TWO martial arts experts will kick off a four year fundraising campaign for Sunderland-based charity Hope 4 Kidz this Saturday (June 25) as they scale three of Yorkshire’s highest hills.
Self-proclaimed ‘bionic man’ Owen Murray MBE and his close friend Harry Johnson, both from Sunderland, have pledged to support the charity by undertaking four punishing challenges.
With one planned each year until 2019, the pair hope to raise as much money as possible for the charity, which makes a difference to the lives of youngsters with life-limiting illnesses, special needs or who are living in poverty.
Over the next four years the pair will take on a number of gruelling fitness challenges covering thousands of miles and split into four ‘episodes’.
Episode One is a three-part challenge for 2016, which will begin this Saturday, June 25 with the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge where they will tackle peaks Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough in under 12 hours.
This will be followed by The Lyke Wake Walk which is a 40-mile walk across the entire North Yorkshire Moors on July 11 and then the pair will walk Hadrian’s Wall early in August, covering a total of 141 miles and an ascent of 16,059ft.
But this is just the beginning. Next year they will take on the Three Peaks West Coast and the Pennine Way and then in 2018 will walk the 1200 miles from Lands End to John O’Groats.
All of these will build up to their biggest challenge of all in 2019 when they cover the 2,500-mile Great Wall of China.
Owen, aged 65, is known as the ‘bionic man’ because he has only one arm, having lost his left hand in an industrial accident at the age of 20. Shortly after the accident he took up karate and within 10 years had become one of a handful of black belts in the North East and a member of the England squad.
With numerous medals and accolades including two European Championship golds and a World Championship bronze, he has spent 20 years working alongside people with disabilities, receiving the MBE for his hard work in 1994.
He has also had two hip replacements although this has done little to slow him down, and is constantly looking for new fitness challenges.
Harry is an ex-reservist airborne soldier who is a 1st Dan Ju Jitsu instructor. Now aged 60, he reached the British Kick Boxing Finals in 1984 and has been friends with Owen for more than 40 years having met through martial arts.
“We’ve been friends and trained together ever since and are always looking for new ways to push ourselves,” explained Owen. “After a few drinks one night we decided to give ourselves this first challenge and before we knew it we’d increased to four challenges for four years.
“We decided to use these challenges to raise money for a good cause and chose Hope 4 Kidz because it’s a Sunderland charity close to our hearts. We hope as many people as possible can get behind us and support us via our Just Giving page so we can help make a difference to lives of youngsters who really need it.”
Viv Watts of Hope 4 Kidz added: “We were thrilled when Owen got in touch with us and explained he wanted to do this. It’s a massive challenge that they’ve set for themselves but we know they can do it. They’re both incredibly fit and very inspirational characters and we’re delighted to have them on board.”