orwell challenge history

Times have really changed since the Orwell Challenge started, but three things remain at the core of the event: a fun day out for the whole family, the chance to enjoy our beautiful Suffolk countryside, and the opportunity to help many local charities and causes.

How it alll began

The Orwell Challenge was first held in 1976 and was the brainchild of past member Derek Jarman. The concept at the outset was to arrange an event that anyone could use both as a healthy challenge in our wonderful Suffolk countryside and to raise funds through sponsorship for their chosen charities or good causes. This basic concept remains at the heart of what we do today.

In those early days the event was only a walk, and it followed a very similar route, from Ipswich to Felixstowe along the banks of the River Orwell and back, which became the Orwell 25 Walk that we still have today.

The Orwell Walk, as it was then called, proved an immediate success with participant numbers increasing each year, and it was partly for the success of the event that Derek Jarman was awarded an MBE for his charitable works.

In recent years, we have added marathon and half marathon trail runs to the event, so it really is a day out for all. We have rebranded the event as The Orwell Challenge, however, the walk element still remains at the heart of the event.

We know that not everyone is able to manage a 25 mile walk or a trail run but can still be challenged. Walkers can choose the distance they feel comfortable with and for them that will be their “Challenge”. We have 3 main distances for walkers – 13 miles, 19 miles and the full 25 miles, but again, even managing the 3 miles to the first base is challenge enough for some. We arrange for participants to be returned to base when they can go no further.

The Orwell Challenge abides by the rules of England Athletics and is a validated Trail run. Runners will be timed for both the marathon and half marathons. We have fully qualified medical cover and minibuses to transport anyone who cannot complete the event back to our HQ at Gainsborough Sports Centre.

2024 will be the 47th year of the event, and over those years participants have raised well over £3.2 million for their charities and organisations. Over 100 organisations have now benefited from sponsorship raised. So why not register and join the fun? Registration is easy and done online, so sign up as soon as possible – we look forward to seeing you on SUNDAY 23rd JUNE 2024.