Feature: A thousand reasons to stride out for St Luke’s

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Athousand walkers means a thousand different reasons for being a St Luke’s Night Strider.

Night Strider is the sponsored half marathon and 10k event that lit up the autumn darkness of the city’s streets for the first time last year– and raised more than £100,000 for St Luke’s, Sheffield’s only hospice.

Now the event is back and promises to be bigger and better than before, with more people already signing up to join the brightly lit fun on the evening of Saturday October 8.

Beginning at 7.30pm in Tudor Square – right in the heart of the city – both the 10k and walking half marathon route will head out towards the hospice, giving participants the chance to see and experience the city by night.

And every one of those walkers is likely to have their own story to share about why they have chosen to give up their Saturday evening to support St Luke’s.

For Hilary Bull, for instance, talking part will be a reminder of her good friend and walking partner Chris Collins, who died at the hospice in February this year.

“Chris had been through breast cancer once and we started walking together as part of getting her fitness levels back, even if we could only go a little way to begin with.” says 62-year-old Hilary.

“We gradually built up her stamina and our distances and, having completed the Cleveland Way, we eventually thought we’d have a go at the big one and do the Coast to Coast.

“We paced ourselves and did it in three day sections and Simon, my husband, provided us with support so it was a real adventure for us.”

Unfortunately, when Chris’s cancer returned, she was told the illness was terminal.

However, she was determined that her Coast to Coast challenge was going to be completed and, although the last stages were a real effort, she did reach the end and created an illustrated photographic diary in testament to her achievement.

As the illness entered its final stages, Chris spent the last two weeks of life as a patient at St Luke’s.

“The care she received was amazing and so was the support for all her family,” says Hilary.

After Chris’s death, however, Hilary lost her taste for walking – until she heard about Night Strider and decided that beginning to walk again would be the best way to remember her friend and raise money for the charity that supported her at the end of her life.

“On a good day we could walk 15 miles together – though that depended how many mountains we had to climb - so I am hoping to do the full half marathon route,” Hilary says.

“I must admit I’ve become rather more sedentary since I stopped walking with Chris so I do need to get into walking again but I know she’ll be looking down saying: ‘Come on Hils, get yourself into gear!’

“I’m just hoping that I won’t be left in the dark but I do know that St Luke’s is a fantastic cause and that I’m doing something special for Chris and her family.”

Joining the nocturnal fun for a second year running will be a team headed by Joanne Elsey.

Joanne, who lives in Dore, runs Slimming World groups in Totley and Low Edges and persuaded some of her members to join the first Night Strider and raised more than £1,000.

Their efforts proved so successful that there were chosen to become the stars of the 2016 Night Strider poster campaign – you’ll have seen their faces on poster sites across the city in recent weeks.

“Walking is one of the best things you can do for health and fitness and as a supporter of St Luke’s I thought this was a fantastic way to get everybody involved,” she says.

“It was such good fun that I knew straight away we’d be wanting to do it again this year, hopefully with even more Slimming World members joining us.

“It probably took between three and four hours to complete the whole thing but we all really enjoyed it.

“Of course it’s raising money for charity but there are other benefits too because it gets us all together in a different environment and this level of exercise is great for losing weight!

“Some of the hills along the way were a bit of a surprise to us but we all managed to get round – it’s a lovely route really and it’s great to see Sheffield in the dark.”

Registration to Night Strider costs £25 per person. To sign up visit www.nightstrider.co.uk. To support Hilary visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Hilary-Bull1. To support Joanne and her team visit Jo’s Just Giving Page

FACTFILE:

Night Strider – sponsored by Gripple - will set off from Tudor Square in Sheffield city centre at 7.30pm on Saturday, October 8, with walkers choosing either a half marathon or 10k route.

The event is open to anybody over the age of 10 - though participants aged 10 to 17 must be registered and accompanied by another participant aged 18 or over - and is suitable for all ages and abilities.

Wheelchair users are welcome to take part in Night Strider but due to the nature of the challenge and the distance of both routes it is advisable they should have suitable assistance throughout the challenge.

Registration to Night Strider costs £25 per person. To sign up and make a difference to the lives of St Luke’s patients visit St Luke’s Night Strider

To support Hilary visit Hilary’s Just Giving Page

To support Joanne and her team visit Jo’s Just Giving Page