17th-18th June 2007
When Mark Davies, a friend of mind for over 30 years, suggested a bike ride from John O’ Groats to Lands End, I told him he was insane and thought I had finally rebuffed his numerous and continuous suggestions to do something special for CRY.
Two weeks later, another phone call, another suggestion – The Three Peaks Challenge – he had caught me at a weak moment and I rather reluctantly said ‘OK then’, not really knowing what I had agreed to do.
A week later, five team captains had been secured, and approximately 50 people mustered, all to climb the three highest mountains in Great Britain, within 24 hours, in June. He isn’t called Mark ‘consider it done’ Davies for nothing…but why the urgency and the remarkable and immediate response?
Thirteen years ago, I married Stephanie English, the widow of a great friend of mine, Howard English, who had collapsed and died at Esher Rugby club in October 1993. Howie’s death was diagnosed as Floppy Mitral Valve Disease – a heart condition that was not hereditary and Steph was assured that Howard’s death was a tragic one off.
Our wedding was a happy occasion and the majority of my friends knew Howie well and this was the perfect ending to a ghastly period. Steph was happy again and Howie and Steph’s children, Sebastian (5), Sabrina (3), and Titus (1) had a new daddy. It was all wonderful, and a year later Marcus arrived and two years after that the family was made complete with the arrival of Rory.
Ten years later, however, history was to repeat itself in the most unbelievable and cruel way. Sebastian was passionate about playing rugby and was a dynamic full back. He was super fit and fast. On a Sunday morning in February 2004, Sebastian inexplicably collapsed whilst retrieving a ball that had rolled out of play and died instantly. The diagnosis of ARVC was too late for our darling Bas. The effect on Steph and all of us was completely devastating, and has changed our lives forever. However, we were not alone, and it was clear that our fabulous friends and family had also been living our nightmare with us since Sebastian’s tragic death.
Mark Davies has said that when organising the Three Peaks Challenge, his role was easy. It only took a phone call to key friends from various parts of my life: Home in Cheshire, School at Rugby, University at Loughborough, Work in Newcastle and London, and a team of Mark’s friends from Bristol; the recruitment job was done. It was as though our friends had been waiting for an opportunity to throw themselves into something major, to cap their anger and disbelief that Sebastian could have been allowed to die and that Howie’s death had been misdiagnosed.
They also wanted to continue to support us in raising the profile and activities of CRY and promote Steph’s passion of trying to help families avoid multiple deaths after suffering a tragic loss, by ensuring an accurate diagnosis and pathology, and insisting on a proper system to advise these families and to get all vulnerable members checked and sorted. And, wow, did they do just that! What is so remarkable about the response is that the majority of those taking part in the Three Peaks Challenge had to train and train hard. Preparing for the challenge involved many hours of walking at weekends away from their own families. This was not just one weekend of madness, but an awesome commitment by everyone involved.
And so in the Spring, for the Amberley Trotters, Lufbra Students, Northern Lights, Peak Earlys and Rugby Ramblers, the training began. For some, a gentle walk to the pub on a Sunday, or discovering beautiful countryside on their doorstep. For others, a proper team training schedule or ‘I’ll leave it until next weekend’. However, as June approached, (a few hundred pounds lighter thanks to the local Blacks store) and as the huge sponsorship monies began to roll in, we all began to realise we were committed and about to embark on something very special and an experience we would never forget.
For me many memories: Pre match nerves at Glasgow Airport and at the base of Ben Nevis, the beauty of the summit, running the last kilometre, the hopeless attempt to get some sleep on the minibus, the one Snow Patrol CD, the dreadful satellite system getting us lost in a Carlisle car park at 2.30am, the horror of the Steps on Scafell, the agony of the knees, the magic of Gemma (our physio), the elation on Snowdon, how delicious fish, chips and mushy peas are, and the ecstasy of sleep.
What a tribute to Howie and Sebastian. It is remarkable how one man’s determination to do something, 5 team captains’ unflagging encouragement and 50 people’s commitment, can achieve so much.
As a result, the fantastic work of CRY is now understood by many more people throughout the country and over £100,000 has been raised for CRY. Although this is phenomenal, the lasting memory for Steph and I is the massive and continued love and support of all our friends who participated, donated and who refuse to let the memory of Howie and Bas fade away. We can’t thank them enough.
Rupert Hunter – Peak Earlys
The event was organised and marshalled by The Fire Service and £4000 has been donated to the Fire Services Benevolent Fund.