A 75-year-old psychologist has proved mind can triumph over matter by completing a marathon walk in aid of the North Wales NHS charity on two artificial hips and a pair of stiletto shoes.
Fay Harris also suffers from ME and has twice broken her neck but it didn’t stop the keen horsewoman who has a smallholding near the village of Mynydd Llandygai from tackling her own Lockdown challenge.
She decided to match the 26.6 miles of the cancelled London Marathon by walking a 2.6-mile figure of eight route round the village every day for 10 days and finished off by donning her brand new high-heeled dancing shoes for the trip.
It’s done the trick as so far she has raised £1500 for Awyr Las, the NHS charity for the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board area.
Fay, who broke her neck when her faithful horse accidentally butted her and sent her flying to land on her neck – the indomitable pensioner came to and wrapped her neck in a scarf before going to hospital.
She said: “When I got there they were shocked at my appearance and when I asked what was the matter they told me my face had gone green.
“I had an X-ray which showed that one of my neck vertebrae had been fractured and then the doctor told me I had had another neck fracture a long time before – I think it must have been the time when I was ten and I fell off a haystack and was in a coma for a month.”
The grandmother and mum of three has been inspired to raise money for Awyr Las for the Alaw Cancer Ward at Ysbyty Gwynedd by her 80-year-old sister who has beaten the disease three times and her daughter, Sally, who has also survived it.
Fay said: “My sister, Faunne Statham, has had three life-saving operations there, twice for bowel cancer and once for breast cancer, and my daughter, who has five children, survived leukaemia myeloma after months of treatment on Alaw Ward.
“When all this started with Covid-19 and the lockdown I thought I had to do something and while I can’t sew and make facemasks I have always done lots of walking so I decided to walk the marathon distance on consecutive days.
“I felt a bond with the Alaw Ward, especially as my daughter was there and was very poorly so my daughter and my sister inspired me.
“I have had four operations on my hips starting in 2005 and the last in 2015 but I walk up Snowdon and back down every year for the Orthopaedic Hospital in Gobowen.
“I’ve also had recurring episodes of ME – Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, chronic fatigue syndrome – for 27 years; in the first three weeks my weight dropped to five and a half stone. “I’m still riding but my horse is 28 now and I don’t want to push her too much.”
Fay also used to ride motorbikes and has toured, pillion, round much of Europe on two wheels and even crossed over to Morocco with her friend, Mike Vitkovitch.
She was born in Selly Oak, Birmingham, but has lived most of her life in North Wales and originally did a Psychology degree at Bangor University where she returned to do her doctorate, specialising in pre-speech children.
She has also run her smallholding of 11-and-a-half acres for many years, keeping cattle, sheep and goats and helped to resurrect the North Wales Goat Society, winning prizes at shows across North and Mid Wales.
She added: “I’ve had a varied life and I don’t feel I’ve retired because I’ve always been working quite hard on the farm and helping with my grandchildren.
“Mike and I have ridden our horses for many miles in aid of the British Horse Society’s campaign to safeguard bridleways.
“The business with finishing in high heels started as a bit of a joke because I enjoy dancing and my old high heels had given up the ghost.
“I didn’t think these new ones would stand up to the tarmac but I did an additional walk in them, for one and a half miles, and they were wonderful and so are all of the people who have supported me and Alaw Ward.”
Kirsty Thomson, head of fundraising for Awyr Las, said: “Fay is a wonderful person and she is an absolutely inspirational figure – she has done so much despite having ME, breaking her neck twice and having her hips replaced.
“There’s no stopping her though and my colleagues on the Alaw Unit and everyone involved in Awyr Las are hugely grateful for her efforts and those of so many people across North Wales.
“Thanks to the support of incredible people like Fay, Awyr Las brightens the lives of hospital patients and people receiving health care in the community and helps change and save lives by supporting additional equipment, facilities, special projects, education and research that goes over and above what the NHS provides.”
To donate to Fay go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Fay-Harris6