Rev Barry Hughes completes marathon challenge

Barry Hughes and friend at the  Luxembourg  marathon
Barry Hughes (right), who won the Marathon,with Manjit Singh, winner of the half Marathon, at the Luxembourg Interfaith event.

Rev Barry Hughes finished 2015 on a high note, reaching his goal of running a 26-mile marathon every month of the year. During the challenge, Barry, an Ordained Local Minister and a member of the Moorfoot Runners, raised more than £5,000 for the Peebles branch of the MS Society Scotland.

"My wife Gillian has lived most of her life with at least one parent having MS," he said. "Both my parents-in-law have suffered from MS so this is a cause close to our hearts as a family."

Barry's first challenge was to find 12 marathons - preferably not in a Sunday.

"I am a fairly experienced runner, having run 9 marathons before 2015, but often felt like a rookie compared to many of the folk I met" he said. I met some fantastic people, including people running in excess of 25 marathons each year.

"Getting through the year without injury was also a challenge, but thanks to luck, prayer and a great physio this was accomplished.

Claire George, former chair of the MS Society's Peebles branch, said she was amazed and happy to receive the funds.

"I was completely blown away. I have never met such a selfless person as Barry."

The society gives grants to help people with MS get help they need, she said.

"I myself received a grant to help put in a stairlift. I hadn't been upstairs for a year and I have two young boys so you can imagine how difficult that was. It was like a new lease of life to get the stairlift. Having this fantastic sum of money means we can help other people in similar ways."

Through the challenge Barry, Claire and her partner Colin became such firm friends that the couple asked him to officiate at their wedding in September 2015.

"It completed my day for someone who knew something about us and had become a friend, to marry us," Claire said.

Barry's marathon year had many high points, he said.

"One highlight of the year was in Luxembourg, where the marathon coincided with an Interfaith conference I was attending. The conference organisers offered a prize to the first minister, imam, rabbi or other faith leader to complete the race."

To his surprise he won.

"Despite running a relatively slow time I managed to pick up the trophy and hope to defend it in 2016."

But winning was only the icing on the cake for the long-distance runner. His real goal was to raise money for the MS Society and raise awareness about the illness.

Muscular sclerosis affects the nervous system and in some worsens over time.It can affect everything from vision and balance to movement and can affect many different body systems.

The illness is most prevalent in Northern Ireland and the north west of Scotland, where his in-laws are from.

"I want to thank everyone who has sponsored my runs," he said. "I thought I would maybe get £1,000 but people have been so generous. I have raised £5000 for MS Scotland and donations can still be made online at my fundraising site.

"In March we ran a 33-mile ultra marathon in Aberdeen. It was on the day of my 50th birthday , and a great way to celebrate.

"In August, instead of entering an 'official' marathon, a group of us designed a 26.2 mile course around Peebles and the surrounding area.

"We were joined on the route by lots of people. Many of them only ran a few miles with us, while the local keep fit club ran a warm up session specially for us. That was a great day with a good feeling of community.

"It has been a great year with lots of support from the MS Society and my running buddies."

Barry says he hit his best time of the year last September at Aberfeldy, where he ran his best race of the year, finishing in 3hrs 33mins.

But his year also had its low moments.

"My lowest point was probably in February on a beach in Northumberland. The marathon was a beautiful 28-mile run from Alnwick Castle to Bamburgh Castle. But with a lot of running on sand, it was tough going. Thankfully, it was in such beautiful surroundings that the scenery kept me going."

The Barry Hughes fundraising page will remain open until the end of the year.

To donate visit the Just Giving Website.