The First ever Cissbury Ring Marathon Relay 2021

Raising money for a life saving cause in memory of Nick Votta

Here at Foxy Ladies Running club we pride ourselves on being one of the most supportive clubs around, more like a big family, so when something tragic happens to one of our members we all pull together to help them in any way we can.


In June, one of our long-term members Sam Merrick lost her life partner Nick Votta of 35 years, in an unexpected heart attack, despite every effort to resuscitate him. He was a loving father of two, to his boys Matthew and Robbie. A real community-based man involved with the local Scouts organisation and always willing to lend a hand. He loved walking up Cissbury ring with his family and more recently with their foster dogs and of course the Findon Scout Group.

We wanted to do something that celebrated his life and love for the countryside but that would also benefit the community. We set about organising the Cissbury Ring Marathon Relay in his memory. The aim being, to raise enough money for a defibrillator to be accessible in the local area for walkers, runners and cyclists.


The Foxy members were asked to take part in teams of eight and to pay an entrance fee per person to raise the necessary funds. We were overwhelmed with the response and received a whopping sign up of 19 teams. With permission given from the National Trust to run through the ring and along the inside, we mapped out a route that was 1.2 miles, which meant 22 laps in total, equating to 26.4 miles, just over a marathon distance for each team.


On a cold, windy but sunny November morning about 150 Foxy Ladies traipsed up the steep hill to the start line. Some in fancy dress or team colours and some with face paints but all with a great spirit. Picnic rugs were laid down and teams set about organising themselves and keeping warm. Flasks of hot drinks were produced, a cake table was set up and team attire was arranged.


The lap had one upward hill climb to start and then into the biting wind followed by a more sheltered and down hill return. Ladies ran in pairs from each team, not only for company but for safety although the route was well covered by all our lovely volunteer marshalls. The laps were marked up on the scoreboard and it was exciting to see them being crossed off every time the ladies came in.

A few hours later all had completed their team marathons, even our youth girls aged 14 -18 took part and often helped other teams out by running laps for them. It was an emotional day for all that took part. Sam and her team “Vottas Vixens” all ran the last lap together in their specially designed red t-shirts. We are grateful to our club members and to all their partners for marshalling and volunteering on the day. All members were rewarded with a bespoke medal designed especially for the event and a unique one for Sam.

Members of the public also donated money on the day and purchased some of the lovely homemade cakes during the event. We were lucky enough to have another Foxy husband, Gareth Blower run the London Marathon back in October and the sponsorship he raised of £625 has gone directly to this cause.

The best news is that we have raised enough money to provide two rural defibrillators. This is in conjunction with The Sussex Heart Charity who provide a grant system to help with purchase, organisation and training of the defibs. We have now been given permission to place one up near Cissbury Ring and the other at Storrington Rise car park in their special cases and within a thermal bag to protect the defibs from the elements.

We hope these devices may never be needed but if they help to save just one life, then it has been very worthwhile.

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