Stuart Bates and Charlotte Nichols of the U.K. have officially completed the “Spennylympics“, in which they did every event from the Tokyo Summer Olympics over the course of 17 days. The massive undertaking was a fundraiser for the Motor Neuron Disease Association in the U.K. in honour of Bates’ late brother, Spencer or “Spenny.” We sat down with the couple to find out how they came up with the idea, and of course, how they fared in the marathon.
To complete the challenge, Bates and Nichols had to complete 102 events in 17 days, the same length as the Tokyo Games. This meant they had to do events like synchronized swimming, diving and of course, all the track events, including the 50K race walk and the marathon. Their efforts were to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the passing of Bates’ brother, who succumbed to Motor Neuron Disease (better known as ALS in Canada) 10 years ago. It was also to raise money for the MNDA in the U.K., to help find a cure for the fatal disease. Bates’ brother had a deep love for sports and always loved watching the Olympics, so the Spennylympics was the perfect way to honour him.
“The thought of him watching Charlotte and I trying every Olympic event, and mostly just falling flat on our faces, was just brilliant,” laughs Bates. “It incorporates his two favourite things in the world: sport, and seeing his brother suffer.”
While the pair enjoyed each event in its own unique way, they really enjoyed surfing, rock climbing, rowing and sailing. Bates says he really liked the boxing, but admits that it’s difficult to choose, because, as he says, when do you ever get the opportunity to try every Olympic event? “Even if something was difficult and it hurt, we loved it because it was difficult and it hurt,” he adds. They both agree, however, that the toughest event out of them all was the 50K race walk. Not only is the event already a massive challenge, but it didn’t help that less than 5 kilometres into the walk, they were hit with one of the biggest storms they’d had in years.
“The hardest part was that for 12 and a half hours, we were on our feet,” said Nichols. “Imagine wet, blisters, there’s nothing like it physically and mentally.”
The final event of the challenge was the marathon, which they ran in Bates’ hometown, where he and his brother grew up. After 16 days of near nonstop activity, the pair was exhausted, but Bates says they knew that if they got to the startline, they’d finish the race. “We knew it’d be slow, it wouldn’t be pretty, it would hurt like heck,” he says. “We just got dragged around, I have no idea how we did it.”
“When it’s such a massive puzzle and that’s the final piece of it, to not do that and to do 101 out of 102 events and fall at the last hurdle was just never an option,” adds Nichols, “to cross that finish line and know that we’ve actually done it was amazing.”
Of course, the main goal for the Spennylympics was to raise money for the MNDA, and their efforts paid off. They initially set themselves a target of £10,000 ($17, 351 CAD), but by the time they sat down with us, they were about to reach £150,000 (more than $260,000 CAD). They’ve been interviewed on TV stations across the world, including in Canada, which was one of the first countries to pick up their story. “Everyone from Canada was so generous, and they really gave us a kickstart,” they told us. “Canadians were absolutely paramount in our fundraising efforts.”
Their donation page is still open, and anyone who wishes to contribute to their fundraising efforts can visit spennylympics.com/donate/. To watch the videos of all of their events, check out their Instagram page.
“It’s such an important charity,” says Bates. “If the research finds a cure, that’s a cure for everybody in Canada, America, Australia — it doesn’t matter where the charity is, it’s bigger than that.”