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Runner's stories - meet Katherine

Posted on: July 01 2021

My name is Katherine and I am delighted to be given the chance to run the Virgin Money London Marathon this October for MS-UK! Katherine Hyland photo.png

I started running in my final year of university, after (drunkenly) signing up for my first half marathon. After training hard and crossing the finish line, I was adamant I would never be doing that again. Little did I know, I had caught the running bug and would go on to run a further four half marathons. Running has become my way to keep fit and healthy both physically and mentally, giving me a sense of achievement and confidence unlike anything else. With everything 2020 threw at us all, running became more important for me than ever, and the time seemed right to take on the Virgin Money London Marathon for a cause close to my heart.

I am fundraising for MS-UK as my mum lives with multiple sclerosis (MS) and it means a lot to me to be able to help support others and their families who are affected. MS by its nature is unpredictable, and as a family, we have found ways to adapt and keep smiling, and the way my mum approaches each day is an inspiration to me.

Fundraising so far has been great, putting my cause out there has kicked things off well, using my Instagram and Facebook pages to reach friends and family. Strava has been a great way to share my running progress and inspire donations, and I will continue to share my training as distances increase. Linking Strava to my JustGiving page means anyone can see the miles clocking up.

The big sporting events of this summer, the Euros and the Olympics, are great fundraising opportunities. I am currently running a sweepstake for the Euros which is great fun and a boost to my fundraising total. Hopefully, an in-person event over the summer will also be possible.

I am incredibly inspired by any runners who also live with MS, when my body protests at another training run, I remember all the people in #TeamPurple training too, and everyone my fundraising can help. I can’t wait to run alongside everyone in London and share the achievement at the finish line!

Visit Katherine's JustGiving page

Take part in the London Marathon Walk this September!

Posted on: April 13 2021


Join #TeamPurple this September for a different kind of London Marathon, accessible for all! 

If you have always had your sights on completing a walking marathon, and you are up for a challenge, then maybe this is the event for you. The London Marathon Walk is your chance to conquer the capital with your friends, and with a fundraising target of just £100, you could do something amazing this year for MS-UK! 

Image.jpg The London Marathon Walk will take you on a unique route around our capital city, taking in world-famous sights and less well-known corners as you trace a 26-mile route through London.  This challenging day will see you setting off bright and early, and will take you through peaceful parks and alongside waterways, passing iconic landmarks including St Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye as you walk through the historic heart of the city. 

We would love to invite you to take part in this very special event for MS-UK, and complete your own kind of London Marathon! Guaranteed to be an achievement you will remember for a very long time, whilst making a difference to people affected by multiple sclerosis.

Sign up today and receive an MS-UK top to wear with pride! Contact Jackie in the fundraising team for more information on 01206 226500 

Register for the London Marathon Walk 

Connect24 - Gaming for good

Posted on: April 12 2021

Connect 24 insta challenge grid.jpg#PlayforMSUK to have fun, boost cognition, and raise money for a brilliant cause!

Do you love playing video games? If not, it might be time to start! Let us tell you why.

Making memories

Gaming is possibly one of the most fun ways to actively boost your cognition. In 2015, a study at the University of California found that people who often played complex, three-dimensional video games performed better in hippocampus-related memory tasks when compared with people who either didn’t play at all, or played two-dimensional games. When people took up three-dimensional gaming for 30 minutes a day, the study found their memory was boosted.

Spatial visualisation

A study from the American Psychological Association found video gaming can give your spatial visualisation a huge boost – especially when the games involve shooting. It found gamers were better at judging the distance between objects, as well as rotating objects in their mind to judge how they would fit into a space. This is useful in everyday life – it might just help you to park your car better, or organise cupboards easier – anything that requires spatial awareness.

Making a decision

Playing a fast-paced game where you have to make quick choices can actually boost your decision-making ability in real life, too. A study from the University of Rochester found people who played fast-paced action games could make accurate choices quicker if than people that didn’t play, or those who only played slow-paced ones. So, pick up that controller and wave goodbye to decision fatigue!

So, how about boosting your cognition and raising money for a good cause at the same time? Enter Connect24, MS-UK’s first ever gaming challenge which is taking place on World MS Day over the bank holiday weekend 29-31 May 2021.

Simply get your friends and family to sponsor you, and challenge your pals to 24 hours of pure gaming – you’ll bag yourself a cool, exclusive MS-UK gaming cup when you sign up (stay hydrated!), and when you raise £100, you’ll get a Connect24 medal!

