Earlier this month we spoke with Alice who shared her fundraising ‘top tips, worries and challenges’ with us after taking part in her very first half marathon. Alice is fundraising for several charities as part of the Miss England contest. Having struggled with her own mental health previously, PAPYRUS is a charity that is close to her heart.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the fundraising challenge that you took part in?

Hi, I’m Alice, a commercial property solicitor working in Southampton. I also have my own property investment and development business. On top of this, I am a Miss England 2024 finalist and the current Miss Southampton 2024 which is very exciting! I took part in the Bath Half Marathon on Sunday 17 March 2024.

What inspired you to want to fundraise? / and why did you choose the Bath Half Marathon?

I have done some fundraising in the past, the most successful burst of which was back in the summer of 2015 where my brother and I raised £4,000 for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance. We wanted to raise money in memory of our Mum, Tereasa who passed away as a result of a car accident in June 2015, both my brother and I were also seriously injured. The Air Ambulance team airlifted my brother to hospital and saved his life, so we wanted to give back to them in any way we could. I have also done a couple of sponsored swims and Race For Lifes over the years but nothing on the scale of a half marathon!

This time round, I started fundraising as part of the Miss England 2024 competition. A huge part of the contest is fundraising for various worthy causes. This year, Miss England is fundraising for PAPYRUS, along with two other charities. I am also fundraising for Brake, the road safety charity as this is a cause really close to my heart given my experience of losing my Mum. I was particularly excited to support PAPYRUS as I unfortunately know of a few people who have taken their own lives and, as someone who has experienced my own mental health challenges from losing both of my parents by the age of 18, I know how valuable the support PAPYRUS provides is.

I chose to do a half marathon as it has been on my bucket list for the past few years. I have always wanted to properly commit to running, so I thought signing up to a race (especially for such worthy causes) was a good way to forcibly encourage myself to do it. I chose Bath as it was a gorgeous city I wanted to visit, so I thought running around it would be a good way to do this!

Getting started:

What fundraising strategies or tactics did you find most effective in reaching your goals?

I started by setting up a Just Giving page to collect my donations. I set this up as a team page, with individual pages for the four charities I was fundraising for, which meant that when someone clicked onto my central team page they could choose which of the charities to donate to. I am lucky that I work at a law firm with some generous and supportive people who were kind enough to sponsor my half marathon. I also reached out to friends and family on social media who were also kind enough to support me!

Were there any unique approaches you took that worked particularly well for your campaign?

I found that reaching out/speaking to people directly was a really good way to get people to sponsor me. Often when I explained what I was doing and how their support would be appreciated, people were much more likely to want to support me.

What information did you find was useful to include on your fundraising page?

As I was doing a running event, I found out that you could link Strava (the run tracking software) to my Just Giving page which was great as every time I completed a run, it would upload all the statistics so people who had sponsored me could see how I was getting on.

I also included a breakdown of the four charities I was fundraising for on my page and explained how their donations would help each cause.

Your journey:

Did you find people engaged with your page and donated, if not, how did you challenge this?

Yes, but people responded better when I reached out to them directly, explained what I was doing and thanked them for their support. The personal approach definitely helps!

How did you ensure you reached your fundraising target?

I just kept pushing it with family and friends on social media and colleagues at work, both in person and via email (I can imagine they were sick of my emails about the half marathon by the end aha) until I had reached my target! Someone along the way told me that on average it takes people seven times of seeing something to act on it, and I definitely found this was the case as the more I posted the more people did eventually respond with comments or sponsorship.

How did you go about building a network of supporters for your fundraising efforts?

I tapped into people I already knew, be that work colleagues, family, friends etc. You will be quite surprised by who might support you if you let them know what you are doing and how they can help. There were even a few old friends who I hadn’t spoken to in years who wanted to support me, which was really heart-warming, and has meant that we have now reconnected.

Can you share any tips for engaging friends, family, and the community to support your cause?

Speak to them directly; people are much more responsive when you explain what you are trying to do and what you are doing to work towards your event personally than just posting on social media!

If your fundraising challenge involved physical activity, what kind of training and preparation did you undertake?

I started training for my half marathon 17 weeks out from the event, so back at the start of November 2023. I was not a regular runner at the time (in fact, the last bout of regular running I had done was during the first lockdown in 2020) so I started with five weeks of a couch to 5k program, followed by a 12 week half marathon training plan which I got online for free. There are so many free resources available, please don’t pay for a plan!

I had a couple of weeks off during the 17 weeks due to colds and sickness but overall managed to stick to the program (with the exception of missing a few of the longer runs due to being short on time, which I now regret) and was really pleased with the progress I was able to make as a relative running novice within 17 weeks. Never at the start of this would I have been able to run 5k, let alone a half marathon!

Can you share some training tips or advice for others considering similar challenges?

My advice would be to start early, especially if you aren’t a regular runner! The longer lead in time you have, the more wiggle room you have in case you get sick. I am so glad I started 17 weeks out as it meant that I didn’t lose much, if any progress with having to take a little bit of time out here and there.

The other thing is, don’t neglect your long runs. I was really good at getting out for the short runs but when I was shorter on time, my long runs suffered. At the event, I really noticed the difference when I exceeded my longest run I had done during training and that last part of the half marathon was a bit of a struggle.

