I started supporting MS-UK in 2014 when my running buddy and I decided to participate in a running challenge of three marathons in three weeks, with London being the finale of the trio. Having missed out on the ballot we were given the chance of a place with MS-UK, which was a good fit because I’ve had relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis since my late 30s. I was immediately hooked and have been fundraising for the last five years now. I’ve raised a total of £16,372.20 so far!
This year will be my fifth marathon, all of which were charity bond places with MS-UK. Each marathon has been special in its own way; two have been with my buddy Debbie Germain, one was with my husband, last year I ran with my daughter and this year I will be by myself. The trio of marathons was an epic challenge though and a very proud moment.
Without a doubt the end of the race is very special, you are treated like a superstar by the charity and they look after you as though you have just won the gold medal.
When it’s come to raising the funds for each race I’ve organised lots of different events. I have done a quiz night a few times, various raffles, I had race entries donated for me to auction, as well as a private run coaching session with Shane Benzie.
I organise a yearly Halloween and Christmas 5k night run around Greenham Common Air Base, a fantastic spectacle of lights moving around the Common in the pitch black with medals, hot soup or mulled wine at the end.
I have a Rock and Roll Bingo evening next month where you have to guess snippets of songs and cross off bingo numbers, which should be fun.
One of my more notorious fundraisers was with my buddy Debbie. We produced a Naked Runners Calendar, with 12 of our male running friends all tastefully photographed by our photographer friend, they all have appropriately placed props of course! The calendar sold for £10 and proved to be very popular.
I’d definitely encourage anyone who’s been thinking about supporting MS-UK to give them a call. They will support you just as much as you support them.
This isn’t my first rodeo in the foray of fundraising so I wasn’t too worried about meeting my target, however I live on a different continent to a lot of my family, friends and support network. I didn’t want to just ask for straight up donations and therefore wanted to come up with something fun and inventive to do which didn’t involve people having to be present to raise money.
This year is a big bucket list year for me (hence signing up for my first marathon!), and whilst discussing said list’s items over lunch with the guys at work (I work for the Fire Department) I mentioned that I would shave my head for the right cause. The guys like any good brothers laughed and said they would pay good money to see that!! Sooo, I took them to their word.
This seemed like that perfect cause I’d been looking for, I’d made my decision. I set a target of half my fundraising goal, having two pub quiz nights planned in a couple of months, and set out on social media and by email to state my ‘hair brained’ plan; stating that the quicker I reached my goal the quicker it all comes off. I also said that the highest single donor would get to do the shaving!
I thought it might take around 3 weeks. Well within 10 days I had exceeded my target and it was still rising. It was going to happen quick. I decided the best spot for it to take place was at the fire station. I contacted the local newspaper to see if they were interested in coming to witness and take some photos, which they did. The winning donation came from one of my fellow volunteer Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue crewmates (the Canadian version of RNLI). I had a little wobble on the day thinking “what the heck am I doing?!” but once I sat in that chair and the clippers started buzzing it felt right. The newspaper article was great and I actually smashed my complete fundraising goal and raised over £3,000!
Multiple sclerosis (MS) has affected my family personally. My father was diagnosed with MS around 35 years ago. Back then there was very little support, information or treatments available. He and my mum were handed a trifold pamphlet and told ‘good luck’. Things have changed immensely now with the support offered by organisations such as MS-UK. The knowledge about MS, its effects, the research and treatments have improved greatly in recent years. The difference it makes to those diagnosed and their families now is what drove me to raise funds for this important cause. My father passed away a few years ago, but I know he would be proud of what I am doing.
