Two brothers will walk the London Marathon course this Saturday to help the homeless. Nicholas Harrison, 8, and Alex Harrison, 6, will trek the 26.2-mile route through the city the day before the official race to raise money for the St Mungo's Community Housing Association, a charity founded in 1969 to help people experiencing homelessness.
Nicholas and Alex often go hiking with their parents and have been looking for a new challenge. Their father Tom Harrison, 42, from Amersham, suggested they try the London Marathon course. Meanwhile, Nicholas thought the occasion would be ideal to raise money for the homeless. Though the boys originally set a £1,000 fundraising target, they have already raised £1,090 on their JustGiving page.
The young brothers have been training since last November. Three weeks ago, they completed a 20-mile walk, which is the longest distance they have walked so far. “We try and make every walk a bit of an adventure and go somewhere new,” Nicholas says.“The marathon will be our biggest adventure.”
Last training session today through the Bluebell woods. pic.twitter.com/mUhaGGFu1a— Little Legs walking a Marathon! (@LittleL97037957) April 22, 2019
The pair hope to finish the course in 12 hours, beginning at 7 am and crossing the finish line at 7 pm. Alex says he is “happy” to take on the challenge, while Nicholas says he is “quite confident and maybe a little nervous.” Adding that “it’s really long and it will be hard, and dad’s bag might not be big enough to fit enough snacks.”
Alex believes the challenge will send a positive message. “You can always do things if you try your hardest,” he says, while Nicholas is convinced that “No matter how small you are you can still achieve things, no matter what other people say.” The family has been promoting their cause by handing out flyers in their hometown. They also have a “Little Legs Walking a Marathon!” Twitter page and have appeared on BBC Three Counties Radio.
The young boys have shown that they have a keen understanding of what it means to be homeless and how St Mungo’s helps people. “They have something called no second night out so you don’t have a second night out and St Mungo’s make shelter and food for you,” Alex says.
Nicholas and Alex’s father is proud of his sons for being “part of a bigger picture in life”.
“The reasons for people being homeless are so wide-ranging and certainly don’t boil down to it’s just that person’s fault,” he adds. “So I think we have a duty to try and help people get people back on the ladder, in housing or work or, ideally, both.”
When asked how they will celebrate after crossing the finish line, Alex says he wants to “have lots of food,” while Nicholas simply adds “I’d like to go to sleep.”
According to the BBC, in 2018, there were 320,000 homeless people in Britain, an increase of 13,000, or 4%, from 2017. In other words, 36 new people become homeless each day. London has the highest rate of homelessness, though it is growing fastest in the Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber, and north-west England. It is estimated that one in every 200 UK residents is either sleeping on the streets or living in temporary accommodation, such as hostels and inns. The government has pledged to invest £1.2bn to tackle homelessness.