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Friday, 26 December 2014

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Keswick to Barrow celebrations hit a new peak

THE people making a real difference to Cumbrian communities enjoyed their time in the spotlight at the annual Keswick to Barrow walk presentation night on Monday.

Charities and good causes from Barrow, Ulverston, Millom and throughout Cumbria gathered at The Forum, Barrow, to collect their share of the record-breaking amount raised by the 2,589 walkers who completed the 47th Keswick to Barrow walk and its 23-mile sister event, the Coniston to Barrow, in May.

An evening of wall-to-wall charity royalty rubbed shoulders with event sponsors and K2B legends before each recipient was presented with their cheque.

But the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for the unveiling of the total amount raised – a record £340,288, which is 9.4 per cent up on last year.

John Hudson, managing director of BAE Systems Maritime, spoke of his admiration for all the walkers who completed the challenge in probably the worst weather conditions in the walk’s history.

He said: “The number of people completing the walks this year is testament to their powers of endurance and determination and our thanks go to them all for their efforts in completing something that is not for the faint-hearted. Thanks also to the significant contribution of the marshalls, the support services and the police.

“Indeed, without this support, especially the contribution provided by St John’s Ambulance, the BAE Systems First Aiders and the police, the walk could not have been completed.”

One of the highlights of this year’s K2B was Gordon Ingall’s mammoth achievement in completing his 40th walk.

Accepting his award of an engraved ruby goblet, and the title of Grand Duke of the Walk, Mr Ingall said: “I always feel a bit guilty that the walkers get little mugs for Fellowship (seven walks), a plate for Knighthood (20) and a tankard for Grand Master (30), and the poor committee behind the scenes making it happen never get the same recognition.

“For all the walkers, we appreciate what you do and for us serial completers we will try and carry on and make sure we support you over the next few years.”

Having completed 20 walks, Darryl Dixon knew his achievement would be recognised with the presentation of a plate but to win the Pierce Armstrong trophy for the most money raised by an individual was a complete surprise.

“I wasn’t expecting that one,” said Mr Dixon, who raised £2,783.

His team, Tonka Fingers 3, also won the GlaxoSmithKline trophy for the most money raised by a team, having collected £9,789.71.

Mr Dixon said: “I’ve always done it since I was a lad, but about 15 years ago we started the Tonka Fingers team and started raising money for local charities. As it’s developed we’ve gained some momentum and it went from four or five people to 60 and we started raising some serious money.

“It’s become a bit of a legacy. Our younger brother, Marcus, passed away in November last year so there was a bit of extra effort to do this in his memory. The trophy for the team that raises the most money is in his memory, and five out of six times we’ve won that.”

Sadly one of the walk stalwarts, John Falconer, lost his battle against cancer this year. His wife Jean and daughter Karen Sturgeon presented the John Falconer Memorial Trophy, which will be awarded to the oldest walker home in the K2B next year.

One of the biggest surprises on the night was the presentation of a £30,000 cheque to Alice’s Escapes, the largest cheque K2B has ever awarded.

Cathy Broomfield, network facilitator for Alice’s Escapes which provides holidays for families with seriously ill children, said: “How can we string many words together when we’re absolutely speechless? The support we get locally for Alice’s Escapes is absolutely enormous. We’ve put a small presentation together upstairs with some of the photos of the 17 families we’ve already given holidays to this year and I can assure you, every single penny is hugely well received by every single family.”

Even a recent knee operation didn’t stop Jill Santamera jumping up and down on stage as she accepted a cheque for £13,150 on behalf of St John’s Hospice, near Lancaster.

It was the last gift of a night which heralded many surprises and achievements, and will buy outright a Memory Tree, which will continue to generate income for the hospice, year after year.

Part of the theme on Monday evening was 1982 when the record time, three hours 59 minutes, for the K2B was set and remains unbroken.

A K2B legend, Dave Kelly, spoke about his amazing achievement of being the undefeated fastest man home.

The retired Barrow Sixth Form College principal said: “One of the things that surprises me is how interested people always seem to be about it.

“People invariably say ‘how come nobody has done it quicker since then?’.

“I think there’s two reasons. The 80s were the height of the running boom in the UK. There were lots of people running and lots of people running fairly quickly. If you look at something like the London Marathon, the times British people do today aren’t anything like they were doing 30 years ago.

“I think the other reason the K2B isn’t done quite as quickly is because back in those days Barrow Athletic Club took a lot of interest in it and there was a lot of rivalry in being the first person home and that seems to have disappeared.”

For anybody with aspirations of challenging his record, Mr Kelly was running 90 miles a week in 1982.

He added: “I never thought about breaking a record and it wasn’t ‘til I was going past the end of Rating Lane it occurred to me I was going to beat the record so I better get a move on, and at that point I hurried up.

“I have been very fortunate in my previous athletic career to run all over the country and various places on the Continent and I don’t think I can think of a better route than the K2B.

“I would certainly like to add my congratulations to the organising committee.”

Thirty years ago, 1,333 walkers completed the K2B, walking 48,417 miles between them.

Master of ceremonies Bob Needham said: “Just to put that into perspective, the 1983 amount was also a record at £27,000.

“So the walk and the fundraising has come on and on, and long may it continue for as long as we have the energy to keep doing it. So thank you to you all.”

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