Michelle Smith Thames Path Challenge (Bishops Park to Hurst Park 28km) for MicroLoan Foundation

How did you hear about MLF/Why MLF?

I was introduced to MicroLoan as it is the chosen charity of my workplace, The Executive Coaching Consultancy. Our founder Geraldine Gallacher has been involved with fundraising for MicroLoan before, and upon learning more about what kind of charity MicroLoan is –giving hope not handouts– I was keen to sign up for their latest endeavour.

MicroLoan appeals to me on so many levels. Having worked in a local based co-operative financial institution (community Credit Union) for three years, I met endless individuals and families who benefitted from such an institution, and saw how this model has a huge impact on the local economy and improvement of community services.  After exploring MicroLoan’s website and watching their inspiring videos detailing how they put this model in practice, I was extremely impressed. As a qualified teacher, I admired their various innovative methods of providing business training to the women – I particularly loved their marketing song! I knew my hard earned donations would be well spent and make an enormous difference to the individual women, their families, and their communities. A MicroLoan donation is one that truly keeps on giving, as the money repaid by the loans is recycled for new clients, enabling more women to transform their lives.

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How did you find the day?

I thoroughly enjoyed it! We had been warned it was due to be a washout, so waking up with the sun shining put me in a very positive mood! The MicroLoan team were very encouraging and after doing group stretches and an exhilarating and hilarious Zumba routine we set off, raring to go. I really enjoyed all the beautiful views, interesting towns, as well as the numerous historical buildings and landmarks along the riverside. It is truly a stunning route on a sunny day – I highly recommend trying a segment when the sun is out! It was lovely to meet new people and fall into easy conversation with them along the walk, discussing everything from life goals, politics, to favourite foods! The first half went well, apart from the odd twinge or need to stretch, but I was glad to reach the rest stop and stock up on water (not to mention the crisps, treats, and chocolate!).

I found the last five or six kilometres particularly tough. Once we crossed the bridge and walked along the boundaries of Hampton Court, a motivating Spotify playlist was the only thing that kept me going for a while! Coming around the corner and seeing the glorious Hampton Court Palace spurred me on, as did seeing the MicroLoan team with their banners encouraging us forward – not to mention the knowledge that rest and food were waiting at the finish line!


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What was the feeling like after?

Elation! Pride! Exhaustion! It was a brilliant feeling to see the finish line balloons as you rounded the corner. Being greeted with champagne and a medal felt fantastic. I was also very glad to be able to sit down for a while!

 Would you recommend doing a challenge event with MLF and why?

Absolutely! Apart from my reasons for choosing the charity, I found they were always extremely helpful in the administration process. Their fundraising manager Kasia came into our office and gave a presentation on the charity to encourage people to join the walk, answering various queries we had professionally, and speaking with warmth and passion about their cause. On the day of the event their team met us at various locations along the route, with banners and treats for us to keep spirits up. They also provided special t-shirts for us on the day, which added to our sense of unity. I couldn’t fault them at all, and will definitely be participating in their next event!

 

 

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