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From Stroke to 22 Mile Hike!

A former Somerset man, who could barely talk or walk after suffering a stroke last year, has just completed one of Scotland’s toughest endurance challenges.

Former soldier turned businessman Richard Keys (49), who now lives in Northern Ireland, completed his sixth Yomp which saw him walk 22 miles across the Perthshire countryside to raise funds for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity. Since 1944, the Army’s National Charity has been providing a lifetime of practical and financial assistance to soldiers, veterans and their families across the UK. To date, this year’s event, which took place on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 June 2022, has raised over £450,000.

Richard, who was widowed three years ago, completed the route with one of his daughters, Chloe, in 8hours and 10 minutes, as part of the team ‘Keep Going…’. His lifelong friend Philip Wilson, who completed his first Gold, accompanied them throughout the 22 mile route.

Richard Keys Cateran Yomp

Richard Keys (centre) with friend Philip and daughter Chloe.

The 11th Cateran Yomp, which coincided with The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Weekend, saw 631 soldiers and civilians walk side by side on a 24-hour trek across the beautiful hills and glens of the historic Cateran Trail in Perthshire.   Participants travelled from as far as the U.S, Canada, Australia, Cyprus, Poland and the Netherlands.  Starting at 6am on Saturday and ending in the early hours of Sunday, the event challenged teams of brave souls to walk 22, 36 or 54 miles in less than 24 hours. They enjoyed favourable weather, with the distraction of live music, magical lit forests and fireworks!

Richard, who previously achieved two Golds and two Silvers, suffered a stroke in early 2021 after a brain clot caused by Covid-19.

“It was a terrible and frightening time. My daughter found me and called the ambulance. By the time I came to in hospital, I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t have any visitors due to Covid and felt so low. I discharged myself after nine days despite struggling to walk, and with little control over my body. Being home alone really caused my mental health to plummet. I was also embarrassed to tell anyone I’d had a stroke and was becoming distant from everyone. As I began to acknowledge what had happened and tell people, I began to see how important a loving family is.

“I was determined to come back and do another Yomp so, in 2021, I tried again.  It was extremely tough and, at Kirkmichael, I sat for two hours before throwing in the towel. I was broken, physically and mentally but a medic from St John’s Ambulance sat with me and basically saved my life. That’s when I knew I had more life in me and booked up for the 2022 Yomp. My friend Philip and daughter didn’t let me down – I was slow but I did it. I’m so proud of myself and can’t wait to return in 2023. To anyone who’s had a stroke, tell people, be open and don’t be embarrassed. Accept help and be proud you’re still alive.”

Since its launch, the Cateran Yomp has raised over £4M for The Soldiers’ Charity, with donations funding everything from wheelchair ramps for soldiers’ homes to respite care and personal recovery plans for injured soldiers returning from the front line. Last year alone, the charity supported 60,000 people in 63 countries around the world.  This year’s event took on extra significance as an official Queen’s Platinum Jubilee event, with the Queen the Patron of ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and Commander in Chief of the British Army.

Meanwhile, second place Gold medals went to Martin Greenaway (52) from Essex, finishing in 13 hours and eight minutes, with third place going to Alexander Seagar (37) from Sunderland, completing in 13 hours and 30 minutes.

The Famous Grouse sponsored this year’s event alongside Dover Fueling Solutions, Pure Storage and Arnold Clark Car and Van Rental. The Cateran Yomp also work with a range of local sponsors who donate gifts in kind for the event, including Castle Water, Mackie’s of Scotland and Tunnocks.

Setting off the participants was Lieutenant Colonel (retd) Alan Crawford.  Alan served with the Scots Guards for 40 years and completed operational tours of Northern Ireland, the first Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan as well as deploying on OP CORPORATE in the Falkland Islands as Platoon Sergeant of No1 Platoon, Right Flank.

Alan joined the 2nd Battalion The Scots Guards in 1971 and had a 40-year career, which saw him complete Regimental tours in Germany, Northern Ireland, Belize and Kenya.   He retired from the Army in 2011 and joined ABF The Soldiers’ Charity as Head of Individual Grants the same year. After seven wonderful years with the charity, Alan decided to ‘Step Off’ and join the world of retirement. He settled in Northern Ireland and maintains close links with the Army and charity.

Yomp 22

Major General Tim Hyams OBE, Chief Executive of ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, added, “ABF The Soldiers’ Charity was absolutely delighted to be back in the Highlands this weekend for the Cateran Yomp, which this year has been one of the official events of the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen, our Patron.  So, it was particularly special to come together over the Platinum Jubilee weekend itself to raise considerable funds to support our work to provide a lifetime of support to serving soldiers, former soldiers, and their immediate families when they are in need.

“An immensely tough but also incredibly rewarding event, my heartfelt congratulations and thanks go to every participant.  As always though, the event’s success rests on the contribution made by those who supported it so brilliantly.  And so my sincere thanks go to the support teams, caterers, event sponsors and individual sponsors.”

For more information, visit https://soldierscharity.org/yomp or  https://www.facebook.com/cateranyomp.

ENDS