Want to Connect and play for MS-UK? Call the fundraising team on 01206 226500 to find out more or click here 

“Multiple sclerosis changed my life, but running has made me whole again”

Posted on: March 08 2021

sue.jpgIn celebration of International Women’s day, we look at MSer Sue Bennet’s amazing achievements since her diagnosis

My story of fundraising began in 2013, but before this I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1998. I had gone to my follow up with my neurologist expecting to hear my symptoms were nothing to worry about, but it turned out to be MS.

I was on my own. I think I walked home in shock! Three months later I was receiving intravenous steroids (that’s how it was then) for a relapse. Disease-modifying drugs were in their infancy, and there was a very strict criteria to be able to have them.

A pick me up

Fast forward six years and bilateral optic neuritis meant I couldn’t work for three months. This was a new low point. But then by 2012 I discovered running, first with parkrun and then with my running buddy. A half marathon led to me wanting to do a whole marathon to prove to myself that I could do it. So, Edinburgh marathon it was – blooming tough, but I made it!

asue garden.jpgEvery year I watched the London Marathon on TV. I was fired up, and a challenge was born. I and my running buddy were to raise £4,000 for MS-UK for our treasured places. We decided to make it a real challenge – three marathons in three weeks! Paris, Manchester, and finally, London. We held a large quiz evening, with ourselves providing silver service! We did sponsored night runs for Halloween and Christmas and the favourite a ‘naked male runners calendar’, (all models were friends of ours). It was very popular and raised a lot of money.

Since then I have raised at least £2,000 for every subsequent London Marathon place (this year will now be my 7th, with my quizzes, night runs and raffles).

My achievements 

MS changed my life, but running has made me whole again, I truly believe it has helped me to be what I am today. I am now nearly 61, I have completed more than 20 marathons, three ultramarathons (and, in the last one, winning my age category!). My challenge for 2020, my 60th year, was to run every day, but Covid nearly scuppered that, as my work advised me to stay at home (I’m a nurse practitioner in a general practice). This was scary… but I found if I ran 40 laps of my garden it was a mile, so I could still RUN!

aaaDavid Hartley one of our runners and deserves the credit.jpgAfter a number of weeks I was back at work, and I am still running every day. I helped set up a local running group back in 2014 and have helped keep people going through this traumatic year. We have won some awards for this along the way – these wonderful people continue to inspire me with their stories and their running.

However, the caveat to all this is that I do realise I am very lucky. MS changed my life – transformed it. Without it I wouldn’t be where I am today. But for many the change is cruel and not so positive. Keeping physically active is in itself challenging, but with support and inspiration, just maybe there is a challenge that is achievable. The sense of pride in yourself is unmeasurable.

MS-UK lit the touch paper for me with my first Virgin Money London Marathon place – who knows where that rocket will lead to!

“Walking will help me regain my fitness and raise money for MS-UK”

Posted on: February 23 2021

Fowler and Mary for blog.jpgMeet Mary Harvey and her 16-year-old dog Fowler, our fundraisers of the month!

As I write, we’re several weeks into the third lockdown. Many are making tentative holiday plans for later in the year. Not me. I’m planning 31 walks to enjoy in my local area as I take on The Big Purple Dog Walk with Fowler, my 16-year-old Jack Russell. I’m hoping Dotty, my twelve-year old greyhound will join us for part of the way, but she gets very tired these days.

When I saw The Big Purple Dog Walk advertised on social media, I knew straight away I wanted to get involved. Being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) five years ago, having suffered a range of symptoms for 13 years, charities like MS-UK have become an important means of support for people like me.

My MS is relatively mild, but having a severe relapse last autumn has left me feeling anything but match fit for this challenge, as I’ve yet to regain my pre-relapse strength. But I’m confident that with Fowler by my side, a gentle two-mile walk each day will not only help me regain my fitness, but also help raise funds to support the invaluable work of MS-UK.

Old dog, new tricks

Fowler is a little old man, who at 16 is virtually blind. However, his powerful sense of smell enables him to enjoy the world around him, and he loves getting out and about! I know that our two miles each day will be a leisurely stroll as we will not only stop at each and every lamppost, but will also take the time to investigate the range of fascinating smells which only Fowler can enjoy. On days where fatigue strikes hard, I’m planning two shorter walks, punctuated with rest.

Dotty - Mary Fowler - for blog resized.jpgAlthough Dotty is four years younger than Fowler, as an ex-racing greyhound she prefers shorter walks and lots of snoozes. I hope that she will be joining us, along with my husband Stuart, for part of our route each day. I’m sure that the promise of a treat at the end of her stroll will be welcomed.

