74-year-old Ken took on a (literal) marathon rollerblading challenge at Betteshanger Park in support of Demelza Hospice Care for Children last month.

The retired British Army physical training instructor and ex-ice hockey player used inline skating as a way to stay active during lockdown, saying he was “tired of sitting around doing nothing”, and ended up falling in love with the sport; now, two years on from picking it up, Ken felt inspired to embark on his toughest challenge yet.

“The longest distance I’d done in one go before this was 17.8 miles,” Ken said, “but I decided I wanted my next challenge to be taking on a marathon – 26.2 miles! I knew I wanted to do it in support of Demelza because their mission is so important. I’ve done fundraising for children’s hospices before, and when you learn about the kind of support they offer families – not just at the end of a child’s life, but also the support and therapies they offer to help deal with ongoing conditions – you can’t help but want to get involved.”

“When I got in touch with Hannah (Demelza’s Supporter Relations Coordinator) she invited me for a chat at the Kent hospice so I could see the grounds first-hand and learn a bit more about the charity I would be supporting. We walked around their Garden of Tranquility, a beautiful patch of land at the front of the hospice with a koi pond, all these flowers, and a babbling stream that runs through the whole thing. I was looking at the water feature when I noticed a lot of the decorative pebbles around the rim had names on, and I asked Hannah what that represented. When she told me that they were the names of Demelza children who had passed away, it hit me like a freight train; I became even more determined to see my challenge through.”

Ken trained seriously for months, even taking on a session with a professional inline skating instructor to improve his form and help him manage his stamina. “I’m not a young man!” Ken laughed. “My shins especially were feeling the strain, so I signed up for a training session which ended up really helping my form and easing the aches a bit. My instructor does think I’m crazy, though! She said ‘Ken, I’m 20 years younger than you and I’ve done two marathons; I would never do a third.’ My response was that whether it takes me four hours like I’ve planned, or the whole day, I’m going to finish the marathon and raise that money”.

The challenge took place in Betteshanger Park on Sunday 29th May, and saw Ken doing multiple laps of the beautiful grounds. “I got in touch with the site manager and he was more than happy to reserve the area for the whole day for me – everyone tends to get behind a good cause, which is lovely to see. We raised more than £400 just in the leadup to the event, and my son and grandkids came along to do their bucket-collecting duties on the day, which was brilliant because we managed to net another £100 on the day. That money will make a real difference to the families that Demelza supports.”

Ken’s looking to the future as well, thinking about what his next big fundraising activity might be. “I think next time I’d like to make it a 24-hour inline skating challenge, and get more skating groups involved; the idea would be that we always had at least two people skating round for the entire 24 hours, and take it in turns to keep the challenge alive. That will take a lot more planning, but if possible I’d love to see that happen in September of this year.”