To be honest with you, the past eight years that I have run the London Marathon, New York Marathon, a few 10k's and swam the Serpentine (let’s not talk about that one!), I have never had a problem raising money for the wonderful charity that is MS-UK.
I am in the very fortunate position to work for Slimming World and have very large groups, therefore raising money was never an issue. I would simply set up a MS-UK table with my sponsorship forms and tins and with over 500 people walking through my doors on a weekly basis… the money always rolled in.
However, this year is very different and without being negative, fundraising has been difficult. I think people are unaware that the marathon is October, they always expect it to be in April. And for me, numbers of members at work have dropped dramatically as we worked virtually for over a year, and potential members don’t know we are back open.
Even though I have managed to raise some money, it’s not at the level I have before, and it’s really bothering me. I’ve realised that I’ve got to look at other ways of trying to get that so much needed cash for MS-UK.
A few things have worked for me. I’m not very good on social media but have started to put all my runs on my Facebook page and talking about how I’ve got to run a certain mileage and taking photos along the route and then posting them. I’ve always found that if it’s raining (which it always seems to do just as I’m going out for my run) and I take a picture of me wet, and someone will always send me some money whilst they are laughing!
I am trying to talk about it all the time and boring people stupid. I even had an estate agent over the afternoon I wrote this blog, and when he saw my medals, ‘Aha!’ I thought ... ‘An opportunity here!’. It worked, £20 in the bag!
Also, when I’ve been posting my JustGiving page, I have been adding how MS-UK really struggled through the pandemic and how they had to sell their building in order to keep the charity going, pulling on their heart strings… but sadly the truth. Another £50 in the pot.
I wish I could offer more helpful tips. But one thing I do know (though not something you should rely on), that on the two weeks up to the marathon people start to come forward a little bit more to donate, especially if you keep reminding them how far you had run that week. Also, the day after the marathon when you limp into work in your slippers, they feel so sorry for you they have no option but to hand you money!
Good luck and happy running.
As I prepare to embark on my 3rd and 4th marathons respectively, the biggest difference this time around is just how much this particular charity means to me. The training is never easy and the marathon itself is hardly a picnic but the cause, which is so very close to my heart, will keep driving me on all the way to the finish. Yes, there is a small matter of 26 miles! Or 52 in my case! However, this is a small distance to cover in comparison to the much bigger objective of doing all I can to help the charity, my cousin and all her fellow MSers. Nothing will stop me.
I have often been told that I have an infectious energy and enthusiasm, and perhaps that goes some way to explain why so many people around me have also now become so passionate about multiple sclerosis (MS) and fully embraced the cause, which has been very heart-warming to see. It is also helping raise awareness about the condition and the charity, as well as much-needed funds. Long may it continue.
In such unprecedented times, there have been a few obstacles in terms of how to fundraise. However, I am a strong believer that every challenge presents an opportunity and I love a challenge, especially when it is for such a fantastic cause. This pandemic is a great reminder of the importance of togetherness, helping others, being kind and I want to do absolutely everything I can for MS.
In previous fundraising, I was able to generate money through selling clothes, footwear, food, and drink primarily to my colleagues at work. This not only helped clear out my wardrobe but also helped me test and hone my baking skills. Lockdown means I am now hoarding a lot more stuff and eating all the sweet treats myself, but I am sure it is all good fuel for those long training runs…?
Kids and dogs are good and are certainly having the desired effect, but you just can’t beat the impact of alcohol. I like a drink and I like even more encouraging others to drink, particularly when I know those strings on the wallets and purses become that bit looser. As a salesperson, I must admit that I have won many a deal courtesy of wining, dining, and dancing (maybe less so with the latter, as my dancing is an acquired taste). So, it would be silly not to apply the same tried and tested approach to my charity fundraising. I am actually spending more time talking to customers about the charity than what I selling. I hope my boss doesn’t read this!
The event itself is just a sideshow, a reason to fundraise, but for me, this is all about this wonderful charity and making a difference. Just over halfway through another eventful year, I am determined to make 2021 live long in my memory for all the right reasons, which for me is all about supporting MS.
Inspired by Emily's story, you can make a donation to her fundraising page by visiting her JustGiving page here.
On Wednesday 17 February 2021 we celebrated Random Acts of Kindness Day. To commemorate the day, we asked the multiple sclerosis (MS) community to share your stories. Here's what you said...
'This random act of kindness took place long before the pandemic - 40 years ago - but due to my MS and memory loss - I now experience this random act of kindness of the event through old photos I found while cleaning for lack of anything else to do during this pandemic. It sounds like a sad story but had a happy ending due to a wonderful doctor who cared.
