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Running for answers: why I’m running 10K for MS Trust

26th June 2015 by laura.percival

With only one week left to register for the British 10K London Run which takes place on 12 July, Helena from our web team tells us why she feels inspired to run this year and how she is fitting in her training around family life.

Helena and her two children

Do you love running? I’ve noticed a lot of my friends lately have been taking up running, some of them even training for marathons. Now I have never been what you call athletic, to be completely honest with you I couldn’t run for toffee until a few years ago! What changed? Well I was inspired by all the great people I would see taking part in runs for the MS Trust and I thought, maybe, I could do something too. But what?

From couch to 5K

Someone in the office suggested I could do the 5K London Super Hero Run. I was scared at first – even though I walk a lot (I don’t have a car), I was never able to do any running. A friend of mine then told me that she was the same, until she started using the ‘Couch to 5K’ app on her telephone. It is a programme that starts you off with a mixture of walking and then running gradually, until you run more and walk less, and the goal is that you can then run the whole 5K. So I gave it a try and it was hard at first, but it got easier. So I signed up for the Super Hero Run. And then I did that run for 2 more years.

This year I have signed up for the British 10K London Run. I decided to do so as I really wanted to take part in this great event. I have been working at the MS Trust since 2007 and I’ve seen lots of inspiring people take part. But also I want to raise money to support the important work our Information Team does.

My MS experience

This summer it will be exactly 9 years since I had my first ever MS relapse. Going through diagnosis, and more confusing and painful relapses, left me feeling quite alone in the world. Whilst waiting to be contacted by an MS nurse (there was a long waiting time between diagnosis and seeing a nurse) I reached out to the MS Trust and I found answers to a lot of the questions I had. Mostly it calmed me down a little and it made me realise that life was not different from yesterday even though I now had this MS label slapped on me.

A few months later I found myself working for the MS Trust as a part of their Web Team. One of the first things I did when I started was set up a Facebook group. This group now has well over 6000 members and is very active. Every day when I come in to work I search through the group and make sure we try to answer any questions people have about MS that we can help with. I have been there myself and I know how important peer support is, but also to have the MS Trust Information Team there helping out is fantastic. So this is my reason for wanting to run the 10K.

Training with a one-year-old

I am doing the race together with my good friend Gayle. We both have very active one-year-olds and find ourselves mostly training by running around after our kids. In fact I was asked to let people know how I find the time to train these days. I tried to explain it in the video below.

There is one week left to sign up for the British 10K London Run and run with me and the other fantastic MS Trust supporters, sign up today!

Visit Helena & Gayle’s online fundraising page

Jamie’s Tough Mudder challenge

18th June 2015 by laura.percival

jamie-wilson-tough-mudder

Jamie Wilson was diagnosed with MS only last month, but it has encouraged him to take on a challenge which involves getting very wet and muddy! On Saturday 20 June Jamie will face the Tough Mudder Scotland and here he tells us why.

I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis on Monday 18 May 2015 following a series of tests over the course of a year, which started when I lost the hearing in my left ear! This has made me want to push myself and do my bit for a charity supporting those who have MS and who might be in a worse condition that myself.

I will be competing in a 13 mile assault course known as “Tough Mudder” at Drumlanrig Castle in Thornhill. For anyone who doesn’t know what the Tough Mudder is, here is what the event organisers say:

“Drumlanrig is a fairytale castle set in 80,000 acres of the most majestic, scenic Scottish countryside you’ll ever see. Sound nice? Well you can forget “nice” because Tough Mudder is turning the fairytale into your worst nightmare. Lung busting hills, ice cold lochs and strength sapping mud combine to make the home of the Braveheart legend a brutal test for the most seasoned Legionnaire and a baptism of fire for first time Mudders. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.”

As well as raising sponsorship, I have been selling wee pin badges and giving out leaflets to try and raise some general awareness of the MS Trust.

The picture shows me taking part in a practice run that we did for a local charity.