Shaving your head is a big deal. Most of us hold a lot of our identity in our hair. I thought I would have a moment after the fact where I would look in the mirror and have a bit of a cry. I can happily state though that it hasn’t happened. I look in the mirror and feel satisfaction. It is weird, I can’t stop rubbing my hand over the fuzz I have now or trying to habitually ‘tuck’ my non-existent hair behind my ears. I was a hair twiddler so it’s not surprising; And I chuckle to myself when my hair causes a ‘Velcro’ effect with my clothes, or the couch, or my pillow, or my hats… lol. It’s surprising how much your hair keeps you warm, so I’ve got a lot of woolly hats (called toques in Canada). It’s hard to temperature regulate without the hair, so the hats come off and on, off and on. It took me a good week or so to feel confident being in public and whipping off that hat. But now I wear the shorn look with pride.
Top tips for other fundraisers...
My cousin, Kevin was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2006. Kev was more like an older brother to me, he was someone to look up to and get into mischief with. Being two years older he always looked out for me and I got to wear his hand-me-down clothes - luckily I wasn’t much of a girly girl!
We were all shocked by his diagnosis; his initial complaint of optic neuritis hadn’t prepared us for what was to come. As a nurse I was aware of MS but more familiar with the relapse remitting form. His deterioration in health was rapid and devastating, for Kev and for all who loved him. Despite the many challenges he faced however, he never lost his sense of humour. He was truly a funny, humble and very loveable man.
Kev passed away last year, two days after his 46th birthday. I wanted to do something meaningful to help make sense of everything Kev went through, to remember him in a positive way and to help other families affected by MS. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to run the London Marathon in his memory and I am looking forward to raising as much money as I possibly can for MS-UK.
I have two young daughters so when it came to fundraising I quickly realised that any fundraising activities were most likely going to involve them. Luckily they are involved in several clubs which have provided great links for raffles and donations.
My biggest fundraising event was a Purple Unicorn party! I had an idea to organise a children’s party and charge admission to raise money. Having organised parties for my own children on numerous occasions this felt like a safe, familiar and fun option. I contacted a party and events company, which I had used previously and had a long chat with the manager who was simply amazing! She suggested the purple unicorn theme as they already had a purple unicorn mascot (plus, who doesn’t love a purple unicorn?) she suggested using the “WeGotTickets” platform and she offered to do the party entertainment and advertising free of charge!
We set a date over the school holidays and I was able to book a function room for a discounted price as I mentioned the event was for charity. I organised a hot dog and candy floss machine, balloons for room decoration and glitter face painting which I paid for myself.
The WeGotTickets website was so easy to use, I decided on a ticket price of £10 per child with one adult going free per paying child. I advertised the event on Facebook and through my daughter’s school/nursery and the party company promoted it on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, plus they emailed the event details to their full client list. I managed to sell 40 tickets so raised £400 from ticket sales, the money was automatically credited to my bank account a week after the event.
In addition I organised a raffle, sold unicorn cupcakes, sweet cones and unicorn headbands. I held a guess the number of sweets in a jar competition and charged £1 donation for face painting. My final total raised was £656!
It wasn’t too difficult or time consuming to organise, I was very lucky to have such an amazing party company on board and they took a lot of the organisation and stress off my shoulders. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the party, including me!
I am not a natural marathon runner; if my husband had to describe me in one word it would be ‘clumsy’! My journey to the Virgin Money London Marathon start line has been tough at times. I like to think Kev has been with me each step of the way, during good runs and bad runs. I know that the marathon will be an emotional day and I hope there will be plenty of tissues at the finish line!
If you would like to donate to Stephanie’s cause, visit her JustGiving page.
In January 2016 I had a very frightening experience when my eyesight in one eye deteriorated quite quickly to the extent that I wasn't able to continue my work as a dentist. Over the next year and numerous tests I was no further forward and my eye made some recovery. Following a second episode with my other eye in 2017 I had further scans and a lumbar puncture which finally led to the diagnosis of RRMS or relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis.
