Jenny Pullen, 39, of Haywards Heath, at the start of 2020 took on the challenge of running 12 half-marathons across the UK in as many months to mark a milestone birthday and raise funds for international development charity Tearfund.
‘I’m turning 40 in December, and this challenge has been a great way for me to celebrate that milestone whilst raising money for a charity I believe in,’ shares the part-time physiotherapist.
Jenny is a seasoned runner but this year has been her biggest challenge yet.
‘I’ve done marathons and half-marathons before, but nothing quite like this. The logistics of organising my runs was a lot harder than I expected, and that was before coronavirus changed my plans. It’s been tough to ensure I’ve trained enough for each half-marathon. My husband and children have been fantastic in helping me manage my family and work life alongside the runs.’
Jenny initially started the runs on her own, which was tough, but her friend Claire Reyner, who also turned 40 this year, joined the challenge after May which changed the game.
‘Having Claire by my side meant we could focus on encouraging each other and pushing ourselves further than we ever thought possible. We’re even celebrating our 40th birthdays by running the halves together; we ran on Claire’s birthday back in October and we’ll be celebrating mine in December during our final half. Every single run has felt like an adventure, and I’ve experienced an excitement of doing them with a friend whilst raising money for Tearfund.’
The mother of two was inspired to raise money for Tearfund when she heard about children dying from malnutrition in Yemen. Yemen is currently the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis, with over 24.1 million people urgently needing aid. One of the poorest countries in the Middle East, Yemen’s civil war has crippled the country’s water, sanitation and health infrastructures.
Over 85,000 children have died from hunger or disease since 2015. Furthermore coronavirus is spreading undetected with Yemen now facing dangerous pandemic outcomes and an estimated 80,000 deaths.
Through its partners, Tearfund is providing conflict-affected families with food baskets and hygiene materials to help reduce the risk of illness and disease. Seeds and tools have also been distributed to help people plant vegetable gardens, and community welfare groups are being established for vulnerable people.
Tearfund supports mothers like Farah who was forced to flee her home with her young children when fighting erupted in their village in south west Yemen.
‘It was the worst day in my life when I left my house,’ recounts Farah. ‘I have not seen anything good since that ominous night. I hope to return to my house as soon as possible.’
Farah wasn’t able to take any of her things with her; she just hoped to find somewhere safe. They found themselves in one of the few places where no one stopped them from setting up shelter – a graveyard. But with no possessions or materials to build even a make-shift home, it was a challenge to start again in the bleak outdoors.
Since hearing Farah’s story, it has weighed heavy on Jenny’s heart as she continued her challenge.
‘My children are a similar age as Farah’s and I couldn’t stop thinking about what I would do if it were my family in that situation, especially during a global pandemic. There are several occasions during runs where I’ve had to remind myself that I’m doing this so Tearfund can help those who have so little.’
£46 could provide a family like Farah’s with a food basket, containing essential food and cooking items. £70 could provide two families with vital hygiene kits, including soap, toothpaste, sanitary products and nappies.
Jenny’s desire is that others will follow her lead and be inspired to set their own challenges to make a difference. ‘This year has reminded me that life can change without any warning. Doing these runs has been so rewarding and no matter how far you run, together we can all get involved and run to beat poverty.’
'Jenny is an inspiration and shows how dedicated our fundraisers are as they help transform the lives of people living in extreme poverty,’ says Jo Mummery, Head of Tearfund’s Community Fundraising. ‘Her determination to continue to partner with Tearfund throughout an international pandemic will bring hope and make a difference to people like Farah who are facing the effects of poverty and coronavirus.’
To see Jenny's progress, to donate or set your own challenge, visit www.justgiving.com/team/1212hmteam.
For more details about fundraising for Tearfund, visit www.tearfund.org/fundraise. Details of Tearfund’s work in the Middle East and how you can support it, can be found at www.tearfund.org/homeis.
For further information or interview requests with Jenny Pullen, contact Oliver Needham on 07929 353530 or the Tearfund Media Team on 07929 339813.
Photocall ‘Jenny Pullen (R) and Claire Reyner (L) at Ditchling Beacon in the South Downs, September 2020.’