Joke leads Barnsley man to take on a tough 50k running challenge for hospice appeal

A man’s throwaway comment to a colleague led to him taking on a gruelling 50k run from Barnsley for Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice.

Thursday, 11th February 2021, 10:00 am

Dad-of-three David Freeman, aged 52, jokingly suggested the challenge to mark the 50th anniversary of his Barnsley-based employer Gist.

Several months of training and a discarded running shoe on the big day later, David has completed his challenge and raised almost £2,000 for the hospice in North Anston, Sheffield.

David, who began running just 18 months ago by taking part in a couch to 5k fitness plan, ran from logistics firm Gist’s depot in Barnsley to their site in Staveley, near Chesterfield.

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David Freeman taking a breather with with colleague Simon Bedford, who accompanied him for a stretch of the challenge

“It all started with a silly comment I made to a colleague last year,” said David, from Creswell, near Bolsover.

“I just said it as a joke to be honest but once I’d said it there was no getting out it! When I was about 40k into the run, I certainly questioned my wisdom.”

David started marathon training 14 weeks ahead of his February 1 challenge, which was the same day that Gist Barnsley celebrated its 50th birthday.

His previous best was 24 miles, so he knew the big day was going to take every ounce of energy he had.

“The air pocket on one of my trainers popped at around the 30k mark, so I had to borrow a shoe from my colleague who did the first stretch with me,” added the grandfather of two.

“So I ran the last 20k in odd shoes! I had my right shoe on and his left, which was actually a bit too big for me.

“During the last 10k I must admit I went to some dark places but I made it in the end.”

David’s colleagues at Gist, where he’s worked for the past 25 years, were suitably impressed.

“I’ve been called mad and a few questioned why I was doing it, but their support has been absolutely fantastic and I’d like to thank everyone who has sponsored and got behind me,” said David.

“Bluebell Wood is such a fantastic cause and we’re all delighted to be supporting the charity for this milestone anniversary.”

David has no plans to hang up his running shoes (once he’s bought a new pair) with tentative plans to take on a 130-mile coast-to-coast challenge next year.

Anna Gott, regional fundraiser at Bluebell Wood, said: “We take our hats off to David for absolutely smashing his challenge and to do so wearing odd shoes makes it all the more impressive!

“Considering he only began running 18 months ago, what he’s achieved is no doubt hugely inspiring for others.

“We’d like to say a big thank you to David and his colleagues at Gist for raising such an incredible sum to support our life-changing work.

“Thanks to people like you, we can continue to be there for local families who need our support more than ever right now.”

There are many ways people can ‘Get Active’ in support of Bluebell Wood. Find inspiration on the charity’s website at

It costs almost £14,000 to keep the hospice doors open, so every penny raised makes a huge difference, said Anna.

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