Jamie has already raised over £1,000 to help us support people with MS but if you would like to help him raise even more you can donate on his Justgiving page or you can text JWMS99 £5 to 70070 to donate £5.

My Big (out of the) Blue Jump

22nd May 2015 by laura.percival

MS Trust Fundraising Officer Jess Wright tells us about the Big Blue Jump which took place during MS Awareness Week and her own impromptu parachute jump.

The morning of Saturday 2nd May was an early one. We were heading down to Chiltern Park Aerodrome in Oxfordshire to meet all our supporters taking part in the Big Blue Jump, the MS Trust’s parachuting day to mark the end of MS Awareness Week 2015. I was slightly nervous as the clouds formed, knowing we had people travelling from across the country (and two families taking a ferry from the Isle of Wight) to take part in the event. We had our fingers crossed that the weather, the skydive event planner’s biggest opponent, wouldn’t ruin this day. Little did I know this was the least of my worries for the day ahead…

Eddie Murphy and Ben Clarke

The clouds clear

It was really great to meet all 11 participants and their families and friends who had travelled miles to support them on the day. As the clouds were clearing, the first two MS Trust skydivers were up in a plane ready to go. Eddie Murphy (in his pink onesie) and Ben Clarke floated to the ground with smiles from ear to ear.

Next up was David Optholt, who bravely jumped and landed safely back on the ground, then Paul Drake stepped up to the mark and took the leap of faith. Paul had previously suggested I should take part – I’d quickly changed the subject!

Later in the day it was Donna James and Anthony Morris’ turn to go up in a plane, along with Aurore Palomba and Ksenia Goryainova. They faced their fears together and completed their tandem skydives.

It was so great to see everyone in the group get through the nerves and the anticipation, fly up to 10,000 feet and jump out of a plane. You could ask yourself, why go through it all? It was clear that each of the participants wanted to take part because MS had affected their lives in one way or another and they wanted to make a difference.

No place to hide

You are probably wondering how I got to be part of this day, other than happily cheering our skydivers back to the airfield from the side lines. The suggestion was made for me to take part not just in a conversation with Paul, but on a loud speaker (thanks to Emma and Martin from the London Parachute School) followed by cheers and agreements from the MS Trust crowd! There was no place to hide! Having seen the others complete their skydives and face their fears, frankly there was no real excuse for me not to take part.

Next thing I know, I am whisked off to complete my skydive training, there is no going back now! I was lucky enough to join MS Trust supporters Alyson, Jeanette and Jennifer in the plane.

Alyson, Jess, Emma, Jeanette and Jennifer

Bit of a blur

Lots of people have asked me what it was like. To be honest it was a bit of a blur. When Paul (my tandem instructor) and I hung out of the plane doors it was really scary, but there was no time to be scared as the next thing I knew we were freefalling really, really, really fast into the clouds over the Oxfordshire countryside. This was simply exhilarating. I screamed… a lot (sorry Paul).

When the parachute was deployed the fast, noisy, rush quickly changed to silence. This just demonstrated how high up we were, miles away from any noise from the ground (except for the giggles from Paul at HOW MUCH I screamed). The view was amazing, something that cannot be compared to any HD screen, and stretched for miles and miles. The only thing in front of your view is your feet dangling over it all as you look down. This was the time I could take in everything around me and what I will remember the most – gliding and spinning back to the ground with one big (blue) bump! As the last skydiver of the Big Blue Jump the grin on my face must have mirrored everyone else’s I had already seen that day.

A day I will never forget

I am so glad I got to meet all the wonderful people who joined us for the Big Blue Jump on 2 May 2015 and made the day one I will never, ever forget.

If you are thinking of taking part in a skydive, DO IT! I hate flying and, if anything, I think it helped me to feel better for the next time I travel by plane. It is an such an incredible feeling which is only made better knowing that the money you raise from doing it will help those living with MS today!

I would like to say an extra thank you to Nigel Synnott and Brian Charlesworth, who unfortunately couldn’t take part but came to support on the day!

