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"Jess will inspire every step I take," says Ipswich man walking in teen's memory

PUBLISHED: 13:00 15 February 2019

Andy Marsh (second right) met Jess Grant on the Orwell 25 walk  Picture: Andy Marsh

Andy Marsh (second right) met Jess Grant on the Orwell 25 walk Picture: Andy Marsh

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Last year he walked from London to Brighton and now Andy Marsh faces his next big challenge on the Isle of Wight.

A COPD sufferer recovering from life-threatening sepsis, is preparing to walk 106km with a friend, raising money in memory of Ipswich teenager Jess Grant who lost her life to bone cancer in 2018.

Andy Marsh and Simon Norfolk hope to raise thousands for the Teenage Cancer Trust in Jess’ honour when they take on the Isle of Wight Challenge in May.

It’s the latest in a string of charity walks for Andy, who last year walked from London to Brighton, spurred on by inspirational Jess, who was diagnosed with cancer when she was only 11-years-old.

Andy met the teen two years ago while walking the Orwell 25. “My partner Tony and his friend Andy knew Jess’ parents well. Halfway around the walk, they showed up and Jess popped out of the car to wish us well, she was 14 at the time. I walk a lot, and I remember the others moaning a bit at mile 18 or 19, and there was me saying it’s so easy, but I hit a wall. I was veering into hedges. But then Jess came up at the end and popped a bottle of Champagne. It meant a lot to us. I was taken with her immediately – I’m a big softie.

Andrew Marshall and Simon Norfolk will be taking on a 100k walk in her honour in May, raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNAndrew Marshall and Simon Norfolk will be taking on a 100k walk in her honour in May, raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“We were raising money for cancer charities on that walk, but I wanted to do something specifically for Jess, so Tony and I went out and bought her a load of presents and took them to her house.”

Andy’s next challenge was the London to Brighton 100km walk last May. “When I signed up, I let Jess’ parents know and I let her know. I really wanted them to be at the finish line or the start line, but three weeks after I signed up Jess lost her life. It hit me a hell of a lot. People die. It’s a fact of life. But for someone so young to have gone through so much and to have still lost…I couldn’t get my head around it.”

Andy completed the walk in 23 hours, split over two days on what was then the hottest day of the year so far, raising £2,500 for the Teenage Cancer Trust. “At the time I was thinking ‘I can’t do this anymore’ but it was a case of not just doing it for Jess, but for the charities.”

The Teenage Cancer Trust will once again benefit from Andy’s (who last year walked nearly 100,000 steps, over London’s 33 bridges for fun) walking prowess on the Isle of Wight.

Andrew Marshall and Simon Norfolk will be taking on a 100k walk in her honour in May, raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNAndrew Marshall and Simon Norfolk will be taking on a 100k walk in her honour in May, raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Simon, who’s joining Andy on the challenge, admits the furthest he’s walked for a cause is 15km. “I really enjoyed it and I thought, I want to do something bigger and better, and 106km is definitely a challenge.”

The Isle of Wight Challenge is a regular part of the Ultra Series, attracting walkers, and seasoned marathon runners. It begins and ends at Chale on the southern side of the island, featuring around 2,100meters of climb.

“I haven’t been to the Isle of Wight since 1988,” laughs Simon.

“I want to do it differently this time,” adds Andy. “With Brighton we stopped halfway at a hotel for a few hours. For this we aren’t stopping overnight. We reckon it will take about 19 to 20 hours. Simon’s like me. We think, if you stop, it’s hard to get going again. So if we don’t need to stop, we’re not going to. We’ve got a job to do so we want to get it done, grab our medals…and have a gin!”

Jess Grant  Picture: The Grant familyJess Grant Picture: The Grant family

To boost their fundraising efforts, Andy and Simon are hosting an auction at Lady Norfolk and Lord Rust shop in Ipswich on March 2, from 7pm. Prizes include tickets to a show at the New Wolsey Theatre, dinner for two at The Freston Boot, a family pass for Theatre in the Forest, passes to Jimmy’s Farm, a Henry the Hoover customised by an Ipswich artist, and lots more.

Simply turn up on the night to support the Teenage Cancer Trust.

If you’d like to help Andy raise money in Jess’ honour go to his Just Giving page.

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