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More than 400 take part in St Nicholas Hospice Festive Forest Challenge

Fancy dress outfits and winter weather conditions did not stop more than 400 runners and walkers completing events at the St Nicholas Hospice Festive Forest Challenge.

The seventh annual event on Saturday (December 7) offered participants the chance to tackle 10km, a half marathon (13.1 miles) or 20 miles around Kings Forest and West Stow Country Park.

Personal trainer Kevin Marshall, of Positive Steps Personal Training, organised the runs with the aim of supporting St Nicholas Hospice - a charity with bases in Bury St Edmunds and Haverhill, which provides palliative care for individuals with life-limiting illnesses, and support for their families.

West Stow Festive Forest Challenge in aid of St Nicholas Hospice Care.....PICTURE: Mecha Morton .... (23747670)
West Stow Festive Forest Challenge in aid of St Nicholas Hospice Care.....PICTURE: Mecha Morton .... (23747670)

He said: “This was the biggest event we have had with around 100 more people entering this one than our previous record. It’s an event that is getting bigger and it is a real privilege to be at the helm to see the event grow, and work with the team of volunteers who make it happen.”

The scenic route took in a 10km lap of the country park and the forest. which was repeated twice for the half marathon and three times for the 20 miles. David Williams, Aston Ramsey and Jared Rowling were the first finishers in their respective events. The first women home were Katie Austin, Sabina Spence and Danielle Harrington in the respective events.

Kevin said: “It is good forest tracks to run on and it is a gorgeous setting. There were some very good times, but from first position until last it is about taking part and enjoying it.

“It is a personal challenge, and a festive fun run. There are no prizes for coming first. Everybody gets a medal that is designed to look like the stained glass windows in the hospice.”

The half marathon was the most popular event, with 211 taking part, while 137 finished the 10km and 57 finished the 20 miles.

A benefit to the runners was that they did not need to complete their own fundraising in order to help St Nicholas Hospice because part of the entry fee (which varied for each distance but averaged £18) was donated straight to the charity.

This meant Kevin was able to send a cheque for £6,500 to the hospice on Sunday.

Kevin has helped organise other events throughout the year to raise funds for St Nicholas, including he Bury St Edmunds to Clare 18 mile run.

He added: “It is a fact of life that we are going to die at some point. The hospice believes the everybody in their care deserves to die with dignity and they complete tremendous work in ensuring that.

“It is a win win for the runners who are able to take part and can help just by signing up.”

Kevin’s personal training specialises in Nordic walking - which sees participants use poles to enhance their workout. He praised everybody who took part, especially the hundreds who donned Christmas outfits.

“I want to say thank you to Forestry England for allowing us to run it and also West Suffolk Council for letting us use the park. Thank you as well to the runners and walkers who took part. “

For more pictures, see this week's Bury Free Press

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