Picture this. Dan Gick is doing 10,000 press ups in 30 days. Oscar and Matilda are taking on the Chichester Junior Triathlon while parents Clare and Monty opt for the grown up version. Meanwhile ten men and women from Spire Hospital, Portsmouth have attempted to fling themselves from a plane at 15,000 ft, and, on 21 April, Mikey Neville completed his 200th triathlon.
What on earth (or in the sky) is happening in Chichester (pop. 26,795) that brings out such extreme fundraising? We had to find out.
Mikey Neville must surely qualify as one of the most extreme fundraisers we’ve encountered (and we’ve encountered quite a few). When his daughter, Snowdrop, was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma just having started school last September, ‘life was shattered into a million incomprehensible pieces'.
In order to help himself cope with this stress, Mikey went for a run. That run turned into an Olympic triathlon. He did it again the following day, and again the day after that. (Lest we forget, a triathlon is 10k run, a 40k bike ride and a 1.5km swim!)
‘This is the most terrible situation for a parent to find themselves in,' recalls Mikey. 'It very nearly broke me.' Despite the theraputic value of the activity, he is reluctant to give advice to other parents: 'I have been inspired by the bravery I have encountered when meeting other families living through this. I would not advise a triathlon every day, but I honestly feel that half an hour walking, jogging, cycling or swimming can turn a day around and give you the chance to find clarity for the way ahead.'
The same weekend that Mikey finished his challenge, five-year-old Snowy completed her final round of chemotherapy. 'Most importantly, Snowy is well and back to school. Chemo has finished and we now enter a new stage of scans and monitoring. It a strange transition for us as parents and inevitably, the worry doesn’t magically disappear. However, the intensive treatment plan is behind us, allowing us to get on with life. We feel very grateful for that.'
And what will Mikey do now that his extraordinary challenge is complete? ‘I am enjoying getting back to a bit of normality! I want to maintain my new level of fitness, so I'm back in the pool - but I am giving the battered feet and legs a break from running for a few weeks.'
Somehow we don’t think it’ll be too long before Mikey is back out there fundraising along with the rest of the population of Chichester.