Inspiring coastline

We’re lucky as we live in a beautiful part of Kent, with lots of great walks on our doorstep including along the Thanet coastline much loved by Turner and Dickens. I’m hoping that restrictions will be lifted enough in time for my friend Sue and her dog Lara to join us for a walk in the woods or to the historic towers at Reculver – something I’ve really missed during the pandemic.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of friends who have sponsored me, and I’m still days away from starting the challenge. Looking at my JustGiving page ( I’ve been rather surprised to find that I’ve been sponsored by both Jean Claude Van Damme and Father Ted’s nemesis Father Dick Byrne! Whoever they are, I am very grateful… I’m just waiting for Spiderman and Alan Partridge to join them!

Good luck to everyone taking part in The Big Purple Dog Walk, I hope the weather is perfect for us all.

Want to take part in The Big Purple Dog Walk? Find out about joining #TeamPaws today by clicking the button below, or email – we’d love to welcome you!

Find out more


‘He doesn’t complain, he doesn’t moan and he doesn't give up’

Posted on: December 15 2020

Simon Gardner 2.jpg
Left to right - Simon Gardner, Nigel Gardner, Ed Gardner and Phil Gardner

In October this year, I decided to run a virtual marathon, my first one. I began training, building up and getting the miles in my legs, tentatively at first to avoid injury but building up the distances as I went. It was very hard but didn’t take long and like my dad, I (quietly) don’t give up.

My motivation… my dad. An athlete, a footballer, champion snooker and darts player, canoeist and lifelong fisherman. He received his multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis when he was 27 years old, not long after I was born. He is now 66 and although the progression of the disease has been relatively gradual, it has taken away all those things. He has lost the vast majority of the mobility control in his legs amongst other things. Having lived with MS for 40 years I cannot believe how resilient and calm he is and yet open. We all keep a little back from our loved ones and I do not doubt that he does because this is his and he owns it. He shares what he wants and faces into what he doesn’t. He doesn’t complain, he doesn’t moan and he doesn't give up.

I originally intended to run the Official 2020 Virtual TCS New York City Marathon solo and self-supported, however, an ambitious practice run turned into the full distance a week ahead of schedule! I was out on the trails and things were working out well so decided to push on to make sure I understood what the ‘real thing’ would be like… good job too as I learnt a lot about what my body needs when under this much pressure. I thought of my dad.

On the day, after designing my route and packing my vest with food and water, I decided to set off from my dad’s home and take a nostalgic run through the old days along roads, towns and villages I remember when growing up. The weather was shocking with heavy rain and being soft underfoot - so Garmin ‘Set', crime audiobook ‘On’ (Dad loves detective stories), head down, swing the arms and see where the legs take you!

20 miles in and to be honest I’d had enough of natural beauty, enough of my audiobook, my body was rejecting food and all the water in the world was not hydrating me. There was no reason I could be, but I was bored! So I called my wife and spoke to my kids who buoyed me up. Then called my dad who picked up just as the wind and rain returned and couldn’t hear a damn word I was saying! They say the last six miles are the worst. That said, I completed it, solo and self-supported while playing detective in the pouring rain.

My reward (medal) is still in the mail from US however the New York Road Runners app provided this augmented reality one which really lifts the spirits when you award it yourself while you pose for as good a selfie as you can get (or care about getting!). My other reward was a cold, then hot bath, a can of American Cream Soda, nine sausages with huge amounts of Dad's mash.

I was reading about MS-UK and what caught my eye, in particular, was their focus on the mental health of individuals with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis. My dad, my brothers and I are all fortunate to have one another to provide all kinds of support, particularly through lockdown, but we all know there will be some serious and important decisions to make in the next few years. We will need to strike a balance between support and independence. There will also be times when we do not know what to do, or if it is the ‘right’ thing and we will need the support of MS-UK.

As for fundraising, I told my story to those at work, those I run with or who I know run. With so many charities, particularly in 2020, needing more support than ever I didn’t want to appear to pressure them but when explaining the reason for my choice and the impact the support of MS-UK will one day have, people gave what they could.

Simon has raised an incredible £737.53 for MS-UK, here is the link to his fundraising page

If you would like to take on your own challenge to raise money for MS-UK like Simon did, please contact Lucy today on 01206 226500 or

“I was 68 before I had run a mile without stopping”

Posted on: August 05 2020

Roger Boys, 74, on his incredible challenge for MS-UK

R Boys 1.JPGI have a good friend Sue Bennett who has run a number of London Marathons on behalf of MS-UK, and in the past, I have helped her raise money on their behalf by organising a Rock ’n’ Roll Bingo nights for her Run Together Group, which I am a member of. Sadly this year the Virgin Money London Marathon has been postponed and will possibly have to be cancelled and therefore MS-UK could miss out on a considerable amount of income due to the pandemic.

