Lynsey Sharp’s journey to the Commonwealth Games start line

DSC_5123 This weekend sees the exciting start of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games so what a great time to have our next blog update from our very own Lynsey Sharp. Find out what life’s like as an elite athlete competing in what’s expected to be the ‘best Commonwealth Games ever’!

What a difference a month can make! My immediate future is now clear and my race programme is now set – extremely busy but exactly as I had wanted it to be. The last weekend in June brought the British Championships which doubled up as the European Championship Trials. After the heats in which the qualifying conditions were very tough, the final the following day was packed full of all the best female 800m athletes in the UK.  To make things even tougher, I had been struggling during the preceding week with a nasty chest infection, which I probably fell victim to because of the 15+ courses of antibiotics I had been taking in previous months for my infected leg wound. I had felt so ill in the days leading up to the race that I met with the British Athletics officials to discuss whether or not I was fit to run. In the end, of course, I decided to run and was absolutely delighted to win the final, claiming the British title and guaranteeing my selection for the European Championships in August.

A few days later and at 24 hours notice, I was offered place in the 800m at the IAAF Diamond League in Lausanne. It was a very high-quality field and turned out to be a fast race and I was over the moon when my time appeared on the scoreboard – 1.59.67!!! My first time under 2 minutes! Words cannot describe how that felt – it has been a lifelong ambition to break 2 minutes so it was thrilling to have achieved my goal.

From there, I went on to run at the Diamond League in Glasgow. Billed as everything from  ‘ Duel of the Scots’ to ‘Battle of the Brits’, it turned out to be anything but, as the race was won by a foreign athlete!  I ended up placing 6th in what would be called a blanket finish, ie where a number of athletes cross the line together and the photo- finish decides the placings. 

This week it’s a drive north to Edinburgh, then on to Irvine to spend a few days at the Team Scotland holding camp. From there, I will proceed to the Games Village a few days ahead the first of three rounds of 800m races. I’m really looking forward to being reunited with some of the other athletes in Team Scotland and representing my country as best I can!

After the Games, I aim to return to Loughborough for a few key sessions before I depart for the European Championships in Zurich where I will defend my title of European Champion.  Again there will be 3 rounds which will make it a very tough experience after the same number of rounds in Glasgow.

After the two major championships, I intend to finish my season at a couple of the remaining Diamond League meetings …..and then  in September, I must return  to hospital for surgery to clear the infection which has been lingering in my leg wound since last October. It goes without saying that I’m not looking forward to this, especially since it hasn’t really been bothering me, but it’s only been ok because I have followed a rigorous infection management programme to keep it at bay. Until then, it’s onwards and upwards….!!

We’ll be reporting on how Lynsey does in the Commonwealth Games so keep an eye on Virgin Money Giving’s  Twitter and Facebook channels for regular updates. Good luck Lynsey!

Eleanor & Hayley volunteering for Echo in Africa

Original imageFrom time to time we come across fundraisers who won’t only be donating their time to fundraise, but also helping to use the funds that are being raised for. Eleanor Farrow and Hayley Reeve are Cardiac Physiologists in the Echocardiography team in the Cardiology out-patients department at the Norfolk and Norwich University Trust hospital (NNUH). They perform ultrasound scans on hearts (echocardiography) and are fundraising to visit Cape Town and screen children for signs of valvular disease, predominantly Rheumatic Mitral Valve Disease.

The two women have volunteered for a humanitarian project in Cape Town called Echo in Africa, a charity run by the British Society of Echocardiography. The charity points out “There are 15.6 million people worldwide living with the consequences of Rheumatic Heart Disease and most of these people live in areas with severe social and economic challenges. However, with early detection and proper treatment many of the devastating complications can be prevented.” The humanitarian project will provide echocardiography scans for 2,000 children in the surrounding villages of Cape Town.

The women will be using the opportunity to not only work and provide valuable skills for the Echo in Africa charity, but they will be able use the knowledge gained from their experience within the NNUH cardiology department on their return.

Eleanor said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to support and develop cardiology out in South Africa and to learn about and experience the detection and quantification of a disease which occurs only in isolated cases in the UK, and bring this knowledge to our department at the NNUH.”

Hayley and Eleanor are fundraising to cover the travel costs of the trip and to meet the minimum fundraising amount for the charity. Any extra funds raised will be used to support the training of local health professionals and provide equipment and facilities in the hope that the project can become sustainable.  To raise the funds required, the pair have organised a variety of fundraising events including a quiz, a World Cup sweepstake, a charity gig involving local bands, raffles, a cake sale and will be undertaking a 17 mile sponsored walk in the Norfolk area.

To support Eleanor and Hayley in their efforts, sponsor them via their Virgin Money Giving page.

Win £10,000 for your charity in the Mountain Warehouse Charity Challenge

Emma Connelly

Are you taking part in or have you already completed an outdoor challenge for charity this year? You could win £10,000 for the charity you’re supporting through Mountain Warehouse…

Mountain Warehouse are running their very successful ‘Charity Challenge’ again this year to give away £10,000 to a deserved winner’s charity. All you need to do to enter is register a few details about your challenge and then tell your friends and family to get voting, spread the word all over social media, email your work buddies, whatever you need to do to get them to vote. This is an opportunity not to be missed.

You have until 28 July to submit your challenge then until 12 September to get the votes of support in.

Not only could you win £10,000 for your charity but an extra little perk is that all entrants get 20% off at Mountain Warehouse, what a treat!

Set up your fundraising page now to help you raise as much money as possible hopefully to receive a nice little £10,000 boost in September.



10-years-old and cycling 30 miles


The fundraisers that we’ve featured for #FundraiserFriday have come in all shapes and sizes and all ages and abilities. Earlier on this year, we featured 83-year-old Margaret Pogson who jumped out of a plane to fundraise for Parkinson’s UK. And now we are delighted to feature 10-year-old Rickaide Bell who is cycling 30 miles by herself to raise money for Erskine.

