Army veteran Beth completes 100-mile challenge for RBL which 'saved her life'

Military veteran Beth Willis, of Stowmarket, walked and cycled 100 miles in aid of the Royal British Legion's 100th birthday.

Military veteran Beth Willis, of Stowmarket, walked and cycled 100 miles in aid of the Royal British Legion's 100th birthday. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown/Archant

Military veteran Beth Willis from Stowmarket has completed a 100-mile challenge in aid of the Royal British Legion - which she says saved her life.

"I just want to thank everyone for their support over the two days, for such a good cause, when the Poppy Appeal's fundraising has been hit by Covid," she said.

The personal trainer, a former lance corporal in the Royal Military Police, was originally planning to run 100 miles to mark the RBL's 100th birthday.

Viv Oakley with Beth Willis, who is walking and cycling 100 miles over two days in aid of the Royal

Viv Oakley with Beth Willis, who walked and cycled100 miles over two days in aid of the Royal British Legion's 100th birthday - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown/Archant

She tore a cartilage in her left knee and was unable to run - but was determined not to give up.

Under physio guidance, she instead decided to walk and cycle the 100 miles over August 6-7, with her supporters joining her for sections of the courses around the Stowmarket area. 

It was hard-going on the second day, with her knee and back both aching. But Beth said: "I never had any thought of giving up. I suppose you could say I'm stubborn."

Military veteran and personal trainer Beth Willis, of Stowmarket, with supporters during her 100-mile challenge

Military veteran and personal trainer Beth Willis, of Stowmarket, with supporters during her 100-mile challenge - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown/Archant

Beth, who runs her own business, Willis Fitness,  sustained a back injury while training in the Army in 2015, and was later medically discharged.

She said: "This led to an incredibly difficult time for me both mentally and physically, with a loss of identity that almost led to me deciding to take my own life in 2016.

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"I had been active my entire life playing football to a professional level, joining the military and much more, I didn't know how to handle being on pain medication and finding even the smallest of tasks difficult."

Things changed when she was enrolled on to the Battleback Course funded by the Legion at Lilleshall, which included safe activity, counselling and group support.

Military veteran Beth Willis with supporters in Stowmarket during her 100-mile challenge, which included some wet weather 

Military veteran Beth Willis with supporters in Stowmarket during her 100-mile challenge, which included some wet weather - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown/Archant

She said: "In short this five-day course saved my life, as it did for the other 23 soldiers I shared it with. Without direct funding from the RBL, these courses simply don't exist."

Beth has since rebuilt her physical and mental health and now manages her pain with regular physio.

She originally planned to do two 50-mile ultra marathons together with an old university friend,  Tom Dent, to mark both their 30th birthdays.

Tom could not join her because he was unable to travel from Norway due to Covid restrictions, but he also carried out a 100-mile challenge in Norway.

Beth's appeal has so far raised more than £2,600 towards her £4,000 target. 

To donate in support of the RBL, visit Beth's JustGiving page.

Military veteran and personal trainer Beth Willis with supporters completing 100 miles in aid of the Royal British Legion

Military veteran and personal trainer Beth Willis with supporters completing 100 miles in aid of the Royal British Legion's 100th birthday. - Credit: Archant


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