In memory of his daughter Seren, Elgan Hallett completed five epic challenges in five weeks last year - and went on to even greater lengths to raise funds for much-needed research. In this blog, he tells us what’s in store for 2016…
On 31 July 2014 our second daughter Seren was born, alive, but we were 24 weeks into a difficult pregnancy and she was too small to survive. We as a family were very much looking forward to Seren’s arrival into the world; she was to complete us as a family.
We had already started to get to know her from the scans we had and by the strange positions she was getting into. It was with so much sadness that she was prematurely taken from us, but we are at least in some way thankful to have met her and to have seen and known how beautifully perfect she was. She had indeed touched and changed all our lives without knowing it.
Following this, we had some rebuilding to do. My wife was my main priority as with so many others in my position who have also been so unfortunate. Having tried my best to be normal and take care of the family, I wanted to do something to help me and to have my own place to think and contemplate.
I have always enjoyed exercising and, when I had more time, was an avid sportsman before our first daughter was born. After that I wanted to have as much time as possible with the family but still tried to keep fit with some cycling now and again.
That all changed one evening in January 2015 when a magazine I was given on outdoor sports contained a supplement on lots of events to enter through the year. One in particular caught my eye: the Suffolk Sunrise sportive. Living in south Norfolk, I was already aware of the area but hadn’t heard of Action Medical Research or the event until I researched it in more detail.
The first thing I thought was that it must be fate as, only after a few moments reading, I knew I wanted to enter the event and try to raise a small amount for the cause by creating a tribute fund for Seren. The work that Action Medical Research do resonated with me and if I could help to raise some small amount of money to help fund the great work they do and to possibly help another family to not be as unfortunate as us then that was a cause worth a little sweat.
The deed was done and I was happy in the knowledge that I could cycle a few miles with some training... I even bought the shirt. 10 May was my target.
At the same time I was reading a book called Beyond the Horizon by Richard Parks and was inspired by reading his own story of getting over hardship through sport. He is now one of the world’s leading adventure athletes and was to blame for my own mini-adventure! (I'm not sure he knows it but he deserves some of the credit).
Shortly after registering, an email arrived in my inbox advertising a triathlon nearby on 31 May. I thought it might be a good idea as I had done a couple of triathlons some years ago and the training for the Suffolk Sunrise might help. With the Parks book still on the go, I entered.
After that, another brief look at the magazine saw me finding other events and more inspiration. By now I had shared my tribute fund and already exceeded my original fundraising target so I decided to go at it full steam ahead and join more events. If people were going to donate so much I should work hard to earn it.
The 555 challenge was born: five events in the five weeks of May, the fifth month.
3 May - Grand East Anglia Run (GEAR)
10 May - Suffolk Sunrise
17 May - Insane Terrain in Ipswich
24 May - Tilting at Windmills sportive
31 May - Culford Triathlon
Things then got a bit serious as more and more people were getting interested in my challenge. I didn't intend for it to be like that, as it was more for me and to motivate me to get out and do some exercise and be with my own thoughts for a while. The training got harder, the hours spent outdoors got longer and the feeling of achieving something grew stronger.
By now I was getting ready for the first event and, I wanted to try and get a running vest to help promote the cause and give my challenge and Action Medical Research some exposure too. I contacted Community Fundraising Manager Lucy Hynes to see if I could get a vest and to explain the reason why. She kindly sent me a running vest and I was then suddenly in their spotlight; apparently my challenge was noteworthy. I had a short chat with Lucy and also a local newspaper. Things were getting a bit strange as this was not my original intention. The main goal was still to help myself. But I went with it.
May soon arrived and I was ready to go. Through bad weather, early starts, long drives and my daughter’s fourth birthday, and then suddenly it was all over. With some fantastic support at my final event from friends and family, I was emotional at the finish and a few tears were shed. The sense of both relief and fulfilment were great and also the thought that I no longer had something to work towards filled my head... What and where could I go next?
The whole process was both rewarding and fulfilling in many ways: the endless hours out there training on my own, being able to think about things and rationalise what had happened, were a great way for me to start the recovery process and I would recommend anyone in the same position to give something similar a go. It worked for me - knowing there is money being raised too is a great feeling which motivates you to go that extra few miles.
In the end I raised over £1,000 from an initial target of £50 and am so pleased to be able to do a little to help.
What happened next? Well, after May I completed another triathlon, another sportive, a 10km obstacle race, ran 20 miles up and down Snowdon and also completed a stage of the Tour de France!
2016 is now the focus and the challenge that has caught my eye is the Ultimate Three Peaks, climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon with the added challenge of cycling between each. It normally takes seven days to complete but the challenge I have set myself is to do it in four. More sponsorship will be needed, as will a lot more training!
Over 60,000 babies are born prematurely in the UK every year and premature birth is the biggest killer of babies in the UK. We are funding research to help find the causes of premature birth and develop new treatments – you can read more about our work here.
If you’d like to support Elgan’s efforts, please visit Seren’s tribute page at action.org.uk/tribute/serenhallett