Veterans take on mammoth challenge to help Sunderland men's mental health group

Sunderland veterans are taking on a feat of endurance to support a cause close to their hearts.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Most people do the famous C2C route on two wheels, but Sunderland veterans Chris Batty and Derek Gamblin will be running the 130 miles from Sunderland to Whitehaven before hopping in the saddle and doing the return leg via bike.

Starting from the monolith sculpture in Roker, it should take the hardy pair three days to complete the first leg, with a support vehicle helping them with water and food every 10 miles.

Fundraiser Derek GamblinFundraiser Derek Gamblin
Fundraiser Derek Gamblin
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

They'll be sleeping roadside and once in Whitehaven will jump on the bikes which the vehicle has been carrying, which should take around 9 hours to return - covering a distance of 292 miles in total, in the fastest time possible.

The friends are fully in training mode for the challenge, which they'll be taking on from June 22, 2024 in aid of Space North East.

Chris Batty in trainingChris Batty in training
Chris Batty in training

Based at the Beacon of Light, Space North East is a Community Interest Company, founded by Sunderland-born James Fildes to support men in the North East who are suffering with depression, loneliness, and anxiety. Every Wednesday at 7pm, it hosts peer-to-peer support groups for men to encourage them to talk.

Chris, who served in the Light Infantry, said: "I've struggled with my own mental health and I really want to encourage other men to speak out and not bottle things up, it's so important."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He added: "Derek does a lot of endurance challenges. He rang me up and said would I like do the C2C with him, which everyone does on bikes, and I thought no problem, then he said 'no, no, I mean run it'."

Derek, who is former Special Forces, said: "As an ultra-cyclist, I decided I wanted to do something different this year.

"I wanted to use my training and passion for cycling for a meaningful cause, and to prove that anything is possible if you never give up.

"After months of deliberation, I came up with the idea of running from Sunderland to Whitehaven and then cycling back”.  

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Funds raised by the challenge will provide men with months of counselling sessions to support with anxiety and depression. 

Space North East meets on Wednesday evenings at the Beacon of LightSpace North East meets on Wednesday evenings at the Beacon of Light
Space North East meets on Wednesday evenings at the Beacon of Light

Derek and Chris are funding all travel, equipment and food costs themselves allowing all funds raised to go directly to Space North East.

The pair have already reached half of their £5,000 target for the cause. To help them hit the target you can donate to the Go Fund Me at

Once they've finalised timings, they're also hoping people may join them on sections of the route.

To find out more about Space North East and how to access its support services see here.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.