Visit Jess’s fundraising page on Virgin Money Giving

Find out how you can book your own skydive

15 minutes with MS Trust Research Manager Tracy Nicholson

11th May 2015 by Guest blogger

Tracy NicholsonTracy Nicholson is the Research Manager at the MS Trust. She was diagnosed with MS in 2000. To celebrate their 50th birthdays, she and her friend Katrina decided to do a cycle, trek and kayak adventure in North Vietnam to raise funds for the MS Trust.

How did you come to work for the MS Trust?

I was diagnosed with MS in 2000. Back then information about MS wasn’t widely available, but at the time, quite coincidentally, my husband was working on the development of the MS drug Tysabri, so he had been working with the MS Trust. He introduced me to Chris Jones, the founder of the Trust, and she was absolutely brilliant – she really understood what I was going through. I lived quite near the Trust’s offices in Letchworth so she asked me to come in and meet the team. It was about the time that the Trust was thinking about becoming involved in the Risk-sharing Scheme to help people with MS access the first four MS drugs. I was working in clinical research at the time so they asked if I would be interested in helping out.

What difference do you think the Risk-sharing Scheme has made for people with MS?

I know it’s made a huge difference. I was diagnosed by a general neurologist in a hospital without any specialist MS nurse. When I compare that to now – when I have an MS specialist neurologist, an MS specialist centre, an MS nurse and I get six-monthly reviews – it’s come so far. And that’s because of the Risk-sharing Scheme.

How did your Vietnam trek come about?

It came out of turning 50. I’ve never really travelled. I’ve been to lots of places but I’ve never packed a backpack and gone off into the unknown. So this was my opportunity to do it. The trip itself was completely self-funded. We found the trip we wanted to do and all my friends and family gave donations towards my ticket in lieu of 50th birthday presents. I had already made the decision that I was going to challenge myself but then I thought it would be good if the MS Trust could benefit on the back of it.

What was the most challenging part of the journey?

The weather! We were led to believe it would be 16-19 degrees at this time of year – we thought it would be like a nice English summer. In reality it was 30-35ºC and incredibly humid. The accommodation was also quite challenging. We stayed in homestays (local villagers’ own homes) and it is fair to say that I didn’t really know what to expect. Staying in the equivalent to a hut, sleeping on thin mattresses in open rooms with people I didn’t know, both men and women, and needless to say no privacy! Not my ideal for a good, restful night. And then there were the toilets – it made France in the 1970s look positively luxurious!

What was the highlight?

Travelling through the villages and the insight into the locals’ lives. It felt a real privilege to have been able to get up close and personal. Their lives are so different from ours, with so little material wealth, but they are so happy. I’ve never done anything like that. I think if you went as a tourist you simply wouldn’t get that insight into the country: the rice paddies and the buffalo.

What kept you going?

At one point I got really sick and people were telling me I didn’t have to do the 50k cycle ride planned for the following day. But I kept saying I do have to do it! A big part of my motivation was that I kept thinking all those people who had sponsored me and raised all that money. I know what the MS Trust does. I know all the things they do, all their enthusiasm and energy. And I know that it’s all done on a tight budget. Every penny counts. It doesn’t matter how big or how small the amount you raise is, whether it’s £5, £50 or £500 it can make a real difference to someone living with MS.

What would you say to someone considering taking on a similar challenge?

Just do it! I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. But once I got there, it was amazing how you just get into the zone. And it’s amazing what you can do. You just focus on the challenge and getting through each day and as I look back now I feel enormously proud of what I have achieved for both myself and the MS Trust. It was a great experience in a stunning part of the world and it has left me with so many great memories.


This article is part of the May 2015 issue of Open Door, the MS Trust’s quarterly newsletter.

Thank you for making our work possible

11th May 2015 by Guest blogger

Did you know that we received £1.1 million last year from people like you raising funds and donating?

Combined images600x297THAT’S EQUIVALENT TO what we spent in the same year providing information, campaigning on the things that matter to people living with MS and funding research to improve services, treatment and support.

