Holly raised a brilliant £869.20 for us by taking on a virtual marathon, which involves running or walking 26.2 miles outdoors along a route of your choice, in the same 24 hours as the London Marathon event.
In Holly's words
The best part about taking on a fundraising challenge is the process. It is totally joyous.
I remember a day when I had spent some time reaching out to people, posting photos and updating the wider world on my progress. I had just shut my laptop when a string of donations came in and I thought my heart might burst.
Fundraising challenges bring such a sense of community, encourage kindness, start conversations, and change thoughts. You can inspire change in so many ways. There was a week soon after my virtual marathon when five people in one day reached out to tell me that they had been for a run, and three others to tell me they had spent time on the waterways.
My cup of life has been filled by this challenge.
Choosing to support the Canal & River Trust
I didn't know anything about the Canal & River Trust, and that is why I chose to fundraise for them.
I met a Trust representative at a running show and was ashamed to say no when asked if I had heard of the Trust. I have spent many a happy day on the canals since I was young, and I was completely unaware of the work that the Trust does. This did not sit well with me.
The representative told me that a main aim of theirs was to raise awareness as much as anything else and I knew I was capable of that, and more. I had a place to run a virtual marathon and knowing I had a fundraising opportunity in my hands, I had given much thought to supporting a charity that I felt strongly about.
As luck would have it, I was introduced to the Trust just a week before my first long canalside run. The rest is history. Serendipitous.
Raising the funds
Obviously, a key part of any fundraiser is getting in the donations.
I used social media to reach my immediate peers and took advantage of handy features like tagging and hashtagging to reach a wider audience of like-minded people. I used my account as a diary to document how my training was going, and to spread the word about the good work of the Canal & River Trust.
I also struck up conversations with colleagues, friends, and even friends of friends, about the work of the Trust and gently guided them towards my Just Giving page. I always made sure I had a link on hand that I could message out to people quickly and efficiently. My family were a wonderful support and shared with their circles of friends also - proud parents can be very useful!
It can feel a little daunting to ask people to donate, and my top tip to successful fundraising would be to remember that you're not asking for money for yourself, you're a conduit for a wonderful cause.
Educate yourself on what the money might be put towards and the kind of work that your charity does, and then have the confidence to get out and shout about it.
If you choose a charity that you are really invested in, this bit is a pleasure, so be loud and proud.
Preparing for a virtual marathon
A virtual marathon is not what it sounds. It's not completed on a treadmill, or indoors or on a running machine. You are not in a virtual space and there are no TV or phone screens (deep joy!). The only criteria is that you must complete 26.2 miles (running or walking) outdoors in the same 24 hours as the London Marathon event.
I was drawn to the idea of creating a route that suited me and completing it in my own time. I designed my route along the Kennet & Avon Canal - 26.2 miles of mostly flat, straight, even towpath, surrounded by nature. Pretty much perfect.
I started preparing in February 2022, a whole eight months before I took the start line. For me, my aim was to get my mindset focused on the challenge as early as possible, which I find hugely important. My training was as structured as possible with room for life to inevitably present some curve balls along the way. My focus was good nutrition, good rest and a mixture of balanced and focused training - cardio mixed with strength and mobility training with special attention on recovery.
When something at the other end of the calendar feels so far away, it can be hard to maintain structure and focus because the pressure isn't as present. At times, I experienced distraction, mental and physical fatigue, and the feeling of being a little overwhelmed. In these moments, I surrounded myself with individuals and content that were in line with my goals.
Knowing when to ask for help is a great strength and I was able to do so in a safe space. Combating a long period of time was all about the bigger picture. A wobble, a tricky run or a missed session was soothed by literally thinking of the greater good and my personal and fundraising motivations. Think big, start small.
It's your turn!
If you're thinking about taking on a fundraising challenge, my advice is to take a leap for the greater good.
Shine your light, encourage, inspire, get moving and just see what you can do. No amount is too small, and no feat is too great.