As Goodwood Health Coach Matt Jolly takes on all-comers in a virtual London to Brighton cycle race at the Health Club today, we look back at some of the toughest fund-raising challenges undertaken for Sport Relief over the years.
1. Helen Skelton’s polar challenge, 2012.
The former Blue Peter presenter has become known for her incredible feats of endurance but her 2012 Sport Relief journey to the South Pole was particularly tough. Helen covered 329 miles by kite ski, 103 by bike, and 68 by cross country ski, battling severe snowstorms, temperatures as low as -48 degrees Celsius, numerous blisters, a hacking cough, stomach troubles and a bad bout of dehydration. It might have taken her 18 days but she finally staked her flag in the frozen South Pole, raising almost £350,000 in the process.
2. Walliams v the Thames, 2012.
Having successfully swum the Channel in 2006, comedian David Walliams squeezed back into his wetsuit for an even more formidable aquatic challenge six years later: swimming 140 miles down the Thames from its source in Gloucestershire to County Hall in London over eight consecutive days. Along the way he overcame a bout of debilitating ‘Thames tummy’ caused by the bacteria and sewage in the river water and even found time to rescue a labrador called Vinnie. The Little Britain star's final approach was the most gruelling of the trip as he fought the tidal section of the Thames while dodging river debris and barges. David’s amazing swim raised £1.1 million for Sport Relief.
3. Davina McCall’s 500 mile triathlon, 2014.
In terms of pushing personal limits, few Sport Relief challengers have been as courageous as Davina McCall as she ran, swam and cycled her way from Edinburgh to London - often in the pouring rain and biting cold. She had to be helped from the water after a strength-sapping 1.5 mile swim across Lake Windermere but still got back in the saddle to cycle a further 65 miles that day in order to stay on track. “I've gone to very dark places,” she admitted afterwards, but remained adamant that the ordeal was worth it to raise £2.2 million to help women living hard lives elsewhere in the world.
4. Eddie Izzard, marathon man, 2010 & 2016.
Eddie must surely take the trophy for the ultimate celebrity fund-raiser. In 2010, with only 5 weeks' training and no significant prior running experience, Izzard began seven weeks of back-to-back marathon runs (with Sundays off) across the UK to raise money for Sport Relief. He ran from London to Cardiff to Belfast to Edinburgh and back to London, raising £1.35 million and losing several toenails in the process. Typically humble, Eddie played down his achievement: "I don't think what I did is that amazing, anyone can do it."
In 2016, Eddie laced up his trainers once again to run 27 marathons in 27 days in the punishing heat of South Africa. The numbers are astonishing. In 27 days, Eddie Izzard ran or walked 707.4 miles (1,138 km), often in extreme temperatures, at the age of 54. On the last day, because of earlier disruption, he did a double marathon to ensure he reached his target.
Eddie’s truly incredible efforts raised well over £1.1 million, and inspired everyone who watched him battling the pain, tiredness and despair. This time, Izzard offered some advice that many more might want to follow: "This was tough. Don't do this at home."
If you have been inspired to take on a challenge of your own, speak to our Health Coaches or our Olympian Performance Coach, Sarah Ayton. You can achieve anything you put your mind to but it’s so much easier with some professional help and support!