Preparing for the London marathon to raise the huge total of £250,000 for charity is proving one of Dame Kelly Holmes’ most testing sporting challenges.
While it’s a world away from her experiences as a double Olympic gold medallist at the Athens Games back in 2004, she is immensely proud to be running this weekend for five extremely worthy charities.
Talking to the Times at the café she successfully set up in her home village of Hildenborough more than a year ago, the former Tonbridge Athletics Club member explained how the marathon carries plenty of personal significance. Among the charities she will be running for are Pickering Cancer Care, Hospice in the Weald, Mind UK and Myeloma UK, as well as her own Trust supporting young people.
Dame Kelly, who named her café 1809, her Olympic running number, said: “With me it has always got to be something big – so we will be hoping to raise £50,000 for each of the five charities, though I haven’t set a timeline for that, other than doing it this year.
“My mother Pam has just come out of hospital after having some great treatment for myeloma (blood cancer), which is why I’m raising money for Myeloma UK.
“I also chose Mind UK, having previously suffered from depression and I also selfharmed during my career, so it’s something I have been in a position to be able to talk to people about, as no matter who we are, we’re all human beings,” revealed the former Olympic champion, who is equally glad to be raising funds for Pickering Cancer Drop In Centre, which has a base in Tunbridge Wells.
The Hospice in the Weald also has an important place in her thoughts, as it had offered care to her coach and mentor Dave Arnold, who died there just two years after helping her to win her gold medals.
Since leaving the world of professional athletics, she felt one of her most satisfying achievements has been setting up the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust.
The organisation has helped more than 200,000 young people, including many from Kent, through its innovative sports mentoring.
Dame Kelly said: “It has been great to see those who have maybe not felt they had much hope in life manage to finish one of our programmes and stand up in front of a group on stage and think ‘my life is about to start now’ – which is brilliant.”
Reflecting on her own career, she recalled that from a young age growing up in Hildenborough participating in sports was her real strength. But despite gaining a silver medal at the World Championships in 1995, and a further bronze at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, her performances were hampered by injury.
Casting her mind back to her eventual victories in Athens, she said it was a ‘relief’ to finally win Olympic Gold, which she attributes to an attitude of self-belief. But does she miss the action of being out on the track?
“I don’t miss it at all, as I have different things happening in my life now. I did that for 12 years and it was fun while it lasted, but I don’t feel the need for it any more.
“Running was a massive part of my life, but I now have my work with the foundation, motivational speaking around the world and the café here in Hildenborough.”
She recognises that the London Marathon is going to be a significant challenge which may be some way outside of her comfort zone.
“I’ve only been out running since January, and it’s a very different event from what I am used to. But the best thing about it so far has been interacting with other runners on social media, which has proved inspirational.
“I can’t say that I’m actually looking forward to running that distance, but it will be amazing to be a part of this for the causes I’m doing it for. I’ve not competed for a long time, so I’m totally blagging it!”
To donate to Dame Kelly’s causes visit: www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/kellysHeros