Soccer buddies take on 32-mile canal hike for the ME Association

April 24, 2021


Two friends, who’ve played football in the same teams since childhood, will be walking 32 miles along the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal to raise money for the ME Association on 1st May. 

Sophie Vincent and Lucy Browning, both aged 28, will be walking from Sharpness to Gloucester Quays and back to remember Sophie’s time as 12-year-old when M.E. left her unable to walk – either having to use a wheelchair or to be carried about by her mother, Nikola.   

They hope to complete the distance within 10 hours and to be greeted at the finish by a guard of honour of teammates, family and friends. Various friends are also being invited to join them for parts of the distance. 

This week, Sophie remembered the worst time in her illness, when she was 12. Her weight had dropped to 4st 10lb and she had to spend a fortnight in hospital as an emergency in order to save her life. 

“I was just a bag of bones and my mother had to carry me everywhere. I was so embarrassed when I went out that I used to put a hood over my head so no one would recognise me. My appetite had improved slightly when I left hospital; I could manage maybe a couple of sausages. 

“To be honest I wasn’t sure what I was thinking but I know my mum was thinking the worse! I wasn’t really thinking anything at all. I wasn’t really aware of how bad I was”, said Sophie.  

Sophie had glandular fever in her last year at primary school and missed the whole of her first year at Severn Vale School in Gloucester when she felt the full withering force of the M.E. For a while, football had to be put on hold. 

“Physical activity, football and fitness have always been important to me and working my way back to being able to take on this challenge is a huge achievement,” said Sophie.  

“And, to be honest, I’m not really fully recovered. I still have relapses.  If I get a cold, it can knock me for six. I feel really lethargic for days at a time.”

Nowadays, she earns her living as a proposal manager for CGI, a giant IT and systems integration company based in Canada. For the past six years, she and Lucy have been team mates at Cotwolds Rangers Ladies. Before that, they played for Gloucester City Ladies – where Lucy’s father was manager.  

Sophie’s father Dennis has generously announced that his firm, Vincent and Son Builders, will match the money they raise for the MEA pound for pound. 

“The ME Association is a charity close to my heart and I want it to be able to go on helping people like me in years to come”, added Sophie.

Thanks so much for thinking of us, Sophie. You’re a star! If people would like donate to this fundraiser, please visit Sophie’s page. 

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