Fundraising can be tough at times; how did you ensure you looked after yourself throughout all your hard work/what self-care elements were included?

As I was taking part in a physical/running challenge, I had to stay injury and sickness free as best I could. I did this by following a training plan (as someone else has done the hard work for you coming up with a plan), making sure I was stretching before and after my runs and making sure to take the right amount of rest between each run. Outside of my running self-care, I took lots of baths on my rest days, made sure to get enough sleep and did as best as I could with nutrition (although I find running nutrition a bit of a minefield!)

Challenges and obstacles:

Fundraising often comes with its share of challenges. Can you share some of the obstacles you faced during your fundraising journey? How did you overcome these challenges, both in terms of fundraising and personal motivation?

As I started training 17 weeks out, I did find that I lost steam and motivation around the end of January/start of February as it was quite a long lead in period. But I knew it would be worth it on race day and that the best way to prepare was by starting early. So, with a bit of tough love from my partner Harry, I found my rhythm again and got back out running.

Another challenge I faced was having to take a few weeks out due to sickness. This was during the 12-week portion of the half marathon training, which was definitely the more important portion, and I began panicking that I wasn’t going to be where I needed to be in time. But I knew the right thing to do was rest, get better and not to push myself to make it worse or I could be out of training for a lot longer. I soon got better and was back to normal routine. I learnt that there is very little point pushing through injury/sickness as it will only harm you in the long run!

The challenge:

Did you enjoy the Bath Half Marathon, and would you recommend it to other potential fundraisers?

Being completely honest, yes, and no! I absolutely loved the event, the atmosphere in Bath was incredible and I was lucky to have some friends there to support me on the day with signs, they cheered me on from the side-lines which made all the difference. But the event was tough, I was fine for the first 12-14km but the last 6-8km was a bit of a struggle and I did find that I had to do some walk/run intervals for the last part to get over the finishing line. With a half marathon, training and preparation in the lead up to the event is so important and I do wish I had done more longer runs before hand as I really felt it when I exceeded the distance of the longest run I had done in training. When you sign up to do a half marathon, you need to be prepared that it will be a challenge and you need to invest the time in training, but if you can do that it’s such a worthwhile experience.

But I would absolutely recommend doing a half marathon, or a running event, to other fundraisers! It is such a massive personal achievement for me and has ticked something off my bucket list which I have been wanting to do for a really long time. I’ve already signed up to do another half marathon in October as I was keen not to let my new running ability go to waste, but I will be glad for a break from running before circling back to half marathon training towards the end of the summer.

Did you find your fundraising rewarding?

Absolutely! On the morning of the half marathon, I woke up to find that I had reached my £1,000 fundraising target which was an incredible moment. When you are running for such worthy causes, it makes motivation easier to find when the race gets tough. Knowing I was running to raise money for four amazing charities really helped me get through the last portion of the race when I was struggling.

What were some of the most memorable moments or milestones during your fundraising journey?

During the event, the crowd was definitely one of the most memorable moments. Everyone was cheering you on, even if they were supporting other people or just there to watch the event more generally. There were lots of people giving out water, sweets and gels along the route and it honestly made all the difference when your energy levels were getting low.

Another memorable moment for me was seeing my friends and partner cheering me on. They would appear at various points along the route and seeing  friends and loved ones actually made me really emotional at points! On my second lap of the course, I stopped briefly to give Harry a hug and got a little tearful!

Can you share a highlight or achievement that made the entire experience worthwhile?

Crossing the finishing line! It sounds really unimaginative, but just crossing the finishing line was a huge personal achievement for me and knowing I had also raised over £1,000 for four amazing causes made it an even sweeter moment.

Advice for prospective fundraisers/closing thoughts:

What advice would you give to individuals who are considering fundraising for PAPYRUS but may be hesitant to start?

I’d say, go for it! I was not a regular or remotely good runner when I started training for my half marathon but managed to put in the work over the 17 weeks of training and managed to cross that finishing line. I am a big believer that the best things happen outside of our comfort zone; running a half marathon was so far out of my comfort zone but not only have I raised funds for some really amazing charities (including PAPYRUS), it is a huge personal achievement for me and is something ticked off my bucket list!

Are there any specific steps or strategies you would recommend for someone just beginning their fundraising journey? If yes, can you elaborate?

Firstly, come up with a strategy that works for you, if possible, focus on something you’ve always wanted to achieve/something you enjoy. For me, doing a half marathon had been on my bucket list for a long time and this really helped with motivation when things got a little tough. Secondly, I would recommend tapping into your friends, family and colleagues and speaking to them personally about what you are doing/how they can help. You will get a much better response when you reach out to them individually, rather than just posting a link on social media.

Would you take part in any fundraising in the future? / Do you have any future plans or ideas for continuing your support of PAPYRUS or other charitable causes?

Absolutely! I am keen not to let my running ability run away with me (no pun intended) so I am planning on doing another half marathon in October so will start training and fundraising again for that around 12 weeks out as I have a good baseline level of running ability now, as long as I keep it up in between.

If I am fortunate enough to win the Miss England title in May, fundraising and raising awareness for causes such as PAPYRUS will form a big part of my mission and I hope to be able to make a real difference for causes which are close to my heart during my time holding the title.

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