104-year-old charity fundraiser inspired by Sir Tom Moore, is ‘very competitive’

A 104-year-old woman who is looking to give veteran fundraiser Captain Sir Tom Moore a run for his money by walking a marathon for charity is “very competitive,” her granddaughter has said.

Ruth Saunders, from Newbury, Reading, originally set out to walk 104 laps of her block to match her age, a distance of about 21 miles, but decided to extend her goal to a full marathon (26.2 miles) after encouragement from her family.

Kate Saunders, 50, said her grandmother had complained of being “really bored” during lockdown and asked if she could walk around the block.

“She really enjoyed it and thought ‘well why don’t I raise some money doing it?” she said.

Ruth Saunders charity walk
Ruth Saunders is walking a marathon to raise funds for Thames Valley Air Ambulance (Steve Parsons/PA)

Ruth’s initial fundraising target was £500, but her JustGiving page reached more than £8,000 by Tuesday.

She is walking for Thames Valley Air Ambulance, having previously held coffee morning fundraisers that have had to be stopped due to the pandemic.

Ruth previously told the BBC that she was inspired by Sir Tom, the 100-year-old veteran who raised millions for the NHS during lockdown, but said that she was older than he was, and had walked further.

“She’s four years older than him and four years at 100 is a lot,” Ms Saunders told the PA news agency.

“She is very competitive and very active – that’s what keeps her going.

“She drove until she was over 100 and she won’t let anything stop her.

“If someone says ‘you can’t do that,’ she’ll say ‘why can’t I? Of course I can’.

“You don’t ever say no to her and you wouldn’t ever tell her to stop.”

Ruth Saunders charity walk
Ruth Saunders’ initial fundraising target was £500 (Steve Parsons/PA)

Ms Saunders added that she saw her grandmother almost every day, as part of her bubble, and that the family had been very careful when helping Ruth with her challenge because of coronavirus.

She said that she was encouraging people, including her two daughters Gemma, 16, and Hannah, 14, to do socially distanced laps with Ruth to keep her going.

“It’s just a bit of fun, and she’s absolutely loving it,” she said.

“My girls are going to do a lap with her, it’ll be a memento for them.

Ms Saunders said that because the neighbourhood was quite rural it was fairly easy to maintain social distancing and other safety measures for her grandmother’s walks.

“She is very strong-willed, she knows what she wants and she gets it,” she said.

“She’s just a remarkable lady. We all hope we’re like that at 104.”

Amanda McLean, chief executive of Thames Valley Air Ambulance, said: “Ruth is an inspiration to us all.

“As a charity, Thames Valley Air Ambulance relies solely on the amazing fundraising efforts of people like Ruth so that we can provide our lifesaving services to the most critically ill and injured people.

“We are so lucky to have such a passionate and awe-inspiring supporter.”

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