Reigning team champions return to Birmingham

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As winners of last year’s Business Challenge, Solihull School returns to the start line for the AJ Bell Great Birmingham Run. We caught up with Assistant Head, Emma Jones to hear the heartfelt driving force behind the victorious squad and the cause propelling them forward.

Solihull School’s journey began with a bold step at last year’s AJ Bell Great Birmingham Run 10k. As the fastest Business Challenge team past the finishing line, the reigning champions are now returning to defend their title, this time raising funds for a charity very close to their hearts.

“Last year’s win was totally unexpected, it was a massive surprise,” says Emma.

“As a school we encourage our pupils to go above and beyond, have ambition and challenge themselves. By doing the Business Challenge we are setting an example for them. Also, after our unexpected win last year, we felt we should give it another go as defending champions.”

However, their return to the AJ Bell Great Birmingham Run is about more than just defending their title; it’s about making a difference for the Matt Gallagher Foundation. Matt’s connection to the school runs deep, with his involvement as a rugby coach and his family’s ties to the community.

Emma explains: “Matt Gallagher and his family have established this platform to show their support for the wider Motor Neurone Disease (MND) community following Matt’s recent diagnosis of this challenging condition. Matt aims to raise funds for research and awareness initiatives dedicated to tackling the disease.

“The management of MND presents significant hurdles for both individuals and their families, and Matt’s focus is to foster hope through research endeavours and provide support to the local MND community. By actively participating in various charitable activities such as walks, runs, swims and biking, we not only enjoy each other’s company but also contribute to fundraising efforts for this highly deserving cause.”

“Not only is Matt one of our Solihull rugby coaches, many of his family are associated with the school as Alumni, current staff or students. His son Jack is in Upper Sixth, so will be taking his A Levels this year, and three of his current subject teachers (History and RS) are running the 10km to show support for him.

“When Matt was diagnosed with MND, it was a huge shock to us all. Matt is an Old Silhillian, his children have been taught by many of us and he has been one of our most influential and dedicated rugby coaches. He has inspired the many boys he has coached over the years and was part of our memorable Sports Tour to South Africa last year.

“His attitude since his diagnosis has been truly humbling – he has such a positive approach to life and this has motivated and encouraged all around him. We have already fundraised through a charity rugby match and events such as a non-uniform day, and we now look forward to raising more money and awareness by running the Great Birmingham Run. We hope we can do Matt and his family proud.”

The Solihull School team has set ambitious fundraising goals for the Matt Gallagher Foundation, with 13 runners of varying ages and abilities joining their cause. Emma emphasised their commitment, stating, “Our aim is to raise as much as possible for the Foundation and to raise awareness of MND.”

As the race day approaches in just a couple of weeks’ time, the team’s determination remains unwavering, fuelled by the camaraderie and shared purpose of their mission. “We are taking different approaches, with lots of cross training – strength and mixing up paces.

“It’s safe to say we have all be grateful for the recent Easter holidays to step up our training. Top tips have been using the Great Birmingham Run training plans and getting some great tunes on.
“Comments made by the team when I asked them what they enjoyed about running include ‘the headspace’, ‘having time out of work/home’, ‘the sense of achievement’, ‘social opportunities’ and most importantly ‘the endorphins’. There is nothing quite like the runner’s high,” adds Emma.

When asked about her message to others considering participating in the Great Birmingham Run, especially as a team, Emma says: “Go for it, even if you don’t feel ready. The atmosphere is great, the route is well supported and Birmingham looks beautiful. It is brilliant knowing that you have others supporting you and it’s fantastic for comradeship and a sense of shared experience. Good luck, just don’t be as fast as us!”

This year’s AJ Bell Great Birmingham Run 10k distance has now sold out. The half marathon distance is not far behind with less than 100 places to go. Snap up a place here.