Haywards Heath hero Melvyn’s Lovey Foundation fundraiser

This year, 72-year old Haywards Heath hero Melvyn Walmsley ran 72 miles in his home town from 18th February to 18th March to raise money for the Lovey Foundation.

 

Fresh off completing this incredible feat, we caught up with Melvyn Walmsley to find out more about his fantastic fundraiser…

 

How difficult was it completing the 72 miles in a month, what were the highs and the lows and how does it compare to your many other running challenges?

This was easily the hardest challenge I have done, and harder than I imagined when I resumed training for it in late September last year. After just over a week into the 28 days I experienced something I hadn’t encountered before – lower back pain. With the help of an osteopath who is now treating me, I began some special exercises to relieve the pain, and I adopted a shuffling sort of running style to make running less uncomfortable (though it also slowed me down even more than the 10-minute miles I had been struggling to do, compared to 7-minute miles in my 30s).

Then on 13th March, with, fortunately, only 10 miles left to go to my deadline of 18th March, I tested positive with COVID-19, which I experienced as flu-like symptoms. Running was a bit too much to ask of my weakened old body, and so over the next two days I completed my challenge, walking as quickly as I could, with 48 hours to spare.

The highs were:

(a) What always inspires me to go out in all weathers and run, almost always alone: the tremendous appetite for education that those girls and boys in Bawku so obviously have, and also the messages of support and generous donations of my many sponsors locally and my friends and family across the country

(b) The encouragement I have had from fellow Park Runners and volunteers at Clair Park, Haywards Heath and then from kind friends who did my shopping for me while I was testing positive for COVID.

 

What made you choose Lovey Foundation (UK) as your chosen charity to raise money for?

In 2014 I met and got to know some wonderful people in Brighton who had been doing some informal local fundraising to pay for the school uniforms, sandals, exercise books and personal school stationery which are needed for the girls and boys identified by Lovey Save Child Workers Foundation in Bawku Municipal District to access the otherwise free schooling there. With their help, Thomas in Bawku had been able to launch his NGO in July 2013, when five girls and five boys, who would otherwise have been child labourers were formally presented with their uniforms, sandals, exercise books and personal school stationery to start school that September. I got involved because my own father, in the 1920s, passed his scholarship exams to go to grammar school in South Yorkshire, but his parents couldn’t afford the uniform he would have to wear. It seemed shocking to me that nearly 100 years later poor families in Ghana faced the similar problem of accessing primary education that was otherwise free and life-changing. In 2016 our efforts were formalised as a Community Based Organisation and I became the first Chair of Lovey Foundation (UK).

I am now a trustee of what became a registered charity in October 2020. HMRC approved us for Gift Aid purposes two months later – just in time for my 70 miles at 70 run in January 2021. Ours is a superb international partnership with what we call “Lovey Foundation (Ghana)” for short. They overcome the social and cultural barriers standing in the way of poor rural children accessing free education: they identify girls and boys who would otherwise be child stone quarry workers, or mind cattle, or gather firewood, and persuade their parents or carers of the personal and community benefits of an education (especially for girls), and we in the UK raise funds to overcome the financial barriers they have to overcome. I am also inspired by the fact that so far the almost 400 children who dream of a life-changing education, who often walk several miles to and from school each day, and who have been assisted into school through the work of our partnership, include slightly more girls than boys.

Lovey Foundation (UK) is a small, very friendly charity, and we are proud to have extremely low overheads: we employ no paid staff and meet either on Zoom or in our homes, and The Good Shepherd Church in Brighton. Almost all the money we raise goes directly to our charitable object, enabling those children in Bawku to have an education up to and including secondary level. Our only regular expense is just over £100 a year to pay for our website www.loveyfoundation.org

What is your fundraising target total and how far off are you from reaching it?

£5,184 including Gift Aid (enough for what we reckon will enable 72 children this September to start school in rural Bawku, at an estimated cost per child of £72).

So far, my run has raised approximately, offline and online, £3,700 including Gift Aid.

 

How can readers donate towards your terrific fundraiser?

Either visit my online sponsorship page, where you can opt to remain anonymous and (if you are a UK taxpayer) to Gift-Aid what you donate (which will add an extra 25% to what we receive), or send a cheque payable to Lovey Foundation (UK) and with “72 miles run” on the back to:
Lovey Foundation (UK), Flat 4 Francislea, Colwell Road, Haywards Heath RH16 4EL, but first, if you are a UK taxpayer, email me at [email protected] and by return I will email you the charity’s Gift Aid Declaration form for you to complete and enclose with your cheque.

 

What makes Haywards Heath such a beautiful town to run in?

I completed a small part of my 72 miles at Clair Park, Haywards Heath in the Saturday Clair Parkrun, with some lovely, encouraging people in an unspoiled setting which offers a challenging course, but mostly I have been running on a measured undulating 1.3 miles town centre course, where I have had many friendly waves from pedestrians and fellow runners, and drivers giving way even when the Highway Code doesn’t demand that. It takes lovely people to make a beautiful town and I have been meeting many such folk.

 

Having turned 72 in December, what advice would you give to fellow peers who look at what you are doing and feel motivated but haven’t made that first step to get active?

To anyone of a similar age wishing to set themselves a similar challenge I would say: there are two simple requirements: take medical advice first, and if you get a general OK, find a suggested gentle training programme online BUT at each stage reduce it from the suggested distance or number of repetitions of an exercise, so that each time you finish a training session you feel that you could have done some more. Do allow at least two days off between each session during the first month, so you will fully recover and will be raring to go next time, even if the weather outside could be better. And if it’s running or walking, ALWAYS warm up properly first and warm down fully, with a bath or shower afterwards. Allow yourself plenty of time. And if, mid-session, you are feeling more tired than you expected, ease off, and/ or cut the session short. That way YOU (not your written programme) are in control at all times.

Listen to your body and make sure you keep enjoying yourself. The improvements will be slow, but noticeable, and you will never regret giving yourself the challenge. DON’T allow yourself to think that you are letting the good cause down if you get behind with your schedule. That’s simply nature telling you that you’re doing OK but need to take it a little gentler. What you are doing is a welcome and much appreciated BONUS for that good cause.

 

by Matthew Hemmings

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