Great-grandmother inspired by Captain Tom finishes 26.2-mile walk

Marathon woman! 104-year-old great-grandmother inspired by Captain Tom finishes 26.2-mile walk to raise more than £31,000 for charity (and she wants to swim the Channel next)

  • Ruth Saunders completed her marathon length walk at Newbury Racecourse
  • She was inspired by Captain Tom Moore who raised over £32million for NHS 
  • Mrs Saunders raised £31,000 for Thames Valley Air Ambulance of her £500 goal

An ‘unstoppable’ 104-year-old great-grandmother inspired by Captain Tom has completed a marathon walk of 26.2 miles and raised more than £31,000 for charity.

Ruth Saunders, from Newbury in Berkshire, crossed the finish line at Newbury Racecourse yesterday, just hours before England was plunged into its second national lockdown.

Following in the footsteps of Captain Tom Moore, Mrs Saunders had originally set herself the goal of walking 104 laps of her block – around 21 miles – to match her age when she set off on the challenge on September 8.   

But after encouragement from her granddaughter Kate, the centenarian decided to up the ante and instead challenged herself to complete the distance of a marathon.

The length of her walk far surpassed that achieved by Captain Tom, who completed 100 lengths of his 82ft garden in Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire in April – roughly a distance of 1.5 miles. 

Ruth Saunders, from Newbury in Berkshire, crossed the finish line at Newbury Racecourse yesterday (pictured)


Following in the footsteps of Captain Tom Moore, Mrs Saunders had originally set herself the goal of walking 104 laps of her block – around 21 miles – to match her age

The great-grandmother’s endeavour has given her a new taste for adventure, her granddaughter said, and the pair are already planning Ruth’s next challenge.   

‘She said “I can swim the English Channel? Do a parachute jump?” When she puts her mind to something there is no stopping her,’ Kate said.

The mother-of-two, 50, has today described the moment her grandmother made it across the finish line in Newbury on a bright, sunny Wednesday morning.

‘She said “Is that it? Have I done it now?”‘ she said. ‘She definitely paces out her laps quite quickly. I kept telling her to slow it down.’

Mrs Saunders has so far raised more than £31,000 for the Thames Valley Air Ambulance, surpassing her original target of £500 on JustGiving.    

Mrs Saunders is presented a medal by her granddaughter Kate Saunders after completing her walk

Mrs Saunders has so far raised more than £31,000 for the Thames Valley Air Ambulance, surpassing her original target of £500 on JustGiving

She had previously held coffee morning fundraisers for the charity but these had to stop due to the pandemic.   

Kate said her grandmother’s endeavour inspired others to join her on a socially-distanced walk to keep her going, including her two daughters Gemma, 16, and Hannah, 14.

She added a four-year-old in the neighbourhood had once joined Mrs Saunders on the walk and donated money.

‘Everyone’s really proud of her, she’s so independent, lively and energetic, she puts younger people to shame,’ Kate said.

‘Donations are still coming in daily, even from around the world.

‘My eldest daughter’s friends from school were saying “Your great-grandmother is so amazing”, all ages are feeling so inspired by her, in the local area and beyond.’ 

Kate said her grandmother’s endeavour inspired others to join her on a socially-distanced walk to keep her going, including her two daughters Gemma, 16, and Hannah, 14 


She was inspired by Captain Sir Tom Moore who raised £32m by walking laps in his garden

Mrs Saunders was inspired by Captain Tom, who raised more than £32million for the NHS during England’s first coronavirus lockdown in April.

Thanks to his achievement, the Second World War veteran was knighted by the Queen, broke two Guinness World Records and scored a Number One single. There will also be a film based on his life story next year. 

Islam Choudhury, 100, also raised more than £420,000 for various good causes while fasting during Ramadan.   

As England today enters a second national lockdown, Kate said the family will be supporting Ruth throughout the month as part of her bubble.

Thanks to his achievement, the Second World War veteran was knighted by the Queen, broke two Guinness World Records and scored a Number One single


During the Second World War Mrs Saunders (left and right now) worked at Marks & Spencer and helped out at the hospital in Newbury on her free days

She added: ‘The first lockdown was difficult for everyone.

‘She [Ruth] gave me a shopping list one day asking for specific things and I couldn’t get them for her because there just wasn’t anything left in the shops.

‘Coming into the next lockdown we are looking at how we can support her and keep stock of what she needs, all of her family are there for her.’ 

At the finish line, Ruth was presented with a medal given by Thames Valley Air Ambulance which included an engraved congratulatory message from the charity.

Amanda McLean, chief executive of Thames Valley Air Ambulance, said: ‘Ruth is an inspiration to us all and Thames Valley Air Ambulance is so lucky to have her support.

‘As a charity, we rely on the amazing fundraising efforts of people like Ruth so that we can provide our lifesaving services to the most critically ill and injured people.

‘There was never any doubt that she would complete her marathon walk. Congratulations Ruth, for crossing the finish line.’

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