Sue has, during the lockdown, done her very best to keep us all motivated via a Whatsapp group that she set up, despite being isolated herself. This proved to be very successful and great fun, it certainly kept me motivated and keen to get out and continue with my running.

Late starter

I am not a great runner having only really taken it up in later life. I was 68 before I had run a mile without stopping. However, I do have determination and therefore when I first heard about the parkrun events I was keen to join in and run their 5k. This I managed in 2014.

It was taking part in these events that I first met Sue who, in her quiet way, motivated me to continue and try and improve my technique, so I joined her Run Together Group on a Wednesday evening for some coaching.

It was great fun. I was the only man taking part at first but was made very welcome by all the ladies. Sue helped a lot with my technique and breathing, although I still can’t talk and run like the women!

So when it was suggested by Sue that we might like to take part in the MS-UK fundraising event called My MS Marathon, where people are encouraged to do something 26 times, be it running, skipping, walking, yoga or making cakes, I decided to set myself a challenge.

R Boys 3.JPGWhat can I do that I will enjoy but will also challenge me? How about trying to run a mile for every year of my life during July? Sounds fun and it will certainly be a challenge because that will be 74 miles in 30 days. I mulled it over with Nicky my wife, and we agreed I should have a go and she gave me my first £25 towards the target I had set, which was to raise £100 for MS-UK. I completed the registration form and was then committed. Things escalated as I put my intentions on to my Facebook page.

Beyond expectations

After I had run the first six miles, within a couple of days our friends had sent the total climbing. It went past £200 rapidly and was still climbing towards £300 by the time I had completed the third six-mile run, and more importantly, there were lots of words of encouragement. By the time I had got to halfway towards my target, the total had passed £500. I simply could not believe it.

For some reason, which I cannot explain, the challenge seemed to get tougher proportional to the total sum raised which of course is all in the mind but brings additional pressure never the less.

When we hit £750 I was about 75% of the way to achieving the objective and began to think that just maybe we could get to the magic £1000 mark. The running was becoming fun, as I explored the towpath on the Kennet and Avon canal searching for the wildlife and butterflies that became my companions as I headed towards my total.

Other days I explored new parts of Greenham Common looking for relics of the period when it was used by the US Air Force during the cold war, also the Craven Estate, a beautiful place to run with the sheep and lambs and very occasionally deer. Some days it was very hot and humid others windy and raining, neither affect the determination of the long-distance runner!

R Boys 6.JPGFor the final two miles, I was joined by Sue Bennett and friends from Run Together who offered to accompany me for the final run-in. Some were standing on the route waving banners and cheering me on – observing the protocol of social distancing of course! This was great fun as we tackled the parkrun course which is three miles, giving me an extra mile, making the grand total 75 miles completed during July, so one mile in the bank for my 75th birthday in September 2020. There was a professional photographer David Hartley on hand to take snaps as we crossed the finish line to be greeted with a glass of bubbles. Challenge completed – phew!

At this point, I must say a huge thank you to all who supported me with words of encouragement including Lucy King from MS-UK, who rang on a regular basis, and everyone who so generously donated money to the fund. How it got to the grand total £1,200 is just amazing. Nicky and I were just blown away by the support our idea generated.

Thank you!

Introducing Sophia, our Seven-year-old cheer-point superstar!

Posted on: June 03 2020

large_Sophia Dawkins pic.jpgHello, my name is Sophia, I am Seven years old and I care a lot about MS-UK - It feels cool knowing I’m MS-UK’s youngest volunteer! I started volunteering because I like helping MS-UK and I want to help people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS), I want them to feel happy and have a smile on their face. My great aunty Loraine has MS and she isn’t very well. I started by helping her, but I also want to help other people too.

I started volunteering for the MS-UK cheer-point cheerers when I went to watch my mum run the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2017. My dad and I cheered with Jenny at mile 17. I enjoyed it so much I wanted to do it again! Sometimes it gets cold standing around but I don’t make a fuss because the cheering is more important!

The best bit of volunteering is cheering everyone on at events, especially when I’m allowed to use the megaphone! I like to cheer all the runners, “Well done runners! You can do this! Do not stop! The quicker you do it, the quicker it’s over!”. I also like to look out for the purple t-shirts so I can shout MS-UK! And one time Jenny bought me chips so that might be the best thing that’s happened at an event!

