24 September 2021

Signing up for not one but two fundraising challenges in one weekend is no reason to let standards slip.

Meadvale resident, James Wildman channelled his inner James Bond to take on a gruelling 10-mile Tough Mudder near Crawley on Saturday 18th September, followed by the Run Reigate Half Marathon on Sunday 19th – running both races in a dinner suit, dress shirt and bow tie.

“Why the suit?” asked James, 42. “It looks extremely elegant, which is the main thing I look for in performance sportswear. It’s also silly and ridiculous – incongruous against the mud and the sporting nature of the challenges, plus a significant handicap!”

James was moved to raise money for local charity YMCA East Surrey after his family benefitted directly from their Face2Face project – a volunteer-led group of parents and carers who have a child or young person with additional needs or a disability who offer friendship and support to other parents or carers in a similar position.

Initially booked to take on the events in 2020, James had to wait a year when they were cancelled due to Covid.

“Covid has challenged charities in all directions,” says James. “It’s put a serious dent in fundraising activities, at the same time as placing more and more people in vulnerable circumstances where they need the support that the charity’s services provide. So once the events were confirmed as being back on in 2021 – and on the same weekend! – I picked up where I’d left off, doubled my fundraising target, and got training.”

James tackled the 24-obstacle Tough Mudder course in Faygate with a group of friends.

“It took us about three and a half hours under the blazing sun. The water and mud obstacles provided some welcome relief but they covered the suits in a thick layer of cloying mud that lasted most of the course. I finished up with a collection of cuts on my hands, bruises on my knees and tears in my suit.”

James gave the Marks and Spencer suit a hose down and a spin in the washer and dryer on Saturday night in preparation for the half marathon the next day.

“The change in the weather was very welcome as it was overcast but dry. Even so, by the finish line, the suits were heavy with sweat – it turns out dinner suits aren’t designed to be wicking like many other forms of sportswear! It got really hard to keep putting one foot in front of the other but, as we came into the park and saw the finish, we were able to summon a final burst of speed to cross the line where my wife and children were waiting.”

James has so far raised £1,383 which will go towards YMCA East Surrey’s Life Change Appeal, which aims to raise £80,000 in 2021 for projects to help young people get their lives back on track following the impact of COVID-19. James’s fundraising total will be increased through gift aid and matched by a donation from his employer, Fidelity International.

“YMCA East Surrey is an incredible organisation that helps so many people in our local community,” says James. “Many people aren’t aware of all the services they provide or the lives they change, and I’m hoping as a part of my fundraising that I can also raise awareness of what they do.”

Anyone wishing to donate to James’s fundraising total can still do so at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jwdinnersuit.

Find out more about YMCA East Surrey’s Life Change Appeal