Beth and Tom Baker, who go to Longhope Church in the Forest of Dean, have just completed the London Marathon, which took place on 2 October, to help raise funds for the much-needed repair of the church bells.
While no strangers to running, having run the virtual Marathon in 2020, this was their first time running in London alongside thousands of others.
Tom, 38, ran for Brain Research UK in memory of his father who died from dementia aged 67 in April 2021. While Beth, 38, ran for Longhope Church and in memory of her Auntie Maureen who died in December 2021.
Beth says, “Longhope Church has been a big part of our lives for as long as I can remember. I was confirmed and married there, our three children were christened there and our middle daughter recently confirmed there. The church is a major part of our village and to hear the bells ring really feels like home.”
The bells at Longhope Church have rung since the 1700s, for wedding celebrations, funerals, village events, royal events and even warnings of Nazi invasions in World War II. However, a five-year building inspection at the church highlighted that urgent remedial strengthening and repairs to the tower were needed. Until this work is completed, the church bells cannot be rung – something the village has missed for over a year. To raise funds, the church set up a JustGiving page inviting members of the worshipping community to ‘Adopt an Anchor’, which is the new anchor rod needed to secure the tower.
The Revd Lara Bloom says, “At the beginning of this year, we were faced with the task of raising £165,000 for the church tower to be repaired and strengthened to enable the church bells to be rung again. Through the amazing fundraising efforts of the Friends of Longhope Church and members of the PCC and congregation, we are coming close to our target. This really has been a campaign that has united the village of Longhope and attracted really humbling support from so many people.
“Beth and her family are a wonderful presence in the village and in church. They are always smiling and positive and are an integral part of our monthly family service. We are all so grateful to Beth for running the marathon in aid of the tower appeal and our prayers went with her and Tom. I’m sure it was an amazing experience for them but also none of us underestimate the challenge. Thank you Beth and Tom.”
Tina Coull, Chairman of The Friends of Longhope Church, said, “Beth and Tom have not only raised vital funds but have given a lot to the village – lots of enjoyment, entertaining events, creating fun and making a few pennies along the way. Fundraising for the tower has been a huge task, so Longhope PCC has been concentrating on grant applications. The Friends of Longhope Church have been fundraising hard and then when the kind offer of Beth and Tom’s Marathon challenge came, it really was welcomed with open arms.
“All I can say is thank you Beth and Tom from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for helping make our village a ‘happy village’ and hopefully one day soon, with your help, the church bells will be ringing down the valley and you can say you helped bring them back to life.”
After the race Beth said, “It was tough. I loved the first 12 miles and then I got intermittent cramp at mile 12 and then it set in most of the time from mile 18 and I just kept hobble running home. My mum has suffered with cramp and I thought of her and how she would be encouraging me to forget it and just finish. On top of it all, my watch went wrong and I couldn’t see what mile I was on or my pace from mile 19. I was pleased that I didn’t walk once and just kept running. Tom’s race was similar, his leg started to hurt at mile 18 but he carried on through the pain and finished.
“The marathon medal states ‘we did it together’ and I really believe that, with all our fundraising events and help and support. The crowd were immense. My favourite quotes from the race were one man who said, “Beth, do you think you can fit any more bananas in there?” (I had two in each side pocket.) Then someone tapped my shoulder at the end and told me that my auntie would have been with me every step of the way, which reminded us why we were doing this run.
“Today, we are definitely feeling it, my cold has come out fully and we can barely walk but it is all worthwhile for the memory and the fundraising.”
Beth ran in memory of her Auntie Maureen for Longhope Church, she can be sponsored through the church fundraising page: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/longhopeadoptananchor
Tom ran for Brain Research UK in memory of his late father, his fundraising page is here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Thomas-Baker16