A 28-year-old health worker from Stourport-on-Severn raised more than £2,000 for Help for Heroes as she attempted to run around the Isle of Wight in less than 24 hours.
Forced to carry her own supplies, after the late withdrawal of her support car driver, Debbie Matthews called a halt to her attempt after covering 58.13 miles in 17 hours. Hemmed in at midnight by roads with a national speed limit, she felt it was not safe for her to continue as drivers would not have been able to see her.
But she remains justifiably proud of what she has achieved.
The occupational health technician said:
“It was brutal. Really hard. What a challenge. When people say the Isle of Wight is hilly, they’re not wrong.
“I got to Brading but, by midnight, it was really dark, and I had to call a halt with about 10 miles remaining. I decided, for my own safety, I had to finish it there. I couldn’t risk my life. In the end, I couldn’t find a way back to Ryde, where I wanted to recommence the run, as there were no trains from Brading at that time of night.
“Fortunately, my nan’s friend, Elizabeth Gelhard, came out and picked me up and took me back to the Prince of Wales pub, in East Cowes, from where I’d set out. Pia Bamber at the pub was so supportive. She gave me two nights of complimentary accommodation and even chipped in a £90 donation. They couldn’t do enough for me; they even decorated the pub for the start of the run.”
“I’ve climbed the Malvern Hills, near where I live, and that’s hard, but this is an extra 1,000 feet on top. Overall, the climb was 3,700ft, which I’ve never accomplished before, so I’m taking the positives.
“I did enjoy the views and sights as I went around, though. And, while that was my first visit to the Isle of Wight, I will go back – but to relax next time.
“I’m convinced I would have finished it if I’d had the support vehicle because I had to carry a bag on my back, which was weighing me down. On the way round I developed hip and back pain as a result and the handles cut into my neck. It made it a stop-start affair as well – but I did it.”
Like most visitors to the Island, Debbie was left with some good memories, and one, in particular, struck a chord with her.
“Running away from the Needles towards the Tennyson Monument was an impressive sight. All the grass was manicured, and I felt like a warrior running up the bank towards a fort.”
Help for Heroes Area Fundraising Manager, Rhys Edwards, said:
“At a time when people are struggling financially and in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, for one individual to raise £2,114 like this is a fantastic achievement.
“And to do it without any support vehicle and carrying her own supplies just beggars belief. We send our thanks to Debbie and all those who donated or helped her along the way.”
Help for Heroes champions the Armed Forces community and helps them live well after service. The charity helps them, and their families, to recover and get on with their lives. It has already supported more than 30,000 people and won’t stop until every veteran gets the support they deserve.
The Charity supports veterans from any branch of the UK military – regulars or reserves – irrespective of length or place of service, and locally embedded civilians (and their families) who worked alongside our Armed Forces.