'My wedding was all planned but my mother was was very ill and the doctor cared - he told us how much it meant to her and us for her to be there and helped us move up the wedding to the hospital chapel and all was arranged - even had music!
'Mom was there, all dressed up, guests too - doctor came too - dressed up - Mom died 10 days later. I am still married 40 years later to my hero...and trying to pass kindness forward.'
'After a long day in London, I used the Underground to catch my connection north. I had to change lines at some point, and the distance between stations was much greater than I’d anticipated. The further I walked, the more bent my posture became, until I was literally using the surface of walls to help me keep upright.
'I was passed by hundreds of racing commuters, possibly thinking I was drunk. I staggered on for a few more yards, following signs for the lift. When it appeared out of order however, I simply gave up, and slumped to the floor, wearing my best suit. Again, I was passed by many people, and at this stage I was feeling like a well-dressed busker and tearful!
'Amazingly, a man returned carrying drinks and a cupcake from Costa. To give me the refreshments, he must have passed me, exited the underground station, entered a Costa store to buy the items, and then retraced his steps, going against the walking traffic. I thanked him profusely after initially refusing his offer, and asked for his details in order that I could thank him properly. He refused, left me with the refreshments, and quickly disappeared again. I was speechless.'
'As two of my family members lived and died with MS prior to my diagnosis, I was well aware of their management techniques. Following my diagnosis, I declared instantly to doctors and nurses in the hospital that I was going on a diet avoiding saturated fats and milk.
'One day, all the patients were given their breakfasts of cheese sandwiches on the morning of my kindness day - so I left mine untouched and went back to sleep. Upon waking up, I saw a thick salami sandwich on my bed stand - although the kitchen did not have any dietary replacements that day.
'Other patients told me that a night nurse left me with her meal before going home. She did not wake me up, but left me her meal after a night 12 hour shift looking after patients. At the time, I was the only one at the ward being able to slowly wash myself and go to toilet. All other patients needed non stop care through the night and day. She must have been exhausted, hungry and not in a mood to "cure" MS by avoidance of cheese! Still, she decided that morning to be kind, supportive and selfless - saying nothing in the process.
'I will never forget such kindness in my time of sudden schock...please join me in wishing every blessing to "my" nurse.'
Thank you to everyone who shared your positive stories with us for the day and tuned in to our Facebook Live event.
You can find out more about why we celebrate kindness by visiting our Loneliness and Isolation Report webpage.
Calling all canine companions! This March, MS-UK are inviting you to join #TeamPaws and take part in our pawsome Big Purple Dog Walk. Wherever you are in the country now is the pawfect time for you and your best four-legged friend to stay active and make every walk matter to help people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS).
During MS-UK’s loneliness and isolation research, we noticed that our furry friends play a big part in the MS Community, whether that be keeping their owner's company, being the reason someone may go outside each day, or simply by just being there! That is why MS-UK has launched an exclusive virtual event... just you and your dogs!
So whether your pooch is a pampered Poodle, a delicate Dachshund or a loving Labrador all hounds are welcome to put their paws to the test and help to raise pawsome funds for MS-UK. Everyone that takes part will receive an exclusive MS-UK dog bandana to wear with pride during the challenge. When you raise your target of £100, your dog will receive their very own rosette and certificate for their achievements.
We have some examples for you below, but feel free to get creative, and remember it must be completed by the end of March!
Whatever you decide to do, there are huge benefits to you and your beloved pets by getting outside for some fresh air.
Does your neighbour have a dog that could join you for The Big Purple Dog Walk? Or does a local family member have a dog that you could team up with?
What are you waiting for? Get your collars on and grab your leads… let’s go walkies for MS!
Click the button below or call 01206 226500 for more information.
This evening we should have been getting ready for a night to remember at MS-UK’s annual Summer Ball.
It should have been a busy week for the fundraising team assembling prizes donated by many generous donors and businesses for our raffle and auction and getting all the finishing touches ready for a very special evening.
Each year we welcome around 150 lovely supporters for an evening of fine dining, fun and great entertainment in glamorous style at the luxurious Le Talbooth in Dedham, Essex near MS-UK’s home town of Colchester.
Every year, this black-tie event raises thousands of pounds for MS-UK so we can continue our work supporting people affected by multiple sclerosis.
Last June, we raised over £16,000 at our Summer Ball which is enough to fund our national helpline for over six weeks, providing vital information and emotional support to empower anyone that needs it.
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and like many other events, the ball has been cancelled this year. This is a huge shame for both our guests who are missing a great night out and our fundraising.
If you would like to make a donation to our urgent appeal to help us at this difficult time, we would be most grateful. You can donate at www.justgiving.com/campaign/MS-UKAppeal.
