Sussex Wildlife Trust member Helen Forester is an outdoor creative writing teacher who lives in Hove. In September, Helen is undertaking an incredible 100k in one day by running the South Coast Challenge to support the Trust.
We asked her about it.
Thank you for undertaking the South Coast Challenge to support Sussex Wildlife Trust.
Having done a few running events in the past, including the London Marathon in 2010, I’ve always wanted to do an ultra-marathon. I had planned to do one a few years ago but then got distracted having babies so it never happened. As it’s my 40th this year, I wanted to do something I’ve never done before to celebrate it and to challenge myself. I think running 100k in one day will definitely do that!
Were you already a runner?
Yes. I’ve been running off and on since I was about 14. I started very begrudgingly as part of my training when I used to row as a teenager, and then it became my main activity in my twenties and has been ever since. I love the feeling of just being able to chuck on my trainers and head out the door for a run whenever I need to (children allowing) - it’s very freeing and has been especially so over the past year.
Where do you like to run?
My favourite route takes me up into the South Downs, which is about a 15 minute run from my house in Hove, near Hangleton. I run through the residential area, along a forested dirt track and then up into the hills. On some days, when the wind is particularly ferocious, it can be a real challenge but on others, a total pleasure. Being at the top of the ridge that runs between Devil’s Dyke and Shoreham, with the fields and forest to my right and the sea to my left gives me a huge sense of freedom. The air feels lighter and there are fewer people so I have lots of space to think. I feel hugely grateful to live so close to such an immense place.
Why did you decide to run for Sussex Wildlife Trust?
As a member, I'd always want to support the work of Sussex Wildlife Trust and it holds a special place in my heart for personal reasons. My children and I also often visit Woods Mill in Henfield, which is one of our favourite places to go. We love visiting the woods and seeing it change throughout the seasons.
Being a member has been invaluable to me throughout lockdown as not only did we have somewhere to go, but all of the activities that were provided in the Wildlife Watch magazine we get with our membership kept us going for a while.
My daughter even finished her Hedgehog Award in the first lockdown, something she’s eternally proud of. I am in awe of everything that Sussex Wildlife Trust and The Wildlife Trusts do and so for me it was an absolute ‘no-brainer’ to run in support of them.
Wildlife is everything. Without wildlife we wouldn’t be here and would have a much harder job of existing (as we’re already finding!). Whether it's watching the birds at our garden feeders every morning or looking out for foxes on our evening walks, our local wildlife has been ever-present for us over the past year and a constant reminder that the natural world will keep going irrespective of what’s happening in the human world. I hope that some day we will live in a world where wildlife and nature in general is placed at the centre of every decision we make.
Robin at the Benfield Valley Project © Helen Forester
I'm also running for the Trust as a way of saying thank you to the brilliant staff who helped me hugely last June in setting up a community conservation group, the Benfield Valley Project.
Benfield Valley Project © Helen Forester
Tell us more about that
I'd heard about proposals to build on a local green space and decided I needed to do something to raise the profile of this incredible place.
The Trust's Conservation Officer Jess Price was there right from the start, giving advice and pointing me in the right direction, in terms of identifying wildlife, learning more about the ecology of the space and connecting with other local groups. We are now a committee of seven with hundreds of followers on our social media pages and I feel proud that we recently became a Constituted Community Group, meaning that we can gain funding and run events for local residents in and around the Benfield Valley.
What do you hope to achieve with your Challenge?
I would love to hit my fundraising target and I would love to finish in one piece. I don’t take running 100k lightly and for me the achievement will be in crossing the finish line still enjoying my running and without any injury (blisters excepting, of course). I don’t have any specific time in mind - I just really want to savour and enjoy the experience as much as I can.
What do you hope will come afterwards?
It all depends on how I feel at the end, haha! I would love to think I could do more ultra-marathons in the future (though perhaps not another 100k, we’ll see!), and keep running for fun. I really love the idea that I can use my running, which I feel privileged to be able to do, to raise money and support causes such as Sussex Wildlife Trust, so perhaps more fundraising activities too.
How can people support your efforts?
My Just Giving page is here. I’m grateful for anything people can spare. Thank you.
If you'd like to find out more about how to fundraise to support the work of Sussex Wildlife Trust, see here.