A six-year-old girl will swap her toys for trainers and run a charity mile accompanied by legendary Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman MBE at MediaCityUK tomorrow.
This run will be mile three of the magic 26 for Holly McHugh from Warrington, who decided to run a marathon and raise funds for Children with Cancer UK after being inspired by mum Sue’s efforts.
Sue will run the London Marathon in April for the third year running and now six-year-old Holly wants to get in on the act and not miss out on all the fun.
“She’s always asked if she could run a marathon with me,” said Sue, 40. “We realised that I’ll be 50 by the time she can take part, so maybe not!
“I just thought, ‘I’m sure she could manage it a mile at a time’.”
Each mile will see Holly joined by a different running partner, with miles one and two completed alongside Sue and Holly’s older brother Eddie.
But it’s Chris Boardman who will don his trainers for the next stage after Holly’s dad Paul, a cycling champion himself, called in a favour from his old Manchester Wheelers teammate.
Chris said: “Sometimes it isn’t a case of not why you should get involved, but why shouldn’t you?
“When someone, especially someone as young as Holly, sets out to do something good for others for no benefit to themselves that kind of example is tough not to support.”
Chris transformed British cycling after claiming gold in the 4,000m pursuit at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics – GB’s first gold medal for cycling in 72 years.
RARING TO GO! Holly and brother Eddie look forward to the races
A year later he set a new World Hour record and in 1994 turned professional and rode the Tour de France’s fastest ever prologue.
Also running a mile with Holly in the coming weeks are BBC sports presenter Mike Bushell and Coronation Street actress Krissi Bohn (who plays Jenna Kamara in the soap).
But it’s not just celebrities who will be joining her along the way, various friends in Warrington and even Holly’s teachers will take part too, each helping to add to the mammoth fundraising effort.
“What ties it all together is personal connections,” said Chris. “Everyone knows someone doing something to make lives better for other people.”
All of the money raised, around £1,800 so far this year, will go to Children with Cancer UK, who are providing Sue’s entry place for the second time.
Holly explained: “I am running for a charity which is helping children who are poorly – the money will help get medicines.”
Sue is no doubt relieved to have a partner, as tiny as Holly may be, to share the fundraising load.
In a desperate push ahead of last year’s marathon Sue pledged to run wearing a mankini (with flesh-coloured underwear to protect her modesty) if she could raise £1,000 in the five remaining days before the big race.
She raised £1,500.
“It was comfy actually because it felt like I was wearing nothing!” recalled Sue. “But it was obviously dead embarrassing!”
Regardless of the attire tackling a marathon is something most adults have no desire to do but it seems Holly already has the fitness bug.
“In her mind, she’s doing 26 miles – she’s envisaging getting through that in the same way I am,” said Sue.
Holly will complete her marathon with Sue in London, running her 26th mile somewhere along the Mall, after her mum finishes her own (consecutive) 26.
Looking at the achievements of her parents it’s not hard to understand where Holly’s drive comes from.
With a mum who can’t get enough of marathons and a dad who became British track cycling’s sprint champion in the late 80s, fitness is something that evidently runs in the family.
But as many will testify a marathon is also a test of mentality – and Holly’s challenge is no different.
“It’s quite interesting to see how sport impacts their life,” said Sue. “Not just focusing on what’s happening at school or computer games.
“It’s the only time you have ever seen the kids talking about helping other people – they don’t often get chance to think like that.”
Sue and Paul manage their visual effects agency Carbon Digital at Media City, where site owner Peel will provide a one-off track on the piazza.
The presence of an Olympian will undoubtedly draw in the crowds and donations, but it’ll take more than that to faze Holly.
“I am excited because he is famous,” she said. “I think he will be a fast runner and might be able to help me run better.”
For mroe information about Holly’s fundraising efforts, and to visit the donation page, click here.