One day we shall go to the ball and we are already looking forward to making the MS-UK Ball the biggest and best ever in 2021.
The date planned for 2021 is Friday 17 September 2021. If you would like to find out more information about the event please contact me on 01206 226500 or email Jill@ms-uk.org
Thank you for your continued support.
Stay safe and well,
MS-UK Fundraising Manager
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.
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.
Chris Rayner turned his life around in his mid-30s and competed beyond his wildest dreams
Watching athletics with my Dad when Seb Coe, Steve Ovett and Steve Cram flew the flag for our country is one of my earliest sporting memories. However, if you had told me back in 1983 that I would one day pull on my country’s colours in competition, I would have found that hard to believe. Skip forward to October 2019 and I found myself proudly slipping into my England vest ahead of the Yorkshire Marathon!
During my early 30s, as is often the case, I’d put on a bit of weight and didn’t really exercise. I was stuck all day behind the wheel of a car as a sales rep, and my eating habits weren’t the best.
The big change happened when my marriage failed. I began jogging to try and do something positive. It’s well known that running can really boost mental health, and I was feeling a bit lonely. A friend suggested I go along with her to an event organised by Chorlton Runners. I became a regular.
I was adamant I would never enter a race, but one night, after several post-run beers, I was persuaded to enter the 2013 Leeds Abbey Dash 10k and, during the same beer session, declared I’d be able to do it in under 40 minutes. I didn’t even have a running watch back then so decided I’d better train hard, and crossed the finish line in 39 minutes 22 seconds. I was hooked!
The excitement of Leeds was short lived, however. A few days later I was in an awful car accident near Aberdeen which saw me upside down in a field. A week later my spleen ruptured, which resulted in major abdominal surgery to save my life. I felt lucky and so thankful to be alive and was desperate to get back to running to put events behind me. Six weeks after surgery and now minus my spleen, I cautiously took part in the South Manchester parkrun and it felt great to be back.
My first marathon
The next huge event in my running story was, again, after a few beers when I was persuaded to enter the 2016 Manchester Marathon. I woke the following morning thinking I’d made a terrible mistake, but then I promised myself I would dedicate the next three months to doing every single run on the plan, come rain, sun, snow or sleet.
I stood on the start line that sunny April morning knowing that I could not have done any more and that, whatever happened in the race, I had already achieved the real value the marathon. The icing on the cake was that after a rather frantic sprint to the finish line, my watch said 2 hours, 59 minutes and 57 seconds!
After that, there was no stopping me and I competed in the prestigious Boston Marathon, then Venice, then London, and then the Chester Marathon. I managed to finish in under 2 hours 45 minutes and, a week later, I received an email to say I’d qualified to represent England Masters in the 2019 Yorkshire Marathon!
My first charity marathon
It was going to be a proud day for me pulling on an England vest in my home county with my parents watching. I decided to use the occasion to do some good and considered running for charity, something I had not done previously. My grandfather Thomas Rayner had multiple sclerosis (MS) and died before I was born. I knew my father and uncle would be very delighted if I ran to support an MS charity and I chose MS-UK because of the fabulous support they provide to people living with the illness, including friends and work colleagues. Having set up a Just Giving page, I was amazed when £1,000 was donated in just 48 hours and £1,500 in total was pledged. I am fortunate to have some very generous friends and family.
The big day
The day itself was amazing. Lining up with my England colleagues for the team photo made it suddenly seem very real, but I quickly got my race head on as I had a job to do. I had my girlfriend and friends cheering me at the start and knew my parents would be at mile 14/15. Despite having had a few issues in training was determined to give it my all.
Standing alongside my Chorlton team mate Matt in the start pen, we wished each other luck and waited for the off. The conditions were pretty good – dry, cool, but a bit windy in places. I went out hard in the early stages and waited for the wheels to fall off, but got to halfway feeling good.
The shout of “Go on England!” from my mum gave me a boost at 15 miles, but a mile later, I started cramping a bit in my left hamstring. Fortunately, I managed to get rid of the cramp but lost touch with the group I had been running in, which meant running into the wind on my own, which is hard both physically and mentally.
The marathon is a massive mental game – you have so much time out there where you need to maintain form and focus and also remain hard in the head. Fortunately, Yorkshire folk are famed for this! The last six miles are always a battle in every marathon – they often say it’s a 20 mile warm up for a six mile race. I kept thinking of the finish line, all the people who I knew would be tracking my progress, the people who had sponsored me, and I shut out the message from my body that was saying Stop!
