Fundraiser Sammy Howells tried the ‘Couch to 5K’ challenge to give herself a new focus following the loss of her horse, Sprocket, with whom she had competed for 22 years. Despite feeling lost without her companion and competition partner, within a year her incredible efforts and determination saw her crossing the finish line at her first ultra-challenge and raising over £1,300 for Help for Heroes.
Once Sammy, 32, smashed her initial target to run 5km and joined her local Parkrun, she was considering her next event when she was inspired to push herself to the limit:
“My fiancé, James suggested I give running a go, and I loved it. When I was considering a 10K, I saw Race to the Stones advertised by Help for Heroes and decided to ‘add a zero’ and do 100km!”
Sammy’s father served in the RAF, flying with the Red Arrows, and she now lives in Lincoln so has always had close links to the military. She saw taking on an ultra-marathon for the charity as the perfect way to show her support for serving and veteran men and women, and once she signed up was amazed by the encouragement she received:
“There were times when I doubted myself, especially when the British weather did it’s best to scupper training plans! But my friends and family gave me the boost I needed, and by sharing my progress on my JustGiving page my sponsors really kept me going. I even received a donation from an old school friend who had been following my journey on Facebook and been inspired to support me.”
Sammy took part in smaller events such as the Lincoln 10K and Half Marathon in preparation for her challenge which kept her training on track, along with support from the charity:
“It was daunting to take on the challenge with no experience, but the support from the Help for Heroes Events Team before, during and after my event lifted a huge weight from my shoulders, and I tripled the £425 fundraising target. Losing my horse and my life-long hobby changed my life, but I found something to love again.”
Race to the Stones, run by charity partners Threshold, is an ultra-marathon which can be tackled non-stop, or as a weekender with a night at Basecamp. Sammy described her experience during the weekend as ‘second to none’ and counts being cheered across the finish line by her children, Olivia and Georgie, amongst her highlights from the weekend.
Thoroughly embracing the positive impact the experience has had, Sammy plans to continue on her fantastic fitness journey by taking on two more ultra-challenges and a 10km training run on her honeymoon this year. She’s already set her sights on completing the entire Threshold Trail Series in 2021, and has some motivating words for anyone considering taking on a challenge of their own:
“Anyone who feels like they can’t, you can. So never say never!”
If you’ve been inspired to take on your own challenge in support of our wounded veterans, go to our Challenges page to find out more.