompanied by a ‘what are we doing’ moment, but that is part of the fun! We organized this challenge to test ourselves and push us so that everyone felt that sense of achievement and success.
The 300 mile trip over three days was a brilliant way to do just that, and apart from Tom Sater Cycling into the back of Lucy Munday as he was being sprayed by a very friendly Frenchman watering his plants, and my exploding tire in Paris, we made it without a hitch. The 30 degree weather was both a blessing and a hinderance, but there is no doubt it kept moral high and helped those of us often void of a tan suitably rosy.
The fundraising experience is one that we can all approach in different ways, but we liked to get people engaged with the trip and run fundraisers instead of solely distributing letters or emails etc. I think there is nothing more enjoyable and motivating than hosting an event which shows you how much support you have for the charities and how many people genuinely care for your cause. I recommend it to anyone who haven’t involved people tangibly in their fundraising to try it. It adds that extra dimension and can remind you why you are doing this often crazy challenge!
Gift aid included, we raised £20,600 and am delighted to be able to give MS-UK some of that money. I must thank my team for supporting this charity with such enthusiasm. It means a huge amount to me, my family, and hopefully everyone in this community.
On to the next one!