Grace Gilmour from Newtownabbey recently returned home from the United States after taking part in a gruelling cycle in support of a very worthy cause.
The NI Water employee and her boyfriend, Belfast man Sean Gough, cycled 250 miles from Yosemite to San Francisco, raising the fantastic total of £7,418 for Cancer Focus NI.
The couple took part in a similar fundraiser for the charity last year in Death Valley in Nevada, and raised the exceptional sum of £4,200, which was then doubled by the bank Grace was working for at the time. The couple then decided to embark on another fundraising trip again this year, again with the goal of raising funds for Cancer Focus.
Grace has a good level of fitness, and trains most days. This meant that preparing for the recent cycle in the States was not much different from her usual training routine.
“I would go to the gym a lot so my fitness levels would be pretty high. I just needed to introduce more cardio into my training routine so I would be able to cope out in America,” Grace explained.
Over the five days of cycling, the extreme heat the couple experienced, as well as having to camp out every night, were daunting aspects of the trip.
“The first day was so warm, and that made it really tough. Plus I like my home comforts, so knowing that we had to do a full day of cycling every day and then set up our tents each night was pretty tough. But we knew it was for a good cause so that inspired us,” Grace said.
The fundraising couple have already made plans to do more fundraising challenges next year. They plan to compete in the half marathon in Dublin next August, and the Las Vegas Marathon next October. They may also tie in another 26-mile run - the New York Marathon - while they are in America.
This year the majority of the money was raised through fundraising events that the couple held throughout the year.
“We did quite a few spinathons, and we had a big spinathon at Victoria Square in Belfast, which was just before Christmas. Everyone wore Christmas jumpers, and we raised around £1,500, which was brilliant. We will be holding another festive spinathon again this year to raise more funds. We also had a charity football match at Seaview which was really good,” Grace added.
The couple set up a JustGiving account which helped to make donating a lot more accessible to members of the public.
Grace has enjoyed the fundraising challenges that she has taken part in, and would encourage more people to get involved themselves with similar events.
“I have loved the challenges that I have taken part in. I have made so many new friends and I have got to see some amazing places. I would encourage anyone to get involved themselves. As long as you are willing to put the time in to prepare for the events, anyone can do it,” she said.
Grace and Sean thanked Brian Jordan, Stephen Killyleagh, Jacque Hood, Tony Hill and Glen McCready for their support and generosity while organising the spinathon fundraisers.
Grace also thanked her mum, dad and sisters for their “endless support” of her fundraising challenges.