Your support really does make a difference for everyone who contacts the MS Trust. Every person who wants to know how they can manage a new symptom, choose between treatment options, find better ways to cope at work or support a family member who has been recently diagnosed. We can only be there at the end of the phone or online thanks to you.

When we talk about fundraising, we’re not just talking about extreme challenges and activities like running, skydiving and trekking. Last year we received £2,824 thanks to people who remembered to visit our page of shopping links before they shopped online with stores like Amazon, Sainsbury’s and John Lewis. That’s enough to run our freephone MS information service for a week.

We rely on lots of generous people who take time out of their busy lives to do something – anything – to help people whose lives are affected by MS. That might be getting sponsored for a personal challenge like giving up chocolate for a month, selling homemade jam or greetings cards, or holding a charity event like an open garden or pub quiz. Almost 3,000 people supported us in 2014 by raising funds or donating and we are extremely grateful to every one of them. You can read some of their stories online in our Fundraising Hall of Fame.

At the end of last year, Jennifer Cooper’s Rainbow group raised £180 by holding a sponsored obstacle race as part of our Reindeer Rally campaign. Jennifer, who lives in Bradford, told us that she wanted to support the MS Trust because her family had found our information useful when her mother was diagnosed.

She said, “My mam was diagnosed with MS eight years ago after living with it for more than twenty years undiagnosed. When we first found out it was hard to come to terms with because we knew nothing about it, but the hardest thing was telling my then eight year old niece and six year old nephew.”

“This is where the MS Trust came in. The literature they supply is amazing and made it easier to explain to my niece and nephew what was happening to their Grandma. When the opportunity came for me to be able to give something back I had to jump at the chance. I knew my Rainbow unit would thoroughly enjoy the Reindeer Rally. We can’t wait to do it again next year.”

Thanks to Jennifer and the children at Rainbows, we can now provide copies of our Kids’ guide to MS and the accompanying book for parents, Talking with your kids about MS, to help another 30 families who are in a similar situation.

There are all sorts of ways of getting involved and raising funds, which help us do all sorts of things to help people with MS – from producing this newsletter every three months, to training each new MS nurse that comes into post.

If you would like to help raise funds to support the MS Trust’s work, we can find something for you. We run a programme of fun events throughout the year, some of which are listed to the right; we can also provide support materials for any fundraising activity you’d like to do independently. And there are lots of different ways to donate, including setting up a regular monthly or annual gift by Direct Debit, playing our weekly lottery or supporting an appeal.

With your help we can make even more of a difference for the 100,000 people living with MS in the UK, and the 100 people who are diagnosed every week. For more information, please get in touch with our fundraising team on 01462 476707 or fundraising@mstrust.org.uk.


This article is part of the May 2015 issue of Open Door, the MS Trust’s quarterly newsletter.

Butterworths’ Virtual Bike Ride for MS Awareness Week

21st April 2015 by laura.percival

Katie Richardson tells us why she encouraged her whole company to get involved in raising funds this MS Awareness Week.

My mum Julie was only 47 years old when the symptoms of MS started. She worked full time and loved her job as a retail manager, thriving as a full time working mother and wife. She was finally diagnosed 7 years later with primary progressive MS, a form of the disease which affects 10-15% of people diagnosed with MS. It took some time, a lot of uncertainty and lots of testing before the final diagnosis of MS was received.

Over the course of 13 years, my family and I have watched Mum go from an independent working woman, to being entirely reliant on us all. Being completely paralysed down her right side, every day chores which we take for granted such as eating, walking, writing, sleeping, even holding her grandchildren, are now impossible without aid. All of our lives have changed. My dad, James, retired early to become Mum’s full time carer.

MS is a disease that not only affects the person who has it, but it affects the family also. The MS Trust is there to support every person with MS in the UK AND their families by providing information, educational events and publications to people with MS, families, friends and health care professionals who provide support for anyone affected by the disease.

Mum’s MS Nurse Barbara Wingrove of Sunderland Royal Hospital is a lifeline to Mum and our family. The help and support provided at every appointment is vital, and for which we are very grateful.

