Dan hits The Wall running for Bluebell Wood

Tipping the scales at 16 stones, Dan Olsen-Saaler always reckoned he wasn’t born to run…

But the dad of two has just put his 6’3 frame through a 75-mile ‘Ultra Marathon’.

All for the sake of families at Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice at North Anston, Dan (34) tackled The Wall, the UK’s most iconic ultra which follows the footsteps of Britain’s Roman past.

He ran from coast to coast, along Hadrian’s Wall from Carlisle Castle in Cumbria to Baltic Square in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Dan made it in 19 hours and has so far raised £2,300 – smashing his fundraising target of £2,000.

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Dan is a sales manager at the Attercliffe, Sheffield, headquarters of Insight UK. The IT solutions specialist chose Bluebell Wood as its chosen charity in 2016 and has since raised over £125,000 for the hospice from fundraising, donation of IT equipment and volunteer days..

He said: “I have never run a marathon before, let alone an ultra. And although I enjoy keeping fit, I didn’t think I was the right build for long distance running.

“But I decided to do something that pushed me right out of my comfort zone after visiting Bluebell Wood. I was completely blown away and moved by the level of support and the passion of its team.

“Everyone goes into work with a smile on their face and work tirelessly to ensure that happy memories are made for hospice children and their families.

“Insight UK has proudly partnered with Bluebell Wood for a number of years and I wanted to do my bit.”

Dan, who lives in Gomersal with wife Rachel and their children Isla (4) and Harry (1), admits the challenge was more gruelling than he had expected.

“I had worked out that the distance was 69 miles, but it ended up being 75 – the equivalent of 140,000 steps – and lots of them were uphill. I’ve worked out that I actually ascended over 4,000 feet – higher than Ben Nevis!”

Dan had to eat on the go to keep his energy levels up – he burned 10,000 calories during the event.

“It took me 19 hours and I ran for 16 of them, though my pace slowed to more of a shuffle towards the end,” he added.

“After 20 miles I developed severe cramp in my quads and behind the knees, however I felt strangely energetic. After 60 miles, though, I hit ‘the wall’. My legs were frequently seizing up, I had blisters on top of blisters and kept getting cramp in my back.

“Giving up never crossed my mind, but I couldn’t wait to cross that finish line!”

Bluebell Wood Ambassador Ian Johnson, a Solution Sales Specialist from Insight UK said: “We have had a fantastic partnership with Bluebell Wood for three years and are on course to raise £150,000 for the hospice by the end of 2019. We have regular collections, take part in hospice fundraising events and organise our own too.

“Teammates have volunteered for a total of 607 days, either helping out at the hospice or their charity shop in Sheffield. But no one has done anything quite as strenuous as Dan!

“Hats off to Dan, who has really gone the extra miles for us,” said Bluebell Wood’s Corporate Fundraising manager Rachael Dawes. “We’re so grateful to the years of support Insight UK has given us.

“In addition to IT equipment and services, Dan’s colleagues have raised a tremendous amount of money to help us provide more of the services our families need, from sibling support to counselling and end of life treatment and care.

“We need to raise £4.3 million a year to keep the hospice running and would dearly love to hear from more companies who would like to follow Insight’s example.”