Rickaide, who is 10-years-old, decided to put her new bike “to good use” and raise money for the charity which is close to her heart, telling us that she is cycling the 30 miles for Erskine; “This charity means a lot to me as my papa was in the army & my other papa WWII and not only do Erskine help our hero veterans but their families also“. Erskine is a veterans charity which was founded in 1916 to care for Servicemen and women who had been injured in active service. Their services now extend way beyond this with speech and language therapy, care homes and commercial businesses which employ veterans and supported personnel and disabled workers.

Rickaide will cycle the 3 miles along Prestwick beach 10 times – watched by both of her parents – to make up the 30 miles and intends to try for 50 miles next year. She points out that “not many people realize that it costs Erskine £144.000 each week to keep our veterans safe and happy“.  Rickaide also says that she hopes to inspire children to fundraise for charity, suggesting they could “maybe give up their iPad or iPod or computer for a week to raise funds in the future.

Rickaide’s mum Maralissa tells us how proud she is of her daughter, saying that “not many kids would think of doing anything like this“. Maralissa also tells us “Rickaide has suffered many health problems in the past like Bells Palsy at the age of 5, respiratory syncytial virus many times and epilepsy when she was baby. She is such an amazing girl in my eyes and has a really big heart for her age“.

To support Rickaide in her cycle, visit her Virgin Money Giving page.

Liz Tackles Kilimanjaro

liz and holly

According to Amanda Knight, the Marketing & Campaigns Assistant with Village Education Project Kilimanjaro, Liz Mouland “has a talent that knows no bounds”. Liz looks set to prove this by climbing Kilimanjaro in October to raise money for Village Education Project Kilimanjaro (VEPK) and is today’s #FundraiserFriday star.

Liz tells us that “it all started with a visit to the gym with [her] usual New Year’s Resolution to get fit” when her daughter Holly noticed a poster advertising the KiliClimb 2014. Although she tells us that she is still a bit in denial, as a hater of the cold and flat shoes, Liz has gained every confidence from Holly (who, until recently, was to be her climbing partner until gaining new employment made this unfeasible). Her inspiration comes from her daughter – who, Liz says, inherited her competent sportsperson genes from her father. Although she also says “we both share a zest for life and love adventures.”

Although many charities organise climbs of Mount Kilimanjaro to fundraise, VEPK is the only charity which offers sponsored climbs of the mountain which exclusively benefit the young people of Kilimanjaro region. While on the trek, Liz will get the chance to visit a Tanzanian Primary School for which they will be fundraising. The proceeds from the climb will assist in improving the quality of primary education and skills training in the region that surrounds the mountain.

Liz is hoping to raise at least £2,000 and says that if she exceeds her target, she’ll let us know if lipstick freezes at -20c! Due to the large amount she wishes to raise for the charity, she has thrown herself into various crafty activities. With the help of Holly she has had a marmalade marathon as well as making lemon curds, chutneys, jelly and jam which she will be selling along with homemade bunting and other crafts at their village carnival on the 12th July.

To support Liz in her fundraising, visit her Virgin Money Giving page.

COO Cycle Challenge

coo team

The race is on! Tomorrow, Friday 4 July, Virgin Money North – made up of people from the Edinburgh and Gosforth Virgin Money offices - will take on Virgin Money South – Norwich and London Virgin Money staff – in a “Top Gear” style point to point challenge. Each team will travel 130 miles and one will win by announcing themselves on Social Media.

The North Team will leave Newcastle at 7:30am and head for Edinburgh, at the same time the South team leave London aiming for Norwich. The first team to reach its destination and Tweet @VirginMoney a picture of their arrival will WIN this challenge.

The teams are fundraising for the company’s charity of the year, Cancer Research UK. Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading charity dedicated to beating cancer through research. Over half of all cancer research in the UK is carried out by the charity’s scientists who have discovered new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer which have saved millions of lives across the world.

Andrew Ferguson of Virgin Money told us “The whole idea came about in the Property & Facilities team to try and come up with an initiative that would bring together the 4 office sites across the country. Cycling to Edinburgh from Newcastle was suggested, we soon realised the distance from London to Norwich was similar and the race was born. Some of the team (me included) then went off and had to buy a bike to start training!

Lee Irving told us his reason for taking part in the challenge is “to support a fantastic charity and, from a personal point, this year for me marks 25 years since I finished my treatment for Cancer (non hodgkins lymphoma)“.

To support the teams, you can visit their Virgin Money Giving page and don’t forget to follow @VirginMoney on Twitter to see which team wins.

The Neon Run


Bright lights, music, lasers, dancers, strobes, DJs…no we’re not talking about a regular Saturday night out on the tiles, we’re talking about a new worldwide phenomenon we’ve entered into an exclusive partnership with – Neon Run UK.

It’s a unique 5k night-time spectacular run with four special neon zones of rock, disco, pop and iconic British music. The route takes you on a journey full of lights, colour and action. Bet you’ve never had that experience while running 5k before have you? Neon Run events are currently held across Australia and South America and they attract more than 10,000 people to each one.

This event caters for runners, joggers and walkers so there’s something for everyone. Plus you can take part as a team or on your own. We’d challenge you not to make a friend on the way round though if you took part on your own! Oh and did we mention it’s almost essential to paint your face with beautiful neon facepaints?

The next two events take place in October. One is in Leeds on Saturday 18 October and the other is in Sunderland on Saturday 25 October. Enter now for your experience of a lifetime and to take advantage of the early entry discounted price.

What a fun way to raise money for charity! Set up your page for the Leeds event or the Sunderland one, whichever takes your fancy.





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