Getting through times like these can be difficult, yet without the work that the MS Trust carries out daily, it would be so much harder. We are so very grateful for every day’s work and every campaign that the MS Trust does. In order to say ‘thank you’, we want to give a little back and support the MS Trust.

Butterworths Solicitors

During MS Awareness Week, to raise funds and awareness for MS, we are completing a Virtual Bike Ride from Team Valley in Gateshead to Paris! We will be taking it in turns to cycle on an exercise bike to cover a total of 583 miles.

Our team is from Butterworths Solicitors, a law firm based in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear. Butterworths also have offices in Carlisle, Penrith and Bury, and fundraising is taking place across our offices during MS Awareness Week. I have been with the firm for many years now and our team is very close, supporting each other every day. I am so proud and honoured to be part of the Butterworths Team and that everyone is getting involved in our fundraising event.

Each and every member of the firm is doing their bit and spreading the word. Mark and Karl came up with the idea of a Virtual Bike Ride to Paris, which we all felt was the perfect opportunity to get our whole team involved in raising funds and awareness. I am so grateful to everyone for their ideas and commitment in a bid to help other people with MS and families around the UK.

The Butterworths Team are Katie, Laura, Adele, Jemma, Mark, Karl, Rebekah, John, Nicci, Sean, Vikki, Sarah, Natalie, Jessica, Danielle, Carole, Angela, Joanna, Shannon, Emma, Kay and Chelsea

1 Bike, 1 Team. from Team Valley in Gateshead to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Butterworths are being Bold in Blue!! Please support our campaign, every little helps. Thank you to each and every one of you. Go Team! Visit the Butterworths Solicitors fundraising page

MS Awareness Week runs from 27 April to 3 May and this year we want to highlight the importance of MS specialist services. If you would like to get involved and raise funds to help make sure people with MS can access the best possible care, find out more about our Be Bold in Blue fundraising campaign.

Atlantic Lions: an update on the boat

13th April 2015 by Stephen

People often ask ‘how are you getting on with everything for the row?’ And if I’ve got the energy to answer properly, then they have unwittingly let themselves in for a good 30 minute monologue about the gym, food, the success of fundraising events to date, the heartache of the eternal sponsorship search and more food. But there is one thing that they are all interested in more than anything else – the boat. And perhaps quite rightly, as it may well be the most important thing in all of this.

This will be the vessel we use to pull ourselves 3000 miles across the ocean, the seats from which we will row – two hours on and two hours off until we make land fall. In favorable seas it will be our chariot to stride out across the Atlantic, our skiff to surf down waves and pull over the crest of the next. On calm nights it will be our observatory to the stars, dwarfed by the expanse and depth of surrounding darkness. But when the weather turns it needs to be our guardian, our sanctuary from the roaring wind and lashing rain. It needs to self-right and it needs to be water-tight. When all around is against us, it needs to keep us safe. It will be our kitchen, our bathroom and our bedroom, our look out and communication tower. It is to be our home for our time at sea, it is the fifth member of our team and we need to get it right.

‘Tiny Dancer’ was built in 2013 for the last Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. She was a brand new boat for the Atlantic Polo Team – a team of professional polo players (but novice rowers) who went on to win the race that year in 48 days. Just three months later she set out from Australia to Mauritius with the Fast Row West crew and set a new world record for the fasted four-man crossing of the Indian Ocean ever. Still less than 18 months old, she already has a fair reputation behind her!

She is made of carbon and 29ft long and 6ft at her widest. The fore cabin is smaller than the rear and will house mainly equipment (and sometimes Dave). The mid-portion of the boat is all deck and dominated by two rowing positions – seats on sliders just like a concept2 with oar-locks where each rower will have two oars. Down either side of the sliders are hatches which will be filled with ballast, dehydrated rations, energy bars and jelly beans! The life raft and power anchor will sit at the feet of the stern rower. The power anchor is a bit like an underwater parachute and is deployed in bad weather to try and hold your position. In comparison to most traditional boats (where this would live inside) this has its own outside locker to keep the wet rope and fabric out of the ‘dry’ cabin! Another modification is the positioning of the water maker, which has also been moved to a separate locker accessible from the outside. The aft cabin itself houses the electrics, fed from three solar panels and a battery supply. This powers everything from the water maker to the radio, the sat phone and chart plotters. The cabin isn’t exactly spacious but it is even long enough even for the lanky lion to have a little stretch in!

