An ultra-runner is making a bid to run 420 miles along UK canals across three gruelling races, to raise funds for Newcastle based international children’s charity COCO (Comrades of Children Overseas) and to mark the 25th anniversary of his business.
Fifty-five-year-old Keith Burge, MD of ERS Economic Consultants which he set up in 1994, is set to take on the first leg of the CanalSlam challenge this weekend (Saturday 25th – Sunday 26th May) when he lines up with around 100 runners as they aim to complete the 145-mile Grand Union Canal race between Birmingham and London along towpaths.
To complete CanalSlam Keith must also finish a second 145-mile race between Bristol and London in July followed by a 130-mile race between Liverpool and Leeds at the end of August which coincides with ERS’s ‘silver’ anniversary. All three races are non-stop and have around a 50% completion rate; in 2018 only 9 people completed all three races in an average time of just over 110 hours.
Keith, who lives in Gateshead having relocated to the North East from Shrewsbury over 30 years ago, comments: “When my 50th birthday was looming, I took up running to see if I could get myself properly fit and thought entering ‘something’ might help. The internet revealed to me the world of the ultramarathon and all of its wonders and I’ve since done a few, with varying degrees of failure! This year I decided to go all out and do something significant that would not only raise valuable funds for COCO’s vital work in East Africa but which would commemorate 25 years of ERS.”
“These races are brutal and have a high drop-out rate. I’m hoping to complete this weekend’s Grand Union Canal Race in a day and a half starting at 6am at Gas Street in Birmingham on Saturday and hopefully finishing at Paddington mid-afternoon Sunday.”
Keith is hoping to raise more than £1000 to support COCO’s work, which helps people living in poor and marginalised communities in East Africa to access the education that creates lifelong opportunities that would otherwise be denied to them.
He adds: “Through ERS’ evaluation work across the UK, we have witnessed first-hand the positive impact that access to education can have in breaking the cycle of poverty. I imagine that in East Africa that impact is very much greater. I hope that by taking on CanalSlam I can raise enough funds to help even more children receive a good quality education and the best possible start in life.”
COCO was co-founded by Steve Cram and British Army Major Jim Panton in 2000. It invests in small, sustainable, community led initiatives that can make a big difference at a local level. Key projects include the Schools for Life programme which has now enabled 2,940 young people to access sustainable education in a safe environment. The charity has now supported 50 transformational projects in 16 countries in total, positively impacting the lives of over 200,000 people.
To find out more about the work of COCO visit www.coco.org.uk, find the charity on Facebook or follow @COCO_Charity on Twitter.
To support Keith’s fundraising bid visit https://wonderful.org/fundraiser/canalslam-0c95078a. For more information about ERS visit: www.ers.org.uk