Updated: Sep 9, 2021
Course to Course is a charity walk planned for 2022, in which the two participants (Graham Arnold and Mark Williams) plan to visit every racecourse in the UK, over some 2400 miles! The idea for the walk was thought up initially by Graham in the summer of 2020, likely encouraged by seeing Captain Sir Tom Moore walk up and down his garden, raising millions of pounds during the covid-19 pandemic. In September 2020, Graham put the plan to Mark, and "Course to Course” was born. The whole point of the walk is to involve both horse racing and the people that love and support it, thus trying to create a route that makes sense, and in most cases includes arriving at a racecourse when there is a race meeting taking place. They plan to hopefully have two or three more people to join them on the journey and the aim is to raise some £1million for 3 wonderful charities.
This ambitious aim won’t come easy, but the pair don’t mind spending a bit of their own money during these early days, whilst trying to secure some partnerships with different organisations. Graham is even taking unpaid leave from work for the duration of the walk! From walking boots and food to medical supplies and accommodation, anything they could possibly need is looking to be sourced through sponsors. They are also in talks with big names from the industry such as Hollie Doyle, John Francombe and Tom Marquand to name a few, as potential brand ambassadors. But it doesn't stop there… Seeking a headline sponsor, they hope the appeal will be known as 'The (Sponsor's Name) Course to Course Charity Walk Challenge' before long. Believe me when I say there are suggestions this could be the biggest thing horse racing has seen since Red Rum won his third Grand National in 1977! And the pair will not stop until they achieve their goal. Progress so far has been good and they’ve got some interesting things lined up, let’s learn a bit more about them…
So who are Graham and Mark and why are they doing it?
Graham: “My interest in racing started from a very young age. Both my fathers' and mothers' sides of the family enjoyed the Sport of Kings and we had many a family outing to Epsom, Lingfield Park, Kempton and other southern courses. My Dad used to allow me to have a shilling on a race and he’d put it on for me. I remember cheering them on at about 5 or 6 years old and the passion remains. I am in awe of these magnificent animals and the work and dedication shown in their care by the people that look after them. After 55 years of getting so much pleasure from the sport, I decided it was time to give something back and am embarking on this walk, with excitement if not a little trepidation, knowing it will be the biggest adventure and personal achievement of my life.”
Mark: “Hello, I’m the Mark Williams mentioned. There is so much to this, it’s incredible. Sometimes you need to do something bold, and this is it. I love horse racing and I've got my reasons for doing this. I’ve been around racing all my life. I grew up with my Dad (an avid owner in the 70s and 80s) before he sadly died in 1988. I’ve many a racing story to tell, including admitting when I was about 8 years old that I’d had a bet. My dad put it on for me, but it was more who I had told…Yes, none other than the Queen Mother herself! Who replied: “well I’ve had a little flutter but we will keep it our secret." God bless you, Ma'am.
Only my kids and close friends knew this till now, but my dad and his dad both died at 53 from a heart attack, and I’ve just hit 53 myself. Yes, I can hear what you are all thinking! So when Graham had this idea, I jumped at the chance to challenge myself and make a difference for others.”
A quick Q and A with Mark Williams himself:
What Charities are you supporting and why?
“We are supporting 3 charities in total, the first being The Injured Jockeys Fund. They do so much for racing; including running three homes to take care of those injured in the sport, so it was an obvious first choice for us given what we are doing.
To give a broader appeal and so it was not just about racing, we (Graham and I) both looked at our own lives and without getting into too much personal stuff, decided on Macmillan Cancer Support and Alzheimer’s Society. Macmillan is such a wonderful cause because it takes care of those battling cancer and supports them and their families in every way possible, including at home. Along with their loved ones they rarely have much to celebrate, and so we decided to include them in our walk, to provide funds and hope to those who need it most. So many people have not had operations or treatments during the pandemic, and so once things regain some normality they are going to need all the help they can get.
Finally, Alzheimer’s Society is a charity that unfortunately often gets overlooked, but provides care for people in the UK living with dementia. Any funding goes towards research into care and cure, as well as providing support and training, and campaigning for the rights of people living with this terrible illness. We will split any money raised equally between the three charities and hope to help them as much as possible!”
How did you decide the route/order in which you’ll do the courses?
“The order of the racecourses is literally down to when they will be staging race meetings. We could not visit courses when they are closed so we are doing it in a dot-to-dot fashion, linking them all up as we go through the racing calendar. We will be starting from McCain Car Sales in Southport from where Ginger McCain and Red Rum set off all those years ago and we are working to cover some 20-25 miles a day on average (as some uphill stretches and so on may slow us down a bit). Some stretches are shorter and will only take a day at most; some will take 4 or 5 days to complete.”
How can people get involved?
“Everyone has a chance to get involved, whether it’s simply donating, or even joining us on our walk. We hope to be joined by others on each leg of our journey, even if it’s only for a mile! Everyone is welcome to get involved as we are recruiting people as volunteers to help with social media work, personal assistance, physiotherapy and even support vehicle drivers. If you’d be interested in helping out or have any questions you can contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Graham at email@example.com. You can also call me on 07942910920 or Graham on 07776415808.”
So, it's all systems go for what will hopefully be one of the biggest horse racing events of the modern-day. Preparations are well and truly underway, and Graham, Mark, and the team are working harder than ever behind the scenes to get everything thoroughly planned ready for the big day in 2022. I wish them all the best with their venture and look forward to seeing just how much money is raised by the end of the walk. I will of course be dipping into my own pockets to support them on their way!
Find out more at: www.course2course.net