The boat is currently living at Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex, where experienced boat surveyor John-Kenneth Habbershaw (www.willmyboatfloat.com) went to see her. He has put together a comprehensive report of the boat after examining it inch by inch. The exterior and fixings, interior cabins, cockpits and lockers, the drop keel, rudder and steering systems have all been scrutinised to the highest degree. In general we are delighted to say that she is in fantastic shape having been pushed so hard across two oceans. There is a small amount of work to be done before we can get her on the water and we are in the process of arranging that within the next fortnight.

She is currently decorated with supporters of her previous challenge, but now becomes a blank canvas for companies or individuals looking to sponsor us. Across the face of the stern cabin will sit the names of our cherished ‘100 Club’ –the generosity of our closest supporters who will be our inspiration and constantly within our sight as we pull this boat towards Antigua. Across the length of the hull is 29ft of blank advertising space. We will be rowing a twice-proven race-winning boat by a crew who are dedicated to winning the 2015 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. If this is something your company (or someone you know) would be interested in supporting then please get in touch info@atlanticlions.com or download our sponsorship pack.

Find out more about the Atlantic Lions’ attempt to row across the Atlantic Ocean for the MS Trust

The inspiration behind my boxing challenge

2nd April 2015 by laura.percival

After meeting and falling in love with his partner Tarina who has MS nine years ago, John Post wanted to give something back for the support they have received over the years. He has signed up for a sponsored Zero to Hero White Collar Boxing challenge and has 10 weeks to get fit, learn to box and then perform in a full contact event in an arena. Here he tells us more about the inspiration behind his challenge.

John Post

I met my long term partner Tarina nine years ago in hospital, she was recovering from an MS relapse and learning to walk again. I was a patient myself with an undiagnosed problem that left my legs like dead weights, a problem that I have not had again since I recovered. It was a very scary time for me as it occurred overnight, but every cloud has a silver lining.

Tarina was incredible. Despite everything she was still smiling and wheeling herself ward to ward for a chat when she was able to. She really helped me get through a tough time, as well as others. It didn’t hurt that she was gorgeous, truth be told I fell in love with her straight away. It wasn’t just her looks, she was everything I ever wanted in a woman – intelligent, funny and strong. I knew she would always challenge me and I would always want to make her happy. What more can any man want?

We became good friends and over time we became a couple and I have never been happier. While I have not had any problems since, the same cannot be said for my partner. It has been difficult at times and anyone who has experience of MS will know that it’s so unpredictable how you will be on any given day.

Striking a balance

As a partner it is difficult to strike a balance that’s supportive but not smothering, to be understanding but strong. For me the biggest thing was knowledge of what to expect and how to find this balance. I have gained a lot of knowledge through the MS Trust among other sources, like many I have learnt along the way.

Let’s face it, no one wants to be reminded of something difficult in their lives every day and constantly talk about it, especially when it’s with your partner as it can really strain a relationship from both sides. The need to gain knowledge and talk still needs to be fulfilled but a third party is the right option sometimes. Whatever your problems may be you need to enjoy your life and not constantly dwell on them, no prizes for guessing who taught me that one!

Giving something back

I never really got fit again after my time in hospital so this is a big challenge for me personally, which is the bit that is selfish in some respects. I have wanted to do something for a long time to give something back for the help we have had over the years. Now I have the capacity to do more I intend to.

I felt this was an appropriate event to do as it requires me to build and maintain both physical and mental strength and stamina, and fight my own body and mind into submission to do what I need it to even when it hurts (and it will). This is but a few months for me, but it is something I believe symbolizes what people with MS do every day and it is truly amazing.

