Swindon gym instructor's 420 mile canalside charity run

By Jessica Durston - 21 July 2021


Personal trainer Neil Wheeler, is running three of Britain's longest canal races for Julia's House children's hospice.

The 39-year-old completed the first leg of his triple ‘Canalslam’ challenge in May. Neil ran 145 miles in 42 hours 31 minutes along the Grand Union Canal, from Birmingham to London.

The personal trainer is now gearing up for the next non-stop 145 mile Kennet and Avon canal race, from London to Bristol, starting tomorrow - 23 July. He will finish with a 130 mile race along the Leeds and Liverpool canal on 28 August.

Neil, who works at Pure Gym in Swindon and lives in Collingbourne Ducis, said: “I’m a keen runner and I train at work as well, so the hardest part for me is the mental challenge. Because it’s on the canal, people get spread out very quickly and there are times when you don’t see anyone else for a long time.

“These races are non-stop through the night, and when you’re on your own and the sleep deprivation kicks in you could give up quite easily. There were 90 runners in the Grand Union canal race, but only 44 finished. It is really tough, especially around the 100 mile mark. In the last 12 miles, I was falling asleep while I was running.

“I’m a little bit anxious about the races coming up, but as long as I’m in good shape it shouldn’t be a problem. I’ll be running through Marlborough and the Caen Hill locks in Devizes, so I’ve got a few friends that will come out to help me, but for most of it I’ll be on my own.”

Neil has already raised £650 with his challenge for Julia’s House children’s hospice, to support the charity’s care for some of the most seriously ill children and their families across Wiltshire.

He added: “With lockdown, I know that the charity has really struggled so it feels like the least I could do. I know how essential that care is for children with disabilities and complex needs, and especially for the families that are looking after them.

“I’ve got a running friend who cares for her brother because he has a head injury. She juggles caring for him at the same time as looking after her own two children and working. That’s really hard for her and it’s important she has support, so she can have breaks and time for herself.”

Nicky Clack, Fundraising Administrator for Julia’s House, said: “We’re completely in awe of Neil’s energy and drive to complete his ‘Canalslam’ challenge for Julia’s House children’s hospice. We rely entirely on our amazing supporters to help us keep caring for seriously ill children and their families in Wiltshire, so we’d like to say a huge thank you to Neil for his ongoing support for Julia’s House – and good luck!”

Neil explained that training for an endurance running challenge like the ‘Canalslam’ was all about building up slowly and putting in the miles.

He added: “To prepare, I did something called an accumulator over January and March, where you run the same number of miles as the date you’re on.”

“I started with just one mile on day one, and increased that every day until I finished with 31 miles on the last day of the month. And in the lead up to the race, I’ll run about 40 miles twice a week.”

Neil's donation page can be found at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/neil-wheeler13

More information about Julia’s House children’s hospice can be found at www.juliashouse.org

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