Team of friends conquer SAS fitness challenge in memory of Northampton's Daisy Ellis
A team of co-workers and friends battled extreme wind and rain this weekend to run up a Welsh mountain in memory of a brave Northampton woman.
Ex-soldier Jay Wood has beaten the 886-metre Pen Y Fan in Wales twice already. The hellish climb is a standard fitness test for marines and means running up over the peak and then back again in a gruelling four-hour ordeal.
But on Saturday, he convinced 10 of his friends and colleagues to run it with him.
They took on the Welsh peak on October 26 in memory of 23-year-old Daisy Ellis, a Northampton girl and friend of Jay's whose battle with stage IV sarcoma touched thousands of people after her death in September.
Jay, a 34-year-old business consultant from Abington, said: "I've known Daisy for years. Seeing her struggle has really brought it home for me. I've had other family members who have been affected or lost their lives to cancer. I just really wanted to do my bit."
Although Daisy passed away in September, Jay and his team drove on with their pledge to beat the Pen Y Fan and raise money in her name.
But when the squad arrived at the meeting spot on Saturday, they found the task ahead of them even more daunting than they imagined.
Jay said: "It was awful. The weather was vile. We set off at 8.20am and it was raining sideways.
"I'd run the course twice before but I didn't let on that this was the worst I'd ever seen it."
But the team from Harniss Building Services Solution persevered - and when they reached the summit, they stopped to put a picture of a daisy under a stone at the peak. They still had hours to go.
Jay said: "It's just four hours of mentally draining climbing and running. You think you've reached the top and then you turn a corner and see you've got more to go.
"It's important to keep morale up. You have to keep the banter going and keep the conversation flowing."
The SAS fitness route - which soldiers are tasked to beat in four hours - means climbing up over the peak, down to a set point, before turning around and running back the other way. It is designed to test trainee's physical and mental fortitude.
But, despite the extreme weather Jay and the team crossed the finish line together and clocked in at five hours and 30 minutes.
The challenge raised over £3,000 and will be donated to Nottingham City Hospital, who cared for Daisy when she died.
Jay said: "After we all showered we had lunch and raised a glass to her. We're going to try and make it a yearly thing now."
Daisy Ellis passed away on September 17. A charity appeal in her name has raised over £135,000 to fund research into sarcoma.