While those of us who care about, live with or support anyone with MS will never truly understand how they feel, and I do not presume to, it’s important that we never stop listening, learning, trying and most importantly loving.

We all do charitable things in our own way and have different means to do so, even if every person who reads this donates a pound it will soon mount up and help ensure this support remains available and research continues. Please don’t let me dissuade you if you are able to be or feel more generous.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article and for your support, monetary or otherwise, as I am sure you will all wish me the best.

Visit John’s online fundraising page where you can make a donation

Running the Greater Manchester Marathon for Emma

23rd March 2015 by laura.percival

Teressa Longhurst

Teressa Longhurst (pictured right) will be running the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon on 19 April in memory of her friend Emma Farley who had multiple sclerosis. Here she tells us why she is taking on this challenge and raising money for the MS Trust.

As a general rule I do these events for a bit of fun but having recently lost a very caring friend Emma, I wanted to run the marathon in her memory and raise money to help other people who have this awful disease. It’s been a few years since I last ran a whole marathon (2010 to be exact) and I am very nervous about running this one.

It’s been a physical struggle as I’ve had a few injuries that have set me back and I no longer run the kind of distances I used to run. However I am looking forward to race day even though I am feeling unprepared, but knowing that I am doing it for Emma will help get me around.

Emma was a very kind person who always tried to help people, even when she was poorly herself. She was much loved and taken from her family far too soon. Emma and I shared a love of animals, which is one of the reasons why supporting the MS Trust was important to me. They do so much good work and do not support or fund animal testing.

The MS Trust vision is to make a real difference for people with MS through the provision of information and professional education, by funding practical research and by campaigning for the improvement of MS services. They work to the highest possible standards and actively seek opportunities to work with other organisations to provide real benefit for people with MS.

It will be a great honour to be able to complete the marathon for Emma and other people who have multiple sclerosis.

Visit Teressa’s online fundraising page

Monster Ski in Chamonix: a truly humbling experience

20th March 2015 by laura.percival

Snowboarder Ben Rogers and his friend Phil Draper signed up for our 2015 Monster Ski challenge because they believe that ‘life’s a game to be played, life’s a challenge to be met and life’s an opportunity to be captured’. Here Ben shares his experience of snowboarding 90,000 vertical feet in Chamonix to raise funds to support people living with MS.

Monster Ski group

Months of excitement and anticipation had brought us to this moment. It was Friday morning at Heathrow airport and we were all meeting for the first time ready for the Monster Ski Challenge. Before we knew it we were checked in and heading towards our destination, Geneva airport.

We arrived in Geneva greeted by glorious sunshine and ready for our expedition. Drew, the driver of our airport transfer van, took us through picture perfect scenery in the French valley and then the imposing snow topped mountains appeared.

We reached Chamonix at 2pm and had plenty of down time to unwind and get to know the area. The views were amazing, however the -20 wind chill was a stark shock from the mild temperatures in the valley!

In the evening we were briefed on the challenge ahead. We all met at 6pm for welcome drinks at the hotel bar, introduced ourselves to each other, then listened to the briefing from the ESF instructors. Afterwards, we enjoyed an evening meal and had an early night ready for the challenge the next day.

The Monster Ski challenge begins in Les Houches

Day one of the challenge had arrived and a big breakfast was in order to fuel us up ready for the day ahead! At 8:40am we met at the bus stop and made our way to Les Houches. The instructors took us straight up the Télécabine du Prarion, where we got our ski legs and were split into two groups.

Tom Humpage, a professional photographer, also joined us for the morning. However, he had such a great time he stayed with us for the whole day! He took some great photos of the group, he’s a really talented photographer and snowboarder!

Monster Ski selfie

We made ten full descents of the mountain to reach our 30,000ft target for the day, mainly skiing the black Kandahar piste – a fast tree lined run through the forest at the base of Mont Blanc. The day started with firm pistes until the afternoon when conditions had become slushy making the descent much more of a challenge!