Two miles to go and my pace had just dipped a touch between 20 and 24 miles, but I rallied myself and knew I had this race and another personal best was within my grasp. With half a mile to go, the organisers kindly put a short but sharp hill in your way, but you know when you crest it you have a 400 meter downhill run to the finish. My cheer squad was placed on that hill and I flew up it, then belted it down to the finish line as the commentator called my name over the public address. I crossed the line, arm aloft, in a new best of 2 hours, 40 minutes and 51 seconds.
It is only when you finish a marathon that you realise how much pain you are in and you go from sprinting to the line to suddenly finding it hard to walk! However, I am so lucky to be able to enjoy my sport and it serves as a great reminder that things I sometimes take for granted are not so easy for others. Whilst I am very proud of my progress from taking up running in my late 30s to running for England in my mid-40s, the amazing donations I raised for MS-UK was the something that meant the day was truly special.
This weekend I had a fantastic day cheering on our amazing #TeamPurple swimmers at this year's Children with Cancer UK Swim Serpentine - thank you to everyone who made the day possible! The water was a lovely 17 degrees and the sun was shining as we made our way to Hyde Park to set up our MS-UK stand in the festival area.
We were thrilled to have 21 swimmers taking on challenges in this year's swim and every penny they have raised will help us continue our work supporting people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS). Our fantastic fundraising total already stands at over £10,000 and it makes such a difference to our work at MS-UK, thank you!
A thousand people at the event achieved their London Classics Medal this year, including four of our very own #TeamPurple swimmers - congratulations! One of our London Classics Medal winner even learnt to swim this year just to get it on Saturday!
A massive well done to everyone who took part in the Children with Cancer UK Swim Serpentine and thank you to everyone who volunteered with us on the day to make it such a special atmosphere for our amazing swimmers.
Can't wait for next year!
On Sunday I had the privilege of cheering on our amazing #TeamPurple runners at the Simplyhealth Great North Run!
The weather was warm (if a little windy!) as I joined crowds of well over 200,000 people lining the route of the run, right from Newcastle to South Shields. Over the whole weekend around 58,000 people took part in events, from the 5k run through to the Great Tees 10k, but I was there to support the amazing runners taking on the Great North Run in aid of MS-UK.
This was the first year I have travelled North to support #TeamPurple at the Great North Run and I was amazed at the dedication and energy of our runners. It was a brilliant atmosphere and I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who wore our purple running vests with pride.
Every penny raised from this event helps us support even more people across the whole of the UK who may be living with multiple sclerosis (MS). One service we offer is being able to listen to people’s worries and concerns through the MS-UK Helpline and offer lots of information and support at times when it is really needed. Our amazing fundraisers make this possible.
The date for next year is already out – 13 September 2020 – so if you want to join #TeamPurple please get in touch with me to register your interest. I would love to be cheering you across the finish line at this unforgettable event next year!
Events Fundraiser, MS-UK
Earlier this month, Gary Beck and I did the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 event. My wife Diana is Head of Services for MS-UK and I went with her as a volunteer supporter at the Virgin Money London Marathon in April. I was so inspired by the experience that I wanted to do something myself. I didn't think I had a marathon in me but when I heard that I could support the charity with a 100 mile bike ride I signed up immediately. I work with Gary and when I told him I'd signed up he said he'd do it too!
The most interesting thing about all the training (and there was lots of training!) was that you get to see all sorts of things on a bike that you don't see from a car. I've nearly run over dozens of pheasants, seen stoats and weasels, a buzzard that nested at one of my stopping places, foxes and deer and I've even seen a snake for the first ever time in this country. I can also guarantee that potholes are worse on a bike than they are in a car!
Gary was responsible for a lot of the fundraising and he managed to twist the arms of a lot of people at his golf club. I have to say a big thank you to the Colne Valley Golf Club Swindle Members who raised over £250 between them. I also have to thank my employer, Gallagher, which has a charity commitment to double anything it's people raise. Thanks Gallagher! That's my main tip - a lot of companies will match any funds raised by their employees so it's always a good idea to ask.
Perhaps the funniest thing to share is that I've broken my vow never to wear Lycra. I can't say I'll be rushing to buy any more Lycra gear but it did the job on the day.
I thoroughly enjoyed this event. I enjoy cycling but I've never done anything like 100 miles before. The only thing I'd really say is that if you fancy doing something like this but aren't sure if you can do it then have faith, you'll be surprised at what you can do.
We have places in #TeamPurple for the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 2020! A lasting legacy of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games, this event sees more than 25,000 cyclists take on 100 miles from Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, through the city and onto Surrey's stunning country roads and the Surrey Hills before the brilliant finish on The Mall in central London. Could you be one of them? Every penny you raise will help MS-UK support even more people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS).