A running challenge for a Wellingborough man and his friends gets under way this Saturday to raise money for the Crohn's & Colitis UK charity.
This Saturday's parkrun in Kettering marks the start of the "22 Crazy Days for Crohn's & Colitis" chariatble challenge for Simon Byford, of Wellingborough, and Justyn Christer, of Brixworth.
The following four weekends will see the pair tackle a variety of events, with friends Lucy Wheeler and Gary Hodsden making up a team of four for the final feat in the series - the Wimpole 24 Challenge ultra marathon.
The challenge is raising money for the Crohn's & Colitis UK charity. Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are the two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease, which affects more than 300,000 people in the UK. Yet it is largely a hidden disease and one that causes stigma, fear and isolation. It’s thought that many people with the condition go undiagnosed and suffer in silence.
Simon's brother first started experiencing symptoms in 2004 at the age of 24. His family could see he was deteriorating but all they could do was wait for test results and for him to keep them updated. Having had many GP appointments, misdiagnoses and emergency trips to A&E, he was finally diagnosed a year later.
Trying any drug that was made available to him, he battled on to try to lead as normal a life as possible. Some medication would work for a while, while some left him debilitated for days. This continued for a decade, his condition constantly changing, sometimes for the better or worse.
In April 2017 he had an operation to remove his colon and have a J-pouch constructed. To let it heal, he had a stoma created, giving him a new lease of life. After having it for months the decision was made to reverse the stoma.
When he was reliant on medication Simon would call and could hear the pain in his brother's voice. Since the operation, his life has changed beyond belief and Simon has his brother back again -- a fitter, healthier version before the cruel disease cost him 14 years of his life.
As Simon says: "He's a fighter and by far the bravest person I know. I doubt I'd have been able to go through what he has.
"For someone like me who is active, I find it incomprehensible how this can affect people's lives and seriously inhibit what they are able to do.
"Since I've worn the colours of Crohn's & Colitis UK for running events, I often receive comments about what a great charity it is and how they have helped to change peoples lives.
"People cheer me on and have clearly heard of the charity, so people are talking about this life-changing condition.
"Runners and supporters talk to me afterwards about their experiences and I share the reasons why I'm wearing the colours of the charity.
"It's the least I can do as I'm fortunate to be able to do these things."
This Saturday's 5km parkrun in Kettering starts at 9am at Wicksteed Park, off Barton Road in the town, where Simon will be joined by Justyn to kick off the challenge in the distinctive purple colours of the Crohn's & Colitis UK charity. The duo are encouraging other runners to don purple to help give their challenge a boost.
Justyn said: "We'd are trying to get the word out to the parkrun and running communities of Northamptonshire to come and join us as we try to turn Wicksteed Park into a sea of purple,"
Next weekend, Saturday, August 31, sees the distance upped to 10km when Simon and Justyn take on the annual Bedford Twilight event, which sees runners set-off at 5.30pm for a twilight finish.
It doesn't get any easier for the following weekend Sunday, September 8, when the duo head north to take on the famed Great North Run 13.1-mile half-marathon distance to take in the sights of the iconic Tyne Bridge and Newcastle's city centre to the coast in South Shields.
The arduous 22-day challenge concludes on the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, September 14-5, for the 24-hour Wimpole 24 Challenge ultra-marathon on the parkland of the Wimpole National Trust estate in Cambridgeshire. For this leg of the challenge Simon and Justyn will be joined by Gary, of Finedon, and Lucy, from Market Harborough.
The foursome will try to complete as many laps of a 4.17-mile course as possible over the ensuing 24 hours, with approximately 300ft of ascent per lap. Their goal is to reach a whopping 120 miles between them.
At time of writing the team had raised £1,623.98 for the cause but are hoping to smash the £2,000 barrier.
To help the team towards their target, people can donate online at justgiving.com/fundraising/22-crazy-days