Gavin King ran 26.26km for MS-UK with a heavy yellow twist!

Posted on: April 30 2020


I woke up on Sunday 26 April, London Marathon day, or at least it should have been! It should have been the 40th anniversary of the event. I thought about those who should have been taking part, the months of training, the moments of pain and the little victories along the way. I picked up my phone with my cup of tea and started catching up on the social media updates when I came across an MS-UK post on Facebook “The 2.6 challenge, Save the UK's charities, 1 Day to go”,  and it was posted yesterday meaning launch day was today!

I dropped a quick comment to ask if it was too late to sign up and on hearing I wasn’t too late, I quickly started thinking about what I could do. I glanced around and saw the face of the famous Pokémon Pikachu painted on the side of my beer barrel from a previous event, he looked at me smugly from across the room and my challenge started to come together.

I decided that I was going to dust him off and carry him while running 26.26km, in keeping with the 2.6 challenge. I set up my JustGiving page and told the world about my challenge for MS-UK.

It got to 5pm and as I was walking to my start line I check my JustGiving page to see I had already raised over £200, which was the perfect little boost I needed before setting off!

At 5km in my elbows were already screaming at me, I had some water and a bit of flapjack and set off up the river path. I negotiate the barrel into different positions to ease the pain on the elbows. If I held it in one hand over my back it bounced on my shoulder blades, in front of me it banged on my hips, two hands behind my head and my elbows filled with pain, there just isn't a comfortable way to carry that thing! I focused on all the reasons I was doing this, I'm running this for my parents, I'm running it for those that can't, I'm running it to raise vital funds for a charity that is due to lose out. This isn't about me or my challenge, it's about them.IMG_20200426_185010.jpg

I reached the half way point and pulled out my phone to find messages of support, I snapped a quick photo, picked up my barrel and continued my run feeling a little more refreshed from those encouraging words. I saw a family ahead and moved well over to let them pass, but really I was grateful for a short rest. As they passed I heard, “You do realise they make smaller water bottles mate?” It made me smile and once they'd passed I carried on, getting ever closer to the end of my journey.

Three hours after I had set off, the sun had started to set in the sky and I was just 3km from the finish. I took one quick photo with the sunset and then I picking up my pace because I knew I was almost there. Literally on the home stretch now and running towards my house, barrel in front of me, I was regularly checking my watch for distance. I watched the numbers tick over… 25.90, 26.00, 26.10, 26.2... 26.26km, I was there! It was done! My hands felt bruised, my legs tired and I felt like what I had just achieved was harder than the marathon itself. I checked JustGiving again to find the total was now over £300! I was astonished at the generosity from friends, family and even social media followers.

It was then time for a bath and a cup of tea! I feel happy to know I've helped my charity in their time of need.

If you would like to make a donation to Gavin’s fundraising page visit his JustGiving page here.

Can you help save UK charities like MS-UK?

Posted on: April 20 2020

Jill head short.pngHi there!
We hope that you and your family are well in this difficult time.
The COVID-19 pandemic is having a catastrophic effect on UK charities leading to an estimated loss of £4 billion for the sector. Charities depend on income from fundraising events and thousands have been cancelled or postponed. For many charities, including MS-UK, the 26 April would have been the biggest fundraising day of the year thanks to the Virgin Money London Marathon, the world’s biggest one-day fundraising event which raised £66.4 million for charities in 2019.
In response, the UK’s mass participation sports event industry has come together to create The 2.6 Challenge, a nationwide fundraising campaign to Save the UK’s Charities. They are inviting the public to dream up an activity based around the numbers 2.6 or 26 and fundraise or donate to charities like us. It would be wonderful to have your support.
How can you help?

  1. Dream up an activity based around the numbers 2.6 or 26. That could be 2.6miles, 2.6K, 26 press-ups, 26 pancake flips, anything with a 2 and a 6. It really is up to you! Tell all of your social media friends you are taking part in the 2.6 challenge by downloading this free GIF and posting it on all your social media channels
  2. Head to our page to donate £26 or whatever you can afford or set up a fundraising page
  3. Ask all your family and friends to sponsor you and ask them to do their own 2.6 challenge
  4. Complete your challenge
  5. Share your photo or video of your challenge on social media with #twopointsixchallenge

Please find more information about The 2.6 Challenge by visiting
Thank you for continuing to support us, every penny raised will really make a difference to the lives of people living with multiple sclerosis.
Best wishes


Jill Purcell, MS-UK Fundraising Manager