How many 61-year-old women who have just beaten cancer take on an ultra marathon?

Alex Pilgrim from Blandford did just that, ably assisted by her ‘Combat Crew’ – five women who have supported her every step of the way.

They all took part in the Race to the Stones Ultra, covering 100 km in two days along the Wessex Ridgeway and now have the blisters to prove it.

They also raised almost £2,000 for us!

"I came up with the mad idea of doing an ultra marathon to celebrate my journey back to health. Our challenge was to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and prove to each of us that we are all capable of more than we think," she said.

“It was brutally hot – like a white linear oven - and you had to grit your teeth every step of the way. You counted the minutes to each aid station and when you got there it was like a war zone because so many people were suffering from blisters and exhaustion.

It was fairly emotional when we crossed the finish line as a team. It was sheer determination that got us through the last 10 miles.

The route of the Race to the Stones, organised by Threshold Sport, starts in Lewknor in Oxfordshire, rises onto the North Wessex Downs before an iconic finish between the towering stones of Avebury.

Alex’s Combat Crew are all friends from the runblandford running club who helped Alex on the road to recovery after her bowel cancer treatment. 

Taking part in the event were Karen Hall from Blandford, Zoe Blyth and Jo Stoker from Dorchester, and Ruth Oliver from Corfe Mullen. Jane Adams from Corfe Mullen and Jane England from Winterbourne Stickland were the sturdiest of back-up crews.

“The weekend felt quite transformational for all of us. Oh boy! It was hot and difficult but we did it. There was a great team spirit,” said Alex.  

The training has been intense.

The former teacher has notched up a stack of 10k events and half marathons in the last 18 months

“I wanted a proper challenge other than chemo and surgery,” she said. “I feel I’ve been doubly fuelled – one power pack is taking me away from cancer and another is pulling me towards a new life.”

Her training for Race to the Stones was intensive. It included research into nutrition and the best food to carry with her – which was heavy but essential. 

Alex was diagnosed with bowel cancer in May 2017 after receiving the test kit which forms part of the national bowel cancer screening scheme.

She believes in in the importance of research.

She chose to support Bowel & Cancer Research after she was asked to become part of a research project into bowel disease at Poole Hospital.

“They believe the research projects which Bowel & Cancer Research supports are very important and create a future free from bowel cancer and chronic bowel disease,” she said.

Our Chief Executive Deborah Gilbert thanked Alex and her Combat Crew. “It’s great to hear that Alex has recovered so incredibly well. Her achievements leave us breathless. Our mission is to ensure that no one should die of bowel cancer, and we can only make that happen with the support of fundraisers like Alex,” she said.

Support the Combat Crew