For Gill Barker from Wakefield, one charity challenge simply wasn’t enough. She tells Yorkshire Cancer Research about her ambitions to push herself to the limit before her 35th birthday.
From reaching the summit of Mount Everest to cycling thousands of miles across America, there’s no end to the lengths people will go to for a cause close to their heart.
Breaking boundaries and taking on gruelling endeavours can mean the person taking part enjoys the experience of a lifetime while the charity benefits from generous sponsorship.
But taking time off work and organising an extreme, and often costly, adventure just isn’t possible for everyone.
That’s why Gill Barker, from Wakefield, has created her own twist on the trend to find the toughest, most epic charity challenge.
Gill is set to turn 35 in 2020 – and reaching this milestone has inspired her to have a good think about what she’d like to achieve, both physically and mentally, and write a bucket list to help reach those goals.
Gill will complete an incredible 35 challenges before her 35th birthday. Some are small, some are huge, but all of them will push her beyond her comfort zone.
“Turning 33 felt like a big thing for me,” explains Gill, who works in marketing at Leeds Trinity University. “I started to think about the life decisions I’d made. I looked back and while I’d had fun, I regretted all those weekends where I could have been having more fulfilling experiences and creating memories.
Gill celebrates at the end of her Coast to Coast challenge
“I have a full-time job so I couldn’t do a massive overseas challenge, but I realised I could break it down into little bits and still raise as much money as possible for charity.”
Gill has already ticked 11 challenges off her list. She’s faced her fear of heights at the outdoor adventure centre Go Ape, trained with the Leeds Rhinos, cycled 128 miles from coast to coast and climbed Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales.
Gill trained with the Leeds Rhinos
Other challenges have involved changing her diet to ensure she’s getting all the nutrients she needs, and going to the gym more regularly on her own – something that would previously have caused Gill a considerable amount of anxiety. During the festive season, Gill kept active by completing a ‘12 days of Christmas’ workout challenge.
Gill during her '12 days of Christmas' challenge last December
Gill is now taking part in RED January, a campaign run in partnership with Mind that encourages participants to beat the winter blues by being active every day throughout the month. Later this month she’ll be taking to the slopes at Xscape Yorkshire to try her hand at skiing for the first time.
Gill’s biggest test of her ‘35 before 35’ mission so far will be taking part in a 24-hour run in March. The run will be completed on a 3.71-mile loop so not only will it be physically demanding, it will also play on her mental toughness. She will also be finishing the year in style by taking part in the Honolulu Marathon in Hawaii in December.
Gill at the summit of Snowdon
There are three conditions that all of Gill’s challenges must meet – they must be physical or stretch her mentally, they all need to be self-funded and they can’t affect her job.
Driving Gill’s ambition is a passion to help two local charities that have personal meaning to her – Yorkshire Cancer Research and Leeds Mind. She’s already raised more than £500 for the two causes.
Gill said: “Like many families across the UK, my own family has a history of cancer. But people close to me have recently been affected by cancer, too. They’ve all been so strong and inspirational. I wanted to do something that would support them. “I chose to raise money for Yorkshire Cancer Research after reading that people living here are more likely to get cancer, and more likely to die from it, than people living in other areas of the country. The statistics really shocked me.”
Gill chose Leeds Mind following her own struggles with mental health. Her ‘35 before 35’ challenge has helped her overcome a period of depression.
“It’s given me something to focus on,” Gill says. “Many people are affected by depression, even those who continue to work and function in everyday life. It’s very easy to fall into that slump and stop doing the things you used to enjoy. “I’m feeling much fitter and healthier, but I’m also happier and more confident now that I have a new focus. If I can encourage one person who may be going through a difficult period to be brave and do something they’ve never done before, face a fear or take on a new challenge in order to gain a new focus, then that would be brilliant. If I can do it, anyone can.”
Nikki Brady, Senior PR Officer, Yorkshire Cancer Research. Tel: 01423 877228. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
- Harrogate-based Yorkshire Cancer Research was founded in 1925 and is the largest independent regional cancer charity in England (Registered Charity 516898). We are not part of a national charity.
- We are committed to reducing the devastating impact of cancer on the lives of people living in Yorkshire.
- Our mission is to work in partnership, fund research and support initiatives that will help people in Yorkshire avoid, survive and cope with cancer.
- Current statistics show that 575 people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire every week. Incidence and mortality rates are higher than the England average due to social deprivation, post-industrialisation and lifestyle choices but also availability of healthcare services and difficulties accessing early diagnostics, clinical trials and the latest treatments.
- We aim to:
- Be the leading authority on cancer in Yorkshire, understanding the problems and priorities in the region and sharing knowledge with partners.
- Raise awareness of cancer and how to prevent it by working in local communities, schools and colleges, sports clubs and with other health-related organisations.
- Promote screening programmes and fund research that can improve the diagnosis of cancer so we can detect and treat it at the earliest opportunity.
- Invest in innovative research projects at every stage of a cancer patient's journey.
- For further information, please visit www.yorkshirecancerresearch.org.uk or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.