I started to learn about treatments, being a medic I was sure I would follow the disease modifying therapies (DMTs) or daily injections of immunosuppressants, but I was encouraged to try another approach. My own GP put me in touch with a friend of hers who had been managing his own MS through diet and exercise, Alan Caldwell. Alan was a great inspiration to me and when I first met him he had just successfully completed the Virgin Money London Marathon running for MS-UK. This was exactly what I needed to hear at this time, I was in shock with an MS diagnosis and scared for the future. As we know no one can yet predict the outcome of your MS and indeed, it affects everyone differently, so to know that Alan was doing so well following the Best Bet Diet, an exercise regime and supplements meant I was going to look at all this first.
I embarked on the Best Bet Diet which I thought would be so difficult at first, particularly cutting out all dairy and gluten but I did it and haven’t looked back. My neurology team have also been supportive of my choices which again is encouraging.
During all the uncertainty with my health and before I had received an MS diagnosis I decided to start running. I joined local Five Star Active group based in Auchterarder and puffed and panted my way through 2 minute runs!! I was a complete beginner and whilst an outdoorsy type I had never run before. I remember the elation I felt when eventually running one dark Friday night we realised we had run for 12 minutes non-stop!!
From there I ran a 5k then a 10k. With news in December 2017 that I may be facing MS I decided to sign up for a Half Marathon as I was terrified if I didn't do it then it may never happen. So in May 2018 a month after my confirmed diagnosis I proudly completed Loch Leven Half in 2 hrs 17 minutes.
During the rest of 2018 I tried to keep my miles up and my fitness level as I started to come to terms with having this chronic disease. I was learning (and still am) when to push my body, and when to rest, how to fuel and which foods keep me healthy.
I had dark days and towards the end of 2018 my GP suggested I needed some counselling which I have received both privately and from MS-UK. The services MS-UK provide have been a source of great help for me so I am therefore delighted to be able to raise funds for MS-UK.
I was dubious about entering the Virgin Money London Marathon as I was concerned it may be too much for my MS but I have gone from strength to strength over the last year, I don't know what the future holds, none of us do, but I run and keep as healthy as possible and stay in the moment as much as possible.
In January several of my running club buddies were starting their training for the London Marathon, we have nine from our club heading south for the run, and I thought if I’m going to do it, it’s now or never. I sent a message to Jenny at MS-UK to find out if there was a chance my waiting list place would come up and after a very excitable phone call, she offered me a place.
If I had a doubt about the marathon it was dispelled that day with my overwhelming excitement about it and also how delighted my friends, family and running buddies were too.
The training is so far on track, we have a wonderful coach who has put a great programme together for me. She knows about my MS and together we monitor it, she insists on two days rest after my long run and I never run consecutive days. Having other running buddies makes it easier to motivate yourself and the MS-UK runners have also been great, we interact in a Facebook group and follow each other on Strava.
I have some fundraising events planned but most of my target has been met from my initial post on Facebook sharing my story and my JustGiving page. I was overwhelmed by the amount of support I received. Many people did not know what I was going through and the messages I received when I finally told the world gave me a huge boost.
I am excited for London and delighted to be part of Team Purple, see you at the finish!!
Find out all about fundraising and becoming part of #TeamPurple on our website today!
On Valentine’s Day, when love is all around us, Glen and David reflect on the strength of love in the face of multiple sclerosis (MS) in this guest blog. They tell us why a dear friend’s diagnosis of MS led them to take on the mighty marathon challenge...
After years trying to get a place for the Virgin Monday London Marathon, we have both secured a place to run the race on Sunday 28 April 2019, and we could not be more excited!
Our training is now underway and we have also joined the Prestwich Athletics Club to help us with our training. This year we are extremely proud to be supporting MS-UK who provide support to those awaiting a diagnosis for multiple sclerosis or for those already living with it. A charity like this is something that is very close to our hearts.
So why have we chosen this charity?
