DUSC and University College set the pace in half marathon charity efforts for Olivia Inspires

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Running is a peculiar sport when one puts their mind to it. Placing one elongated leg before the other for the sake of enhanced speed is an action replicated by many of its colleagues, from football to rugby, hockey to tennis, and potentially even golf if you are in a sufficient rush.

However, this quality is also one that ensures running, in a variety of forms, is an almost universal skill that allows for the possibility of unity in pursuit of whatever finish lines there may be.

One such example of this phenomenon can be found in the charitable efforts of Durham University Sailing Club and University College, who are together seeking to complete Gateshead’s half marathon on Sunday 30th April to raise money for Olivia Inspires.

Olivia Inspires is a charity created in memory of Olivia Burt, a first-year Natural Sciences student who sadly passed away in February 2018 at the age of 20. The organisation aims to continue her spirit through the provision of assistance for children and young people in the New Forest District Council area who are facing financial hardship. Typically, this aid arrives in the form of financial grants for the purchase of items and services which will help these young people to develop their skills in STEM the arts and sport.

As it stands, 20 students from both DUSC and University College are set to begin the arduous task of Gateshead’s half marathon at 9am on the last day of April. Both groups will be equally represented, with ten each arriving from Palace Green and beyond.

Olivia Inspires has been the main charity the DUSC for the duration of my time at Durham and is so close to our hearts as Olivia was a member of the sailing club

Oliver wilson

Oliver Wilson, of DUSC, who has been central to the organisation of the third edition of this now annual event, told Palatinate of the significance Olivia’s memory possesses for the club, as well as the resulting importance of this occasion:

“Olivia Inspires has been the main charity the DUSC for the duration of my time at Durham and is so close to our hearts as Olivia was a member of the sailing club. I didn’t overlap with her but speaking to people that did she clearly had a massive impact on our club, and this is something we do to try our hardest to repay by raising money each year.

“I ran the half marathon as a fresher and really enjoyed being part of the team and now I have a role in running the DUSC I want to allow as many people to have the same experience as possible.

“Obviously we are aiming to raise as much money as we can for such a great cause, but it should hopefully help us come together as a club as well.”

Nonetheless, the event is to be no walk in the park for anyone involved, with the eye-watering distance on the horizon enough to make any legs wobble without appropriate preparation, regardless of how sea-ready they are.

“The event is exciting and nerve racking at the same time as it requires a different kind of fitness to those usually associated with sailors, so it will be interesting to see how it goes.”

The special influence Olivia had during her time in Durham can be observed aptly through the account provided posthumously in her academic yearbook by DUSC, which stated:

“Olivia was an exceptional sportswoman. During her short time in Durham, she showed herself to be dedicated, hardworking and successful, winning BUCS points for the University within a month of arriving. But much more than that, she showed herself to be an exceptional person. She was honest, kind and cheerful in a manner that made her smile almost infectious.

“Sound carries on water, and where once in training we could hear her laugh echoing across the lake, now it seems only an echo on the wind and in our hearts.

“Though she is gone, her example remains, and we will remember Olivia through any cold and rain that threatens to darken us. She represented a light in many of our lives, and we would see it kept that way.”

As a University College student, Olivia’s spirit is also one of especial feeling around the college, with this initiative being one of many promoted within Durham Castle’s sturdy walls

As a University College student, Olivia’s spirit is also one of especial feeling around the college, with this initiative being one of many promoted within Durham Castle’s sturdy walls. When speaking to Palatinate, Roberta Dedgjonaj, Castle JCR’s Outreach Officer, discussed what Olivia’s legacy means to the community alongside the challenges such an early wake up poses:

“At Castle, our Charities Committee continues to fundraise for Olivia Inspires through various efforts such as this marathon, bake sales and tuck shops. Through these fundraising efforts we spread word around Castle about Olivia Inspires and its efforts and keep Olivia’s memory alive in our community.

“Meeting with her parents who founded and run the charity and hearing the amazing impact that they’re having motivated me to continue this annual event alongside DUSC.

“Though I’m not looking forward to waking up at 6am, I am incredibly excited for the event and to cheer on all the runners taking part!”

As a concluding message, Ms Dedgjonaj said:

“I’d love readers to have a look at the Olivia Inspires website and see what they do for young people in the New Forest Area and encourage them to donate to the GoFundMe page if they can!”

Now only 21 challenging kilometres stand between those running and participation in a legacy that has and continues to offer others with the chance of growth and development, all in the name of the remarkable character that was Olivia Burt. Whatever happens beyond 9am on 30th April 2023, it is only a slice of the spirit that all should seek to emulate. Running may be peculiar, but it is most certainly beautiful in such instances.

Those wanting to donate to this charitable initiative can do so at https://www.gofundme.com/f/half-marathon-for-olivia-inspires?member=24259199&sharetype=teams&utm_campaign=p_na+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer

Image: Roberta Dedgjonaj

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