A runner has been inspired by his late grandfather to complete the London Marathon in aid of The Donkey Sanctuary.

Hampshire-based Phil Whittaker will be taking on the October challenge in memory of his grandad, who was a long-term supporter of the charity.

“I still remember the cardboard collection box on the windowsill of his lounge,” Phil said. “He was never wealthy, but always saved what he could and would donate sometimes even just small amounts, here and there.

“My grandad was a true grafter and a hard worker, and I believe that’s where I get my own hard work ethic from.”

The 32-year-old, who is a member of Vegan Runners UK and England Athletics, is using a combination of gym work and training runs to help build up his up distance. He also plans to take part in several road-race events over the coming months, sporting his Donkey Sanctuary running vest.

Animal lover Phil, who works for a national outdoors event company, had planned to run the London Marathon for The Donkey Sanctuary back in 2019, but an injury and the pandemic pushed his efforts back to this year.

“The Donkey Sanctuary has had a place close to my heart for many years,” he added. “I have been fascinated by donkeys and mules since I was very young, and it always amazed me how animals of their size could in fact be some of the strongest and most determined.

“To see that in some parts of the world these animals are used and abused, then just left to fend for themselves once they are considered to be no longer of any use, just breaks my heart.

“No animal should have to endure pain and suffering at the hands of any human being. They deserve to be treated with compassion and love just as much as humans, which is why I have chosen to run on behalf of The Donkey Sanctuary.

“The work that the charity does to achieve a world where both donkeys and mules live free from suffering is amazing.”

To keep updated on Phil’s progress, including how to support his fundraising, visit his Just Giving page

Joining the team

Novice runner Ellis Taylor from Manchester will be joining Phil in tackling the 26.2-mile challenge for The Donkey Sanctuary.

The 29-year-old learning technologist has lived in Manchester for five years, after moving from her home county of Devon. She remembers spending many happy days at The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth.

Animal lover Ellis admits being “nervous and excited in equal measures” about the marathon, having only ever run a half marathon before, and aims to make herself as strong as possible before embarking on her marathon training plan.

She has set herself a target time of four hours and 30 minutes to complete the world-famous London route.

“I’ve only ever run a half marathon before, so I am venturing into the unknown with this distance,” Ellis said. “I have a real soft spot for animals and helping them, even our dog Ernie is a rescue, so it makes sense for me to run for an animal charity close to my heart.”

To keep updated on Ellis’s progress, including how to support her fundraising, visit her Just Giving page

Hereford-based Chris Sandy will be joining Ellis and Phil on the start line as one of the Team Donkey Sanctuary runners.

Chris is not new to running such a distance, having completed Edinburgh and Birmingham marathon in the past. To help build up his mile count, Chris, who works in for his family’s furniture business, has enlisted the help of his friend Roger, who ran the London event in 2016.

Chris and his wife Andrea first discovered The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth while on a family holiday in Devon in 2016. The sanctuary was very close to their holiday cottage, where they have since stayed many times, including at Christmas.

“Our six-year-old daughter Alexandra loves nothing more than going for a walk to see the donkeys on Christmas Day and wishing them all a ‘Merry Christmas’,” said Chris. “That is all she wants for Christmas, so we’ve booked again for this year!

“I think that the reason we love the donkeys and The Donkey Sanctuary is that you can still feel the love and passion that their founder Dr Elisabeth had all those years ago. Despite the fast-paced technological world we live in, The Donkey Sanctuary is place of calm and peace.”

To keep updated on Chris’ progress, including how to support his fundraising, visit his Just Giving page

Are you running London Marathon for an equine charity or good cause? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Email rachaelmaryturnerhook@gmail.com

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