Army trio take on the Great North Run in full military gear for Newcastle care service

1 September 2016

Corporal Michael Barkley and Corporal Sophie FitzwarrenAs if the Great North Run wasn’t tough enough, three army corporals are running it in full military kit, weighing 135 pounds or 63 kilos, to raise money for a Newcastle care home.

Corporals Michael Barkley, Sophie Fitzwarren and Mark Jackson are running in boots and combats whilst carrying weights, totalling more than 20 kilos for each.

They are running to raise money for the Leonard Cheshire Disability Bradbury Wing care home in Jesmond, Newcastle, which cares for adults with physical disabilities.

The trio, who are all section commanders at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate, want to raise awareness of disability, when they take on the world’s biggest half marathon on Sunday 11 September.

Corporal Barkley, originally from Sunderland, explained why Bradbury Wing is close to his heart.

He said:

‘My auntie [Eni Plenderleith] is the service manager there and she’s an inspiration to me.

‘She’s been like a mother to me and from being a young child, I saw how much she goes out of her way for other people. She’ll do everything for everybody.

‘I visit Bradbury Wing whenever I can. There’s always an occasion and a party.

‘These events bring smiles to the faces of the people that live there. More funds will mean more activities, which will make a big difference.

‘My auntie tries to do her best to get extra money for the people at Bradbury Wing, so I’m trying to do that too. We want to raise at least £1,500 each.’

This isn’t the first time Corporal Barkley, who’s been in the army for 10 years, has fundraised by running in his military kit.

‘I first fundraised for Leonard Cheshire Disability in 2013, when I ran the Great South Run in full kit. It was harder than I expected.

‘I knew I had an injury, but I only found out afterwards I’d run it all with a broken ankle.

‘The other hard bit of the Great South Run was the weather.

‘The Great North Run should be easier because I’m from the north east. I’ll know where I’m running and can work out how far we have to go.’

Corporal Barkley ran the Great South Run in just one hour and 42 minutes. But as he’s running with fellow corporals this time, the priority is sticking together.

‘The three of us run at different levels and I’m almost a foot taller than Corporal Fitzwarren.

‘We’re aiming to get this finished in two and a half to three hours. What’s important is keeping the three of us together.’

Their full military kit will not, of course, include live ammunition.

‘We’ll be carrying weights to emulate ammunition. Corporal Fitzwarren is a medic, so part of what she’s carrying will be her medical kit. Corporal Jackson and I will be carrying an average army kit.’

Fellow runner Corporal Fitzwarren said:

‘My current job role within the army is a very busy position and ongoing injuries have prevented me having a healthy training regime, but I know me and my colleagues are fit and robust enough to complete the Great North Run with the excessive weight.

‘Yes the run will take a toll on our bodies, but we will push through any boundaries we come across by "switching off" our minds and letting our bodies be pushed.

‘I am a firm believer in the charity and will happily support it in every way, as I have seen the work Eni puts into making the residents of Bradbury Wing happy and overjoyed.

‘I volunteered [for the run] the second I was asked.’

The corporals will also be joined by Corporal Barkley’s brother, Karl.

Service manager Eni said:

‘I am obviously immensely proud of both Mick and his brother Karl each and every day of their lives, however, my heart bursts with pride when I see both my lads giving up time in their busy lives to participate in this famous half marathon and raise much needed funds.

‘I hope mine and my late partner’s passion for making a difference to the lives of disabled people, has influenced both of them.’

If you would like to find out more or make a donation please visit the corporals’ Just Giving page.

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