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Melksham resident, Darren Crook, completed a ‘Run of Remembrance’ on Friday 4th June to mark this year’s World War II D-Day commemorations: D-Day 77, raising over £8,200 for charity.
Darren’s ‘Run of Remembrance 2021’ set out to raise welfare support money for Normandy veterans, whilst also raising awareness of the contribution made by Melksham to the D-Day campaign.
With almost 35 years of military service himself, Darren set out on in support of The Spirit of Normandy Trust, running a route between Fort Henry at Studland and the D-Day Centre at Portland: an area of coastline that was pivotal to training for D-Day.
The route also matched the distance between Pegasus Bridge and Utah Beach in Normandy, which was Darren’s original plan until Covid restrictions meant an alternative route was necessary. The route covered 44 miles of challenging terrain. And the undulating hills of the Jurassic coastline resulted in over 2,200 metres of ascent – the equivalent of scaling Snowdon twice. It took Darren nearly 11 hours to complete the challenge.
Darren said, “I built up my running over the last 4 months and put in over 590 miles to prepare myself for what is a tough and rigorous route. Three of us ran the whole route together and we are all of an age where we should really know better! But it is a tremendous cause and presented an opportunity for us to highlight the selflessness of a generation that secured our freedom.”
“We knew it was going to be tough, but it was also exceptionally hot on the day. Our support team met us every 6-7 miles to provide additional fluids and so all of the planning and training paid off. It was then about perseverance and staying focused on our personal mission.
“One of my soldiers sent me a Winston Churchill quote just before the run: ‘If you are going through hell, keep going’. It was an unexpected message, but a useful reminder of the need to just keep at it.
“The Spirit of Normandy Trust provides welfare support to our veterans, including Allan ‘Calvados’ Gullis here in Melksham and Wally Beale in Atworth.
“Beyond this, the Trust also supports a range of educational activities to ensure that the sacrifice of those involved in the Normandy Campaign is not forgotten: their work is deeply important to the legacy that is our freedom.”
Darren ran the route with the memory of Trooper Charles David Townshend of the 4th County of London Yeomanry in mind.
Charles is remembered on the Melksham Memorial having been killed in action on 11 June 1944 in Normandy, but has no known grave; Charles was aged just 26.
Darren said, “I know Covid has impacted each and every one of us, and some more than others, but the veterans have clearly been hard-hit and this run gives me an opportunity to raise some important funds, whilst also showing how important running can help mental health. I’d set a meaningful target to run for – £7,776, and we achieved that total on the actual anniversary of DDay which was simply amazing.
“Every penny counts for the veterans and so every additional donation is gratefully received. Putting the price of a coffee or a pint of beer to this cause will be a small act that can make a very big difference to these hugely generous people to whom we owe so much.”
Darren’s Just Giving page can be accessed via www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Darren-CrookRunofRemembrance2021