We moved onto our street in 2003 after taking a leap of faith in buying a new house in an area that we didn’t really know much about. Then, in 2004, a lovely young couple named Chris and Claire bought and moved into the house directly opposite to ours and right next door to our already great friends Helen and Jamie. We were all of similar ages and starting out with our grown up futures ahead of us. It wasn’t very long until we all struck up a great friendship and we started socialising together with dinner parties, drinks and silly karaoke discos!
We had formed an amazing triangle of trust between each couple and began making some truly brilliant memories. We were very lucky to have such fantastic neighbours that we could now call true friends. All of our futures were bright.
Soon after moving in, Chris and Claire got married. They had a beautiful wedding ceremony and celebrations in France. It was their perfect day and the start of their married bliss. Unfortunately, two weeks later their world was turned upside down and their future together took an unexpected turn after Claire was diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis. For a couple who were just starting out on their planned journey, their future was having to be rewritten.
Fast forward to 2019, and we can now look back and share what their journey has been so far…and how MS has affected Claire, Chris, their families and us as friends.
Anyone who is diagnosed with MS will soon learn that no two journeys are the same. The body is a wondrous thing, but how MS takes over it, is different for everyone. We had never had anyone close to us have MS, so this was all new to us all.
The text books say that MS is a chronic, typically progressive disease involving damage to the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. How was this diagnosis of Claire’s going to manifest itself? We have now seen first-hand that this disease can be debilitating. A bright, fit and healthy young lady with a fantastic future as a school teacher slowly had the carpet pulled from under her feet by the effects of MS taking over her body. The past 10 years have been a rollercoaster for Claire and Chris and everyone around them.
No matter how much fight you put up, the fatigue and progressive failing limbs can bring the strongest of people down. With that comes the black depressive days when you realise that your independence is ebbing away, you feel isolated and being a proud person is a blocker on accepting the support you may eventually need.
We have witnessed Claire’s battle with MS and her battle with herself. The ups and downs, highs and lows all followed. The pain, tiredness, frustration, sadness and steely determination not to be beaten. The intense pressure on both Claire and
Chris would have been a significant test on any relationship. Both have had to adapt to a life that neither of them planned for or ever wanted. Their love and strength for each other has been incredible.
Huge decisions had to be made on what their new future could be. Family and friends also had to adapt their lives to be able to offer love and support when needed and to take into account Claire’s capabilities, ensuring she was not being excluded. To watch your wife, daughter, sister or friend battle with something that you cannot physically help them with is cruel. How do you react? What can you ask or say? When is it appropriate to step in? No-one can teach you these things but you have to stay strong for that person and just wait until they are ready to let you in. Even in writing this piece we sought approval from Claire as she is still a very private person and contains her situation within those people very close to her.
Eventually realising their limits, Claire and Chris had to find another single level house where her mobility was not as exasperated. MS was preventing Claire to live a normal life by taking away her ability to be fully mobile. It was a very sad day for us all when they left their home opposite us to move into a house they had to choose because of Claire’s condition. Fortunately, they didn’t have to go too far, so we have maintained our fantastic friendships and memory making which we all do with joy!
Through receiving fantastic support from MS specialists and from the care services, Claire and Chris are now living much happier within the confines of what MS has done to her mobility. They have received some amazing treatment, adapted their home, lifestyle and accepted care that has been put in place to support them both. Whilst Claire is physically restricted, she is now embracing her life and extracting everything she possibly can with a beautiful smile on her face. Our triangle of trust is now stronger than ever, and the support network has expanded, with even more very special friends joining the fundraising team. Go #TeamPurple!
Since the times Claire was first diagnosed, there has been huge progress made on the support people can get from having an early diagnosis, improved medications and treatments and more research being done.
This is where MS-UK come into their own. The work they do is helping many people in the same situation as Claire and Chris. It is an amazing charity which does great things.
We are now looking to support them to raise awareness and make a difference to the amazing work that they do via our fundraising. We have a £2,000 target and need your help to reach it!
Many thanks for your support!
