A NEWBURY police officer will be running 100km (66 miles) through the heart of the English countryside to raise funds for local youngsters.
Sergeant Holly Nicholls, 31, will next month be competing in the Race to the Stones, a gruelling ultra-marathon from The Chilterns to Avebury.
By completing the route in just 24 hours, the experienced frontline officer is hoping to raise £3,000 to take the local police cadet group, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds, on a team bonding holiday to the Lake District.
“It’s a requirement of all Volunteer Police Cadet units that a quarter of members come from vulnerable backgrounds,” explained Sgt Nicholls.
“Some of them have never been away on a holiday before, so it’s to give them that opportunity.
“Myself and a couple of leaders will take them to a summer camp for an adventure holiday to build their confidence.
“And hopefully the fundraising will mean that all the children, all aged between 13 and 18, can go.”
Despite being an experienced runner, the former firearms officer admits that she has never tackled a route anywhere near the 66 miles she will be running on July 15 and 16.
The route follows the ancient Ridgeway path, which runs from the Chilterns in Oxfordshire across the Thames to the North Wessex Downs
Sgt Nicholls, who has been based at Newbury police station for just over a year, said she wanted to take on a challenge that would make “people want to put their hands in their pocket” to donate.
So far, Sgt Nicholls has raised almost £800 and entering her last month of training she admits the promise of funding the trip for the youngsters, as well as the support from family and friends, is what is driving her on.
She said: “I’ve done a marathon 10 years ago but nothing like this.
“The training’s tough, it’s up and downs.
“Psychologically it’s really difficult.
“I did 20 miles on Saturday and then another eight miles on Sunday. Doing it between 12 hour shifts, it’s really hard.
“My husband does come running out on some of my shorter runs to support me and I’ve got some friends who will come out and meet me to run the last few miles with me, so I’m very lucky to have that support.
“I’ve got blisters all over my feet but ultimately it’s worthwhile for the kids.
“When I told them they could all go on the trip and that they didn’t have to pay anything they were so excited to get that opportunity.
“That moment definitely spurred me on.”
The Race to the Stones, named for the monolithic standing sarsens at Avebury in Wiltshire, will take place on July 15 and 16.
To sponsor Sgt Nicholls, visit https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/westberkshirepolicecadets