SIMON Walkden was shocked when his wife, Rachel had a stroke this year at the age of 37.
“She doesn’t smoke, eats well, exercises regularly and drinks alcohol in moderation. She woke up with weakness in the right side of her body, so we acted quickly and were taken to the stroke unit.”
Rachel has since recovered. “We know she’s one of the lucky ones”.
Now Simon is fundraising for Stroke Association, and he has created his own event for others to join in, the Longest Day Run.
The challenge is for people to run as many miles as they can in 24 hours, between June 23 and 24. He has been spreading the word on Twitter, with more than 1,000 followers, and more than 140 people have so far signed up, mostly from the UK, but some from North America, South Africa, New Zealand and elsewhere in Europe.
Simon, a finance director, said: “The Longest Day Run has no minimums or maximums, people can run wherever they are, for as long as they like.
“Some people may do one long run on their own, or any number of shorter runs. Others are doing runs as a group, and hopefully families will get involved, from kids through to grandparents. I want people to challenge themselves and set their own goals, and most importantly, to have fun.”
Simon has been running since taking part in cross country at school, and has raised almost £5,000 for charity by competing in marathons and other distance running events.
He has already taken part in a couple of Longest Day golf challenges in aid of Macmillan Cancer Research – four rounds in a day with friends.
By coincidence, he had the idea for the Longest Day Run two weeks before Rachel had her stroke, which resulted in her going to the Royal Hallamshire stroke unit. She had had no underlying health issues until then – she took part in last year’s Sheffield’s half marathon with Simon – and it is uncommon for a woman of her age to have a stroke.
“Obviously I’d rather it hadn’t happened,” said Simon, who lives in Dore, with Rachel, aged 37, and children Sam, seven, and Emily, three. “But it became the obvious choice to raise money and awareness for the Stroke Association.”
He is hoping that Longest Day Run will appeal to runners because it is a fixed time period, not a fixed distance – “if you run one mile, you are still taking part in the challenge”. The run could even be on a treadmill in the gym.
“You don’t have to do it for charity. You can do it as a challenge or as a bit of fun.”
The event is free to enter and people are encouraged to raise sponsorship money for charity partner Stroke Association, or their own choice of charity.
“If I can get over a hip injury I am hoping to do four, ten miles in 24 hours with a few people from the running club (Totley AC) and other friends. I did the Manchester Marathon at the end of April and I picked up an injury.”
For more information and to register, visit www.longestdayrun.com.