Written by Emma Wright

TWO nurses taking on 12 challenges for their hospitals are celebrating the end of their incredible year of fundraising.

Lauren Baybutt and Luke O’Hara, who both work for Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, have together raise more than £10,000 for the Trust’s own Charity – Manchester Foundation Trust Charity.

Coincidentally they both decided to do 12 challenges in 12 months, but neither was aware of the other’s intentions when they started out. But now they’ve become friends and bonded over the trials and tribulations of taking on such a mammoth task.

Luke chose to do his challenges for Wythenshawe Hospital, where he works as an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) coordinator. He took on 12 marathons, travelling up as far as Orkney and into Europe to complete his mission.

Meanwhile Lauren, who is a Clinical Educator at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, set herself a variety of walking and running challenges, including the Amsterdam Marathon, which was also one of Luke’s events.

Lauren’s challenges finished on New Year’s Eve, while Luke’s 12th marathon was Marrakesh on 28th January.

Luke, who turned 30 when his events began in February, said: “I wouldn’t go as far as saying it has been ‘life-changing’, but it’s certainly had a huge impact on my life. It’s been a positive thing to look forward to each month and I do worry there’ll be a sense of emptiness when it’s over. I might have to think of something else to set myself!”

Luke’s 12 marathons have not been the only running he’s been doing. To maintain his fitness between each event, he’s been running around 50km per week. With each event that has passed, he’s noticed the recovery time has become much quicker.

But that doesn’t mean the challenge hasn’t come without pitfalls. Luke said: “When I did Salisbury Marathon it was -4 degrees. My hair and eye lashes actually froze – my head was just one huge icicle. Even other people running the event and the crowd were taking pictures of me because I looked so strange.

“Lots of people were wearing jumpers and winter running gear, but I wanted to be consistent, so I was determined to still wear my Charity vest for it.”

Luke’s highlight was the Orkney Marathon, despite the weather being a hindrance. He said: “I was soaked and I was only there and back in three-and-a-half days but it was such an adventure. The scenery was incredible and I was so glad I had the opportunity to go.

“It was a much smaller event than the others and I ended up coming third overall, so I got a trophy and some Orkney fudge. It was just such a real buzz and everyone was really nice.”

Both Lauren and Luke took part in the Amsterdam Marathon together in October and were able to meet up before and after the event. Lauren said: “Luke is such a happy person and so easy to get on with so it was really nice we could meet up. We didn’t actually run the event together as I was with my friend who was doing her first ever marathon, but we did spend lots of time with Luke and it was really nice to get to know him.”

Lauren’s highlight of her adventures was Walking the Jurassic Coast – a four-day, 115-mile hike in August. Although it was both physically and mentally draining – carrying equipment and walking in temperatures of up to 26 degrees – she was so pleased to have achieved such an iconic hike.

Lauren, 29, said: “I loved it for discovering new areas I’d never seen before and seeing such picturesque scenery. Me and one friend did the whole thing and then others joined us for part of the route. It was nice having their pick-me-ups when we were feeling tired. It was the hardest thing I’d done but definitely the most rewarding.”

Sadly Lauren’s last challenge – running 5K per day throughout December – was the thing she enjoyed the least and unfortunately an injury meant she couldn’t complete the challenge. Instead, she handed the reins to her boyfriend Harry, who completed the runs on her behalf.

Lauren said: “I pushed it a bit on the previous months but I went into December thinking it would be easy. So when I realised I was going to do myself a serious injury if I continued, the hardest part of it was actually admitting that and making the decision to stop.

“When the challenges started Harry always said he would take over if I was ever injured or needed a rest, so it was good he only had to do that in December. But I was definitely gutted to not finish like I’d wanted.”

Both nurses have done incredibly well and been a credit to their hospitals. Donna O’Reilly, Senior Manager for Community Fundraising at Manchester Foundation Trust Charity, said their achievements were something they should both be proud of, adding: “Lauren and Luke are truly inspirational – not only do they look after patients and families and work in, what I am sure is, a very emotionally challenging role, they also gave up hundreds of hours in their spare time to take on these challenges. I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done.”

Not satisfied with completing 12 marathons, Luke has added a final event to round things off – designing his own route around some of the Trust’s largest hospitals – and creating a bespoke marathon from Wythenshawe to North Manchester General and back. This event is in February and he hopes some of his colleagues and friends will be able to join him for part of the route.

To sponsor Luke and support Wythenshawe Hospital visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/luke-o-hara3

To sponsor Lauren and support Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lauren-baybutt23

To find out about supporting these two hospitals and others in Manchester, and for a full list of events and fundraising activities, visit www.mftcharity.org.uk

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