Having run the London Marathon and done two laps of the world’s toughest assault course Mark Thomas and Mike Wenn are used to pushing their bodies to the limit.
But the dynamic duo’s most recent challenge – walking 100 miles from Stamford to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London – proved to be their toughest yet.
The walk was the last of three gruelling fundraising challenges which the close friends set themselves to raise funds for The Phoebe Research Fund.
The charity was founded last year by Stamford mum Zoe Crowson to raise funding towards a possible cure for her daughter Phoebe who suffers from the rare skin disease Epidermolysis Bullosa.
Phoebe, aged six, was diagnosed with the condition soon after she was born, and has to deal daily with skin blisters which appear with the slightest touch – some of which are equivalent to a third degree burn.
Mark, a 43-year-old father-of-two, met Zoe and her daughter Phoebe through his wife, Laura, about a year ago and since then the two families have become good friends.
The IT consultant, who works in the City of London, roped in close friend Mike, 32, for a triple challenge which saw the pair complete the London Marathon in April, the Rat Race Dirty Double Ultra 40-mile assault course at Burghley House last month and, finally, the 100-mile walk on May 21 and 22.
Mark said: “We set off from Red Lion Square at 4.30am on the Saturday and headed along the A1 which was pretty unpleasant until we got past Stibbington because the are no paths.
“We were on the grass verge and being there with oncoming traffic hurtling towards you was a bit unnerving.”
Heavy rain and strong winds meant both men suffered badly with blisters during the first 30 miles – but Zoe Crowson was on hand to help in a support car loaned by Marshall Maserati Peterborough.
Zoe, who is used to dealing with blisters and sores, patched their feet up as best as she could.
When Mark and Mike got to Yaxley they were met by film and TV star Warwick Davis, who was keen to demonstrate his support for the cause.
After around 40 minutes with Warwick, the pair hit the road again walking without any significant breaks until 9pm when they arrived in Stevenage and got four hours of much-needed sleep.
Mike’s girlfriend, professional athlete Suzi Boast, joined them for a few miles as they set off early in the morning for London – eventually arriving at Great Ormond Street, where Phoebe undergoes treatment, at around 5pm on Sunday.
Mark added: “It was really, really tough. When we woke up on Sunday we were so tired and the idea of walking for another whole day was tough to deal with, but we knew we had to do it for Phoebe.
“It feels great to have completed the triple challenge now and I’m proud of our achievements but now I think we both deserve a good rest.
“I hope we have inspired other people out there to do something for The Phoebe Research Fund!”
Mark and Mike set themselves an ambitious target of raising £10,000 for The Phoebe Research Fund.
So far, they have raised in excess of £4,000 and are planning another push for donations with a documentary about their triple challenge which will be uploaded to YouTube.
Local inventor Colin Furze, whose YouTube channel has nearly three million subscribers and over 280 million views, has offered to help publicise the video.
Colin also lent Mark and Mike his gadget crutches – which feature lights, a drinks bottle and a grabber – for use after their walk.
Mike, 32, who lives in Stevenage, said the three challenges were tough, but Phobe inspired him to keep going.
He said: “Mark inspired me to get involved to begin with but after meeting Phoebe I couldn’t stand by and do nothing.
“It sounded impossible to do on paper and it was nearly exactly that but I kept telling myself If Phoebe can cope everyday how can i justify temporary pain.
“There were some extreme highs and lows – high points were the massive amount of support from family and friends to get us through and to support such a great cause. During all the challenges when we hit the wall it was a pretty tough at times, but somehow we just put one foot in front of the other.
“I feel proud of our achievements not because of the challenges overcome but the awareness and donations we managed to influence.”
Zoe said she was proud of Mark and Mike and grateful for the attention their efforts had brought to her charity.
She said: “Lots of people have come forward to offer support for The Phoebe Research Fund having seen what the boys have achieved.
“A huge thank you to everyone involved in supporting Mark and Mike with this challenge.”
To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/MarksTripleChallenge
For more information about The Phoebe Research Fund, visit www.phoeberesearch.org.uk
n Two financial companies have teamed up to raise money for The Phoebe Research Fund.
Pilot Fish in Bourne and the Peterborough branch of Santander are organsing a business networking event at the William Cecil Hotel, in Stamford, on June 15.
The Santander branch made The Phoebe Research Fund its charity of the year following a presentation by Zoe Crowson. Pilot Fish is a long standing supporter.
The two companies have a good working relationship, and decided to organise an event together. Entry will be for ticket holders only and the event will be held between 5pm and 7pm.
The cost of a ticket is a suggested donation of £20 which will include a welcome refreshment and an afternoon tea. Tim Pike, deputy agent for the Bank of England will give a topical talk.
For tickets, contact Kate at Pilot Fish on 01778 309777, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org