We stopped for lunch after eight descents at a picturesque restaurant with stunning views of the mountains, including the glorious imposing Mont Blanc. We met with the other Monster Skiers for a quick pit stop, refuelling for the final two descents of the day, and completed the day’s challenge at around 4pm.

Day two and another 30,000 vertical feet

Day two started again at 8:40am at the bus stop and we decided to return to Les Houches. It was another nice day, but a bit cooler and cloudier giving us much better ski conditions than the previous morning. We made the most of the conditions and rode hard in the morning to try and beat the afternoon slush!

After lunch we made our way to the other side of the mountain, St Gervais before heading back to Les Houches for the final descent of the day which was very slushy, but was also great fun jumping over the mounds of snow that had accumulated.

Heading to Les Grands Montets for the final day

The final day of the challenge arrived. We met at the bus stop and decided to head to the notorious Les Grands Montets to make our final 30,000ft decent. It was very windy and overcast in Chamonix and we were quite apprehensive as to what the conditions would be like up the mountain. The ski bus was extremely crowded and it seemed like quite a long journey heading up the windy roads!

We arrived and took the Plan Joran and Bochard gondolas up to just under 3,000 metres where it was lightly snowing and pretty windy too. Visibility reduced throughout the day and the snowfall become heavier until we reached the mid station where it brightened up a little.

In a chair lift

We made six descents to reach the 30,000ft target, five before lunch and one in the afternoon. After having our final lunch together on the mountain we made our final run to complete our three day challenge. We regrouped at the bottom of the Grands Montets and thanked the instructors, Beatrice and Manu for their excellent guidance.

The Monster Ski awards!

In the evening we met at Bar’d Up for a presentation by Russell Hardy, Monster Skier and former Chair of Trustees at the MS Trust, where we were all given an award.

The ‘Burning the wick at both ends’ award was handed to Matt as he was able to stay out all night and ski hard all day. Robbie won the ‘King of speed’ award for reaching a top speed of over 68mph. ‘Mr Calm’ award went to Max for his calm approach despite not having skied for a number of years.

‘Father figure of the trip’ went to David, who could always be relied on for his level headed decisions. ‘Funny guy award’ was given to Neil – he had a great sense of humour and kept everyone smiling. ‘King of the mountain’ went to Mark who was never phased and skied hard all day long!

The ‘Beer monster’ award went to Joff, who also carried round a handy hip flask always full of marmalade vodka. ‘Mother of the slope’ went to Emma who was always looking out for everyone and making sure everyone was OK. The ‘Queen of organisation’ award went to Vicky from Ski Independence – without her planning the trip would not have gone as smoothly as it did.

The ‘Loudest snorer’ award went to Les – as a result of his snoring we ended up with a lodger in our room (Sorry Les!). The ‘Cool guy’ award went to Phil – no matter how hard the going got he was always smiling at the bottom of the slope. The ‘Inspirational person of the trip’ went to Ben H, for shredding hard and completing the challenge, showing great determination to not let MS hold him back (legend!).

Monster Skiers having dinner

‘My hotel is better than yours’ award went to Mark G who had booked his own accommodation – we realised he did have a point though when he showed us how good his hotel’s menu was! The ‘Technology’ award went to me, probably because I constantly had a GoPro camera stuck to my head! Recognition also goes out to Russell who is a great ambassador for the MS Trust (and a great skier!)

We then went to La Boccalette for our final evening meal together and congratulated each other before a few final well eared beers in the bar to complete our trip!

A truly humbling experience

For me the whole experience of fundraising, learning about MS and meeting people who suffer in various ways has been a truly humbling experience and will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Thank you to everyone who helped organise this amazing event and congratulations to everyone who participated for your fantastic achievements.

Here is a link to a short video of our trip and to those of you who are thinking of taking on the Monster Ski challenge in the future, DO IT!

Until next time…

Visit Ben and Phil’s online fundraising page

Find out more about the MS Trust’s Monster Ski challenge