A determined hiker wore through five pairs of shoes as she walked more than 2,000 miles in a year to raise funds for Shelter Cymru.
Dani Thomas completed Ultra Challenges across the UK, as well as spending hours on a treadmill at work, to raise hundreds of pounds to help people facing homelessness in Wales.
“I immediately felt compelled to help,” said Dani, who works for Monmouthshire Building Society. “Shelter Cymru’s work is essential and they inevitably need funds to keep doing it.”
The 34-year-old said it was during a session led by the people and homes charity at her work, back in 2022, that she decided to take on the endurance walking challenge.
“One of my favourite things to do outside of work is walking, so I wanted to put that to good use,” she explained. “I hoped it would not only empower me, but encourage other people too.”
Dani started her Steps For Shelter Cymru challenge in January 2023, aiming to walk 2,340 miles in 12 months, which is further than walking from Land’s End to John O’ Groats and back again.
To keep on track, she needed to average 6.5 miles a day, or 45 miles a week, and decided to sign up to 10 Ultra Challenge events, starting with 66 miles (106km) on the Isle of Wight in April.
Dani said one of the toughest moments came a month later, when she fell 30 miles (50km) into the Jurassic Coast route in Dorset. She was advised to stop after injuring her knee and ankle.
“It’s frustrating when you physically can’t finish due to injury or heat exhaustion,” explained Dani. “It also affects your mental strength.”
Determined to continue, Dani went on to complete 62 miles (100km) from London to Brighton – one of her personal highlights of the year, as she really enjoyed the route through the city.
Next, she headed to the Lake District, where she described the steep uphill sections of the course as “intense”, adding: “I walked it during a heatwave and even at 3.30am, I was sweating.”
Struggling with the unstable stones underfoot, Dani said she and a group of other walkers she met during the day supported each other through the challenging terrain.
Later in the summer, she had to withdraw from the Cotswold Way Challenge, due to heat exhaustion, but completed routes in the Peak District, North Downs, South West Coast and Chilterns.
Monmouthshire Building Society is a corporate partner to Shelter Cymru and Dani said another favourite moment of her challenge was walking on a treadmill at the branch in Newport in October.
Dani, Treasury Middle Office Manager, raised funds by inviting supporters to guess how many miles she would walk that day, adding: “I loved being in the branch and being able to meet members.”
Unfortunately, the treadmill overheated part way through the day, but never one to give up, Dani carried on at nearby PureGym to reach the seven hours she had planned.
Dani admitted that with a month to go, she doubted whether she could achieve her goal, but she stayed strong, and completed her challenge on 29 December – with two days to spare.
“I don’t even know where to begin,” she laughed. “I’m tired and achy but I did it! I’m so proud of this achievement.
“I achieved a lot in 2023, but this will be what I take forward with me as a symbol of not giving up.”
Dani, from St Brides, Newport, spent 780 hours walking in 2023 and raised more than £800 for Shelter Cymru. She said she was “immensely grateful” to everyone who had made a donation.
Penny Salter, Fundraising Officer for Shelter Cymru, said: “We were absolutely blown away by the challenge Dani took on last year to raise money for Shelter Cymru – we’re so grateful to her and her colleagues at Monmouthshire Building Society for their incredible support. Congratulations, Dani – every step you took will make such a huge difference in these challenging times. Diolch o galon!”
Shelter Cymru helped more than 22,000 people last year, including nearly 7,000 dependent children, who were in housing need or experiencing homelessness.
There’s still time to donate through Monmouthshire Building Society’s Just Giving page.
17 January 2024
By Liz Day