Glen & David xx
There’s nothing quite like the festival atmosphere of the Virgin Money London Marathon. Runners train for months on end, put themselves through gruelling regimes that test the limits of their bodies, all to make their mark on one of the world’s most iconic races. Every year people come in their droves to show their support to these brave marathon men and women, among them our own #TeamPurple cheer squad who call and clap and holler our runners towards the finish line!
On Sunday 28 April 2019, the Virgin Money London Marathon enters its 39th year with news of a very special milestone. When the event rolls around, £1 billion (that’s nine whole zeroes!) will have been raised for good causes since the first event in 1981!
To celebrate, the Virgin Money London Marathon are launching the #ThanksaBillion campaign to recognise the achievements of everyone who has raised funds for charity.
Hugh Brasher, Event Director of the Virgin Money London Marathon, said: ‘The London Marathon has set a world record for fundraising for an annual one day event every year for the past 12 years, with an incredible £63.7 million raised from the 2018 event. That brought the total raised since 1981 to more than £955 million and on Sunday 28 April 2019, in the 39th London Marathon, we will break the £1,000,000,000 mark.
‘This is a phenomenal achievement and part of what makes the London Marathon unique. No other mass participation event comes anywhere near this kind of fundraising. We would like to thank every runner, supporter, donor, charity, volunteer, sponsor, spectator, our staff and everyone else who has contributed to this wonderful total.’
Want to be join the Virgin Money London Marathon party? Become part of our #TeamPurple volunteer family by contacting our fundraising team.
My name is Laura and I am delighted to have been given a spot in the London Marathon in aid of MS-UK. I decided to run for MS-UK to raise awareness and funds for all those that are affected by multiple sclerosis (MS), including myself.
Since being diagnosed earlier this year, it has really motivated me to challenge myself and I thought that the London Marathon was the perfect way to do this. I must admit, the thought of raising a minimum of £2,000 was very daunting at first however with the help of my family and friends, I was able to come up with some great ideas in order to raise as much money for the charity as possible.
Even though I still have plenty of time before the marathon, I am the type of person who cannot relax until I am meeting targets or seeing results so I wanted to begin my fundraising as soon as possible so that I had less pressure on myself close to the run and so that I had enough time to enjoy every minute of raising money and also training.
I have recently hosted a coffee morning at my house which initially I thought would hopefully raise about £300. I got together with my family and friends who all pulled together to create a raffle, lucky dip, a treasure hunt and not forgetting the most important part...making cakes!
I managed to create some leaflets which I posted through neighbors doors and spread the word to as many people as possible.
When the day came, I was astonished with the amount of people who attended to support me and help me raise donations. It was a very enjoyable and successful day which left me feeling very humbled by everyones generosity.
I managed to raise an amazing £1,200 with donations still flooding in even after the event!
It has left me feeling very excited to come up with even more fundraising ideas and I am so pleased that I have been able to raise that amount of money just a few months after I was given my sport with the MS-UK team.
You can find out more about fundraising in aid of MS-UK by getting in touch with our team today using our online form!
‘After missing the chance to run the Virgin Money London Marathon through the ballot, I decided that for 2019 I would fundraise for a charity close to my heart, MS-UK. I'm pushing hard, taking on multiple challenges and races between now and the marathon. So far, fundraising is going ok.
‘My Dad was diagnosed with MS when I was a child. I still remember the day he sat me down and told me. I had no idea how bad MS was or how it was going to change our lives and yet it still tore me apart.
‘Sitting here now typing this still breaks my heart and brings a tear to my eye.
‘For the past 20+ years, I've seen MS take my father away from me. At first, it was only really fatigue that was noticeable and a few days where he wasn't great on his legs.
‘As time went on, he lost the ability to drive and eventually couldn't even walk or feed himself.
‘MS has also damaged his brain, wiping out his short term memory and his ability to talk. This has been the biggest impact on me, not being able to speak to him, ask him questions and all the things a son should be able to ask his father.
