Whitley Bay super-dad thanks supporters after reaching £500,000 target

Ivan Hollingsworth with his wife Nadine, son Seb and daughter Imogen with staff from the Freeman Hospital at the end of his Half a Million Half a Country challenge.
Ivan Hollingsworth with his wife Nadine, son Seb and daughter Imogen with staff from the Freeman Hospital at the end of his Half a Million Half a Country challenge.

A super-dad has thanked all those people who helped him reach his half a million pound fund-raising target.

Ivan Hollingsworth, of Whitley Bay, hoped his final – and most gruelling – challenge would see him pass the £500,000 target in aid of the hospital unit which saved his son’s life.

Ivan Hollingsworth, his wife Nadine, son Seb and daughter Imogen in London at the start of his Half a Million Half a Country challenge.

Ivan Hollingsworth, his wife Nadine, son Seb and daughter Imogen in London at the start of his Half a Million Half a Country challenge.

He aimed to cycle 268 miles from London and then run 52 miles to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle where eight years earlier doctors in the Children’s Heart Unit saved his son Seb’s life.

Setting off from London £8,000 short of his target for the Children’s Heart Unit Fund (CHUF), he was overwhelmed to see on morning after arriving in Newcastle he had passed his target – with donations still coming in.

Ivan, who completed the challenge in just over 32 hours, said: “There were so many donations of £5, £10 and £20. They are people’s hard-earned money. It was mega seeing it all.

“We have now raised £505,090 with money still coming in. This challenge alone raised £23,500. It’s amazing, it’s bonkers.

Ivan Hollingsworth takes a quick, and much needed break, during his Half a Million Half a Country challenge.

Ivan Hollingsworth takes a quick, and much needed break, during his Half a Million Half a Country challenge.

“We were trending on Twitter and the JustGiving page was the most active on the day.

“I refreshed the JustGiving page the next day after waking up in bed and to see we’d passed our target was amazing, you couldn’t write a better script after what we’d gone through.

“I don’t know how you process that amount of money.

“There is going to be a short film of the challenge and we thought that might have taken us past the target but to do it now is amazing.

Ivan Hollingsworth heading for home during his Half a Million Half a Country challenge.

Ivan Hollingsworth heading for home during his Half a Million Half a Country challenge.

“I just want to thank everyone who has supported us.”

He added: “In the final few weeks leading up to it, the pressure was huge.

“I think the over-riding emotion now is one of relief.

“This is my final challenge. A professional athlete always wants to go out on the top, and this was mine. This was the single biggest, greatest physical challenge of my life.”

The Half a Million Half a Country challenge – the eighth and final one for Ivan – proved harder than he thought, battling strong cross and head-winds instead of a tail wind they had been hoping for.

It left Ivan and his support cyclists drained and tired, with Ivan almost falling asleep on his bike.

But two five-minute power naps, a change of clothes and support from his wife Nadine saw him power through the back-to-back marathons, where he was greeted at the Freeman Hospital by family, friends, supporters, doctors and nurses.

Ivan, who lost seven pounds in weight on the challenge, said: “Seeing them all at the finish was wonderful.

“I didn’t think about the finish until that final mile and was able to enjoy it, and it was great seeing Seb running towards me at the hospital and to carry him for the final 20 metres.

“In that last mile I reflected on the last eight years of fund-raising, everyone who has been involved and helped us, the friendships made, the life-changing experiences, and the team at the Freeman who saved Seb.”

The challenge was not without its difficulties, with concerns raised over Ivan’s wellbeing at some points.

He said: “During the cycle ride the aim was for me to sit behind my cycling support team and get a ‘tow’ but the cross wind made that impossible, then it turned into a head wind.

“As a result I was concentrating more to keep the bike straight and using more energy. I was still on the bike at 3am when I’d hoped to have finished by 1am.

“Tiredness was setting in, and I was trying various techniques to stay awake but as we approached Thirsk I could feel myself falling asleep on my bike and that was really scary.

“I had to have a five-minute power nap.

“After 268 miles on the bike, and at 5am, I had completely broken down, people were concerned I was dying.

“Nadine had been going to join the support car for the second of the marathons, but when she heard how much I was struggling, she and a friend jumped in the car and met me at the end of cycle ride.

“She brought a photo album of Seb and my father, who passed away earlier this year, as she knew I might need it, and then she gave me some tough love saying it was now or never.

“After changing clothes, I knew I had to smash the early part of the run and I did, I completed the first half marathon in two hours. From that point on, I knew I had it.”

Ivan added: “The next couple of days after finishing was pretty uncomfortable, my feet were swollen and I had pains in my hips.

“I’ve had a few different treatment sessions and as a result I feel good doing day-to-day activities, although I don’t fancy going for a run or on my bike.

“When I spoke to people before the event it dawned on my how hard this challenge would be on my body.

“No one, not even any pro-athletes had done something like this, so I didn’t know how my body would react.

“Thankfully the strength and conditioning programme I was put through by Michael Pellegrino nailed it.”

To make a donation to Ivan’s fund-raising page visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/seb4chuf