Melanie Hill – The Great North Run
Our superb September Challenger of the Month, Melanie, took on the largest half marathon in the world, the Great North Run, which takes place annually in the North East of England. A seasoned challenger, Melanie tells of how she got started in the world of running and the challenges she’s taken over the years, ahead of her most recent epic experience!
“I have to confess that I feel a little bit of a fraud having been awarded the accolade of Challenger of the Month as all the previous recipients seem to have far more inspiring stories. Setting that aside, I’m thrilled to have been nominated!
“I’ve been working at Shooting Star Chase for over 11 years now and have always felt I should do my bit to help raise funds for this amazing cause. On a day to day basis I hear incredible stories of how the families we support cope in the most difficult of circumstances and many of them undertake their own fundraising challenges whilst juggling the most complex of circumstances. I’m also inspired to hear of so many supporters and volunteers taking on the most exhausting of challenges to support the work of Shooting Star Chase so it’s only right that I periodically gear myself up to take on another challenge.”
“I started running about 15 years ago when, I ran for a train and embarrassingly it took practically the entire train ride to catch my breath! My level of fitness clearly needed addressing so I took up running as it fitted in with my family and meant I didn’t have to pay expensive gym membership charges – as an added bonus it also turned out to be an effective stress buster!
When I joined Chase Hospice Care for Children in 2007 as a fundraiser I took on the Loseley 10K which was my first fundraiser for Shooting Star Chase and since then I’ve completed various half marathons including Reading and the Surrey Half. For the past seven or eight years I’ve applied for the London Marathon but have never managed to gain a ballot place, until 2015 when I was successful in applying for for a place with Shooting Star Chase. The training was very challenging, trying to fit it in with family and work, with the longest run I managed before the big day being 20 miles,” explains Melanie. “I couldn’t have done it without Karen Peffer, Challenger Events Fundraiser, who organises the Sunday Runs in Richmond Park. These kept me focused and meant I could meet other runners with similar worries to me. One of my biggest concerns was ensuring I raised the £2,000 for Shooting Star Chase. I needn’t have worried, as I teamed up with Emma Edwards from the Challenge Events Team, who had her own place, and together we raised well in excess of £4,000 – smashing our target by holding bake sales, various sweepstakes and other fundraising challenges.
The day was an incredible experience, being spurred on by so many volunteers and supporters on the various Shooting Star Chase cheering points and finally crossing the line in 4 hours 23 minutes! My top tip is not to forget your map to Central Hall where Shooting Star Chase have a welcome massage and refreshments awaiting for their runners. I forgot mine, so with some considerable difficulty, eventually managed to get hold of my family after battling their way through the crowds from Central Hall to find me and guide me back – Marathon brain!!
“In 2017, I took on a slightly different Shooting Star Chase challenge, a vertical run called the Tower Run. One of my son’s joined me in the challenge and although much shorter than a marathon it was certainly unexpectedly tough and I stretched muscles in places I obviously don’t exercise when doing my usual training!
“Over the last few year’s I’ve applied for a ballot place on the Great North Run. It’s gained hugely in popularity and now has iconic status especially with Sir Mo Farah competing in it for the past five years. This year I was lucky enough to gain a ballot place – and what an incredible experience! It was unbelievably busy and I wasn’t prepared for the sheer volume of runners, but everyone was really friendly and there was amazing support all along the route. The sun shone, which was great, not ideal for running, however the race was well organised with cooling showers intermittently along the course and lots of water stations.
The Red Arrows were a real spectacle and I was lucky enough to be on the Tyne Bridge as they flew over with their red, white and blue smoke display billowing from behind. As I neared the end, the view of the sea certainly lifted me along with the crowd. I certainly missed looking out for the Shooting Star Chase banners which are present along the more local half marathons but the support I received from colleagues and friends and their sponsorship kept me going as I raced along, what at times, seemed an unending road between Newcastle and South Shields.
The Challenge Events team do an amazing job at making everyone who participates in a challenge feel part of a very supportive community and I’d urge anyone who was thinking of doing a run or pursuing their own goal to go for it, and with their support you’re bound to succeed!”