‘I regret not making the most of the last good years with him while I still had the chance.
My Mum cares for my Dad 24/7 which really takes its toll on her, she's stubborn though and does everything she can for him.
I chose MS-UK and the London Marathon to show my support for my family and to raise as many funds for such a supportive MS charity that gets much of its funding through the London Marathon charity places.’
You can find out more and make a donation on Gavin's JustGiving page.
A Colchester man who recently revealed his diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) has made history by raising the £2,000 needed to run the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon for MS-UK in just four days, smashing the charity’s record.
Since opening up on his blog about his MS and his struggles with mental health, Tom Cutts, 26, has attracted 107 supporters to his JustGiving page and raised a stunning £2,330*, cementing his place in next year’s prestigious race in less than 96 hours.
The former Wivenhoe Town footballer was diagnosed with MS in October 2017 after feeling pain in his chest, head and stomach. Since then he has admitted to falling into depression as he struggled to come to terms with a future living with the incurable neurological condition.
Mr Cutts said: “At first I thought it [the pains] could be to do with the usual stress of work but even with medication these pains never subsided.
“Getting that diagnosis sent thoughts spiraling throughout my mind. The first once was ‘what is multiple sclerosis?’ I’d only ever heard the word one or twice in my life but never knew what it meant.
“My diagnosis has caused me to fall into depression, my anxiety levels have skyrocketed and at times so have my stress levels. Coming out of depression takes time, there’s no one-click solution.”
When asked about how he felt about raising the money in record time, he continued: “The response I have received on my sponsorship page has left me speechless.
“To hit my target in less than 96 hours and to raise over £2000 that quickly doesn’t feel real. Recording MS-UK’s quickest time to hit this mark has made me feel privileged to have so many great people in my life who have allowed me to achieve this. It has been one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had.
“Since announcing my diagnosis to the public on Friday evening I’ve received so many messages of support from friends and people around the world that it has been hard to manage all these conversations at once.
“As well as raising money for MS-UK, my aim is to raise awareness of both MS and mental health, which are both very personal to me.
“Sharing my experiences of MS and opening up about my depression was important to me as even though I am going through a hard time in my life and struggling inside, if I am able to help just one person then my blog is a success.
“I hope to help people realise that they are not alone with these battles in life. People keep telling me that I am inspirational but to me I’m just being myself!”
*Figures as of 13 June 2018
With temperatures topping a sweltering 24C, over 100 MS-UK runners managed to complete the 26.2 mile course in front of a bumper turnout. Then it was back to the QEII building in Westminster for a well-deserved massage, courtesy of volunteer physiotherapy students from the University of Essex, and a celebratory lunch with friends and family.
We at MS-UK would like to thank everyone who ran for us, their sponsors, and all our volunteers who make this event happen.
Chris Bradshaw and his dad John, otherwise known as ‘Team Bradshaw’, spoke to us about their own Virgin Money London Marathon 2018 experience running as Father and Son...
Chris: The answer is simple; I wanted to run for my father-in-law Mick Denne who has had multiple sclerosis (MS) since he was 28 and is now confined to a wheelchair.
John: I supported Chris in the Virgin Money London Marathon 2017 and I was so inspired by all the charities that I was moved to volunteer and run for MS-UK in 2018. At the tender age of 61, and having never run a marathon before, I knew I would have to start from scratch, training and gaining injuries just like all the others on the incredible marathon journey.
Chris: The support MS-UK provide for Mick and other MS sufferers is second to none and spurred me on to run the race in both 2017 and 2018.
John: The first time I met with MS-UK was in 2017 and it was like joining a new family - a family that would support me throughout my journey. I was now a member of Team Purple
We would both like to wish every member of Team Purple who ran on Sunday 22 April, including and all the staff and volunteers at MS-UK, a big thank you for an amazing day and a family memory we will never forget.
The ballot for the Virgin Money London Marathon 2019 on Sunday 29 April is now open!