A Suffolk grandfather’s initiative to keep residents fit during the coronavirus lockdown has seen more than 100 people sign up to his marathon challenge - and supported great causes in the process.

East Anglian Daily Times: Gary Edwards served in the military and found running a great way of keeping fit Picture: GARY EDWARDSGary Edwards served in the military and found running a great way of keeping fit Picture: GARY EDWARDS (Image: Archant)

Fitness enthusiast Gary Edwards and his wife Wendy created the ‘April Fools Ultra Marathon’ to encourage people to stay active while they are stuck at home.

Participants paid a £5 fee to sign up and were challenged to walk or run a small distance each day throughout April, eventually completing a full 27 miles, with proceeds going to East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH).

The challenge has proved extremely popular, with 125 people taking part and sharing their runs on social media.

Mr Edwards said: “It’s very easy to find a reason to not to do something - but harder to find a reason to do something.

“We decided to organise an event so people could get excited about doing some exercise.”

The father-of-two even convinced nine-year-old grandson Thomas to take part.

More: See here fore more coronavirus newsMr Edwards previously served in the military and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder triggered by an injury. His weight ballooned to 25st but he shed half his weight after finding solace in running.

When lockdown was imposed, the 53-year-old, who works for George Baker Transport in Felixstowe, was approached by Suffolk County Council’s Keey Moving Suffolk campaign and agreed to to act as a ‘local champion’.

He and his wife designed the accessible challenge to cater for everyone, allowing participants to run or walk between one and three miles each day, with the total distance covered by the end of April exceeding the goal of 27 miles, slightly more than a marathon.

Those who complete the challenge will be awarded a medal at the end of the month, Mr Edwards said.

Although initially designed for those in Suffolk, people from as far as Germany and the United States have signed up to the scheme, and as a result the couple hope to raise £400 for the hospice.

And the challenge’s popularity has spurred Mr Edwards on to plan for another exercise programme in May called the May’don Voyage, where athletes will each attempt to cross the distance of the English Channel.

Mr Edwards added: “The only rules are to have fun and observe guidelines on social distancing and exercise.

“The benefits are not just physical, but also mental. It was running, along with support of family, friends, and a military charity, Back on Track, that helped me shed 12st and be a far happier, healthier person.

“Exercise can do exactly the same for others too.”

Whether you are a seasoned athlete or new to exercise, find out more about how you can get active during lockdown here or see the pull out section in today’s paper.

You can also see how others are using the programme by following @MostActive on Twitter, @KeepMovingSuffolk on Instagram or finding the @KeepMovingSuffolk page on Facebook.