Fundraising Aberdeen mum to reach 5,000km target for MND

Jenni Rees-Jenkins on her way to completing £5,000km in a year. Picture: ContributedJenni Rees-Jenkins on her way to completing £5,000km in a year. Picture: Contributed
Jenni Rees-Jenkins on her way to completing £5,000km in a year. Picture: Contributed
Mum-of-two Jenni Rees-Jenkins is set to reach her target of running 5,000km in 2016

Jenni, 39, from Aberdeen, took on this mammoth challenge for the 5,000 people currently living with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in the UK.

The mum to Lily, 8, and Jasmine, 6, has also exceeded her fundraising target of £5,000 for MND Scotland, a charity close to her heart.

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The Alford Academy biology teacher said: “My close friend, Emily Catton, has been my inspiration. Her mum, Wilma, passed away from MND last January and I’ve never known a stronger family. I can’t even begin to understand what they went through.

“I started running seriously last year and managed to clock up just over 3,000km in 2015. People kept asking me if I was doing it for something in particular and if so, how could they donate.

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“Last year Emily, and her sister Gemma, were constantly doing things to raise money and awareness of MND and I just thought, why am I not doing this for a great cause?

“Then towards the end of last year I crossed the finished line at an Inverness race and all I could see was an MND Scotland flag ahead. I walked over and introduced myself to Iain McWhirter who works for the charity.

“We chatted for some time about Emily and the whole Catton clan, as well as the fantastic work the charity does to support people affected by MND.

“That’s when I finally decided I was going to do this. It was Iain who told me that there are 5,000 people in the UK living with MND, so it seemed fitting for me to up my target from last year to 5,000km in 2016.

“Not being directly affected by MND means it was sometimes hard to know what do or say to help my friend, and her family, through a very difficult period in their lives. This is how I can help now.”

Jenni has managed to find the time in between working, looking after her kids and doing a Masters in Education, at the University of Aberdeen, to complete this unbelievable challenge.

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She is now set to reach the 5,000km mark, the distance from Aberdeen to Boston, just two months before the end of the year, at the Glenogle 33 Ultra Marathon on 5 November.

She said, “I have been completely overwhelmed at so many points this year. What sticks out the most is the number of people I have met who identify with the charity and who have been so supportive of what I’m doing. I feel honoured to be supporting a charity that has already benefitted so many people who I know.”

Speaking about the challenges she has faced along the way she said, “Having to run 60 miles a week started to take its toll after the first three months and I found having constantly tired legs when trying to race was very frustrating.

“I gave up gaining good times to just surviving and that was a big change of mindset for me. The result of this has been that I feel freer, I am now running for enjoyment, not to be faster, and actually I find I’m enjoying running more.

“This challenge has meant that I needed to find new places to run and find more trails to reduce injury. From this has been born a new love of mountain and trail running.

“At the most difficult times I just focused on the money that had been donated and the reason why I was doing this.

“When I think of Emily and Gemma, and their own fundraising along with all the inspirational stories of those fighting the battle of MND, I found strength and the motivation to keep running. I have spent many miles with a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.”

Jenni is now looking ahead to the final stretch, saying: “I’m very excited about the last 200 miles. I have only two more races.

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“The next thing for me will be to see how many miles can I actually run before I officially finish in December and how much I can raise for MND Scotland! I am blessed that so many people have supported this mad challenge and have helped me along the way.”

Iain McWhirter, head of fundraising and volunteering at MND Scotland, said: “When I met Jenni for the first time her enthusiasm to do something to make a difference was so apparent.

“The Catton family have been heavily involved in supporting MND Scotland and it is amazing that this support is continuing to grow through their friends and family, including Jenni.

“Everyone at MND Scotland is in awe of what Jenni has achieved and we cannot thank her enough for her continued support.”