When the starting horn sounds for the 2017 Vitality Bath Half Marathon, there will be an impressive group of runners setting out to raise money for people far less fortunate than themselves. Heading up the group will be 56-year-old Anna Campbell-Johnston, Programme Coordinator for Send a Cow, the Bath-based charity for which they will all be running and one which gives families in Africa real hope for the future.
Living in Bath and working in Newton-St-Loe, the award-winning Vitality Bath Half was an easy choice of race for Anna and her extended family. Taking place on Sunday 12th March 2017, the 13.1-mile race is one of the top three single day charity fundraising running events in the UK, raising over £2.2 million at the 2016 race alone. It is renowned for its fantastic atmosphere, flat and fast course and stunning location, making it a superb event for runners of all abilities and one which many runners come back to year after year.
Of the 130 official charities that the Vitality Bath Half Marathon supports, Send a Cow is a Diamond Bond Charity that works with local farmers in Africa to help them make a living from the land. Having worked for the charity for nine years, Anna was inspired to enter the race following a visit to Uganda in which she had visited an orphans project and been particularly moved by the situation of one family.
“The eldest boy, Kasiita, now 20, had been looking after his five siblings for five years on his own – since the youngest was three years old,” she recalls. “The afternoon I arrived they had not eaten that day and had nothing for their evening meal. They have recently joined the new Send a Cow project and Kasiita had just been trained in vegetable growing and other agricultural techniques. He was so proud that he could share this knowledge with other people in the community, but he and the rest of his family still have nothing to eat as they wait for the rains to come. I am trying to raise money for Kasiita and others like him, so they can have some hope for the future, and the children can go to school and not be hungry.”
The unique thing about Send a Cow is that it helps lift families out of poverty for good, not just for a few years. Through education and training, rather than simple handouts, communities are united and farmers gain the self-belief and skills to utilise the soil beneath them. They are able to become independent, which in turn builds a confident and thriving rural Africa. Some of the charity’s projects include distributing livestock, such as goats, and teaching the farmers how to feed and manage them: when the animals breed, the young are passed on to other farmers in the project, and the chain continues.
“I remember Kasiita’s face lighting up when he told me about the training he had received and how he could now support and help others”, says Anna. “He now had some worth within the community, people talked to him, and most importantly he had the vision that he could do something to improve his family’s situation on a permanent basis.”
A mother herself, it was understandably difficult for Anna to see children the same age as her own live in such circumstances. She wondered if her own children would have the resources to cope, and heard the sad news that Kasiita’s 17-year-old sister had disappeared, the sheer desperation of the situation possibly forcing her to earn money through any means possible – just as the Send a Cow project was about to happen.
That is why contributions from people like Anna are so important to Send a Cow, and why she has summoned 12 members of her extended family and friends to run the Vitality Bath Half Marathon with her this spring. And it won’t be the first time Anna has pulled on her running shoes for the much-loved local race – she has already completed the Vitality Bath Half five or six times, and it has become something of an event for her family and friends to gather for a big group fundraising and get-together.
Anna is certainly on the right track with her training, normally running three times a week with her dog. “I’m 56 and I’m not getting any faster,” she laughs, “but I hope to complete the course in under two hours.”
What remains to be seen is whether Anna will be donning her black and white cow suit, which she has worn for other charity events, to raise awareness for Send a Cow – alongside her dog in a matching suit! What is for sure is that she can be guaranteed a great crowd and a fantastic atmosphere on race day. “Bath is my home city and there is such a great feel on the day, with people cheering you all the way round,” she enthuses. “It is a beautiful city and I know a lot of people, so I absolutely love running the Bath Half.”
Anna’s group fundraising page is https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Henniesymington1.
Anyone wishing to run the 2017 Vitality Bath Half Marathon for Send a Cow can do so by visiting http://bathhalf.co.uk/charity/send-a-cow/.
Runners will be provided with all the resources they need in return for their efforts, including a cow print running vest and plenty of fundraising materials to help them reach their target and make a difference to lives in Africa.
General public entries have sold out for the 2017 Vitality Bath Half Marathon but the organisers have confirmed that charity places are still available.
Cancer Research UK is the Lead Charity for 2017, with Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens the official Family Fun Run Charity and Dorothy House Hospice Care the official Local Charity.
Go to www.bathhalf.co.uk/charities for further details about running for charity, like the Facebook page www.facebook.com/BathHalfMarathon and follow @bathhalf #bathhalf on Twitter to keep up to date with all the latest news about the Vitality Bath Half Marathon.