The Course to Course Story
Course to Course was born out of an idea by Graham Arnold in the summer of 2020,
possibly after seeing Captain Tom walking around his garden. Graham has always had this dream, like many others do, to visit every racecourse in the UK.
In September of that year, he discussed this with a friend Mark Williams, who due to his
father’s interest in racing had already visited every racecourse in the UK, whilst he was
probably under sixteen years of age, including the now closed Folkestone and Wye. Graham happened to mention his idea to Mark and hence ‘Course to Course’ was born.
They talked about it, discussed it and decided walking from Newton Abbott zigzagging
their way up to Perth would be pointless, as they would only hit five or six race days. The
whole point was to involve racing and the people that support and love it. So, they
devised a plan, a bit like a child’s dot to dot, that doesn’t necessarily have to be done in
any set order. Splitting the courses up into legs, with every racecourse being a final
destination on one leg. The first course they will walk to will be Aintree, the venue of
what is arguably the most famous race in the world and finishing at Headquarters, which
is Newmarket in Suffolk. So, by the time they have finished they will have walked from
every course to another one and even more importantly, on most occasions, whilst a race
meeting is taking place.
They selected three charities thinking these will cover a meaning to most of the people they will meet along the way. Firstly, the Injured Jockeys Fund, which does so much for racing, especially those who have chosen to be a jockey as a career. Macmillan Cancer Support, one of the most important of the cancer care charities, because they help and deal with the worst of cancer and its victims. Finally, Alzheimer’s Society as they feel it’s a charity overlooked but a charity that helps a silent few struggling with the effects of this dreadful disease.
Graham and Mark have all sorts of ideas for this walk and fundraiser which has been suggested by those they have spoken about it up to now, Suggestions that it will probably be the biggest thing horse racing has seen since Red Rum won his third Grand National in 1977.
A little bit about Graham, he has written himself:
“My interest in racing started from a very young age. Both my father and mothers’ side of
the family enjoyed the Sport of Kings and we had many a family outing to Epsom,
Lingfield Park, Kempton and other southern courses. My Dad used to allow me to have a
shilling on a race and put it on for me and I remember cheering them on at about 5 or 6
years old. The passion remains and I am in awe of these magnificent animals and the
work and dedication shown in their care by the people that look after them.
After 55 years of getting so much pleasure from the sport I decided it was time to give
something back and am embarking on this walk, with excitement if not a little
trepidation, knowing it will be the biggest adventure and personal achievement of my
A little from Mark in his own words on this:
“So folks. Hi, Hello I’m the Mark Williams mentioned. There is so much to this, it’s incredible. The planning is.....well fun. As we’d like to turn up at racecourses when it’s a race day it works out to be a logistical nightmare. It’s one heck of a distance and quite frankly makes Lands End to John O Groats look a Sunday stroll. Sometimes you need to do something bold, so this is it. I love racing. I can explain why but I have my own reasons for doing this and to make a difference to so many. I’ve been around racing all my life. Apparently I even attended as a baby being carried of course. I grew up with my Dad, an avid owner in the 70s and 80s before he sadly died in 1988. I’ve many a racing story to tell. From watching Pat Eddery mow a pile of Group One winners down at Longchamp piloting Dancing Brave to victory to admitting when I was about 8 to have had a bet, well my Dad put it on for me but it was who I told…yes none other than the Queen Mother, probably the best lady of racing at the time who replied well I’ve had a little flutter too but we will keep it our secret. God bless you Ma’am.
Only my kids and close friends know this or well did until now, now everyone reading this will. My Dad and his Dad both died at 53 from a heart attack and I’ve just hit 53! Yes I can hear you all thinking! So, when Graham had this idea a few weeks ago I jumped at the chance to get involved and to make a difference to others and also to challenge myself. Yes, I’ll be 54 when this all happens and I am soo looking forward to making difference to these charities.
So, the plan was born. As they don’t intend to leave Northern Ireland out, some two
thousand four hundred miles later, they would have covered every course in the United
Graham & Mark have already galvanised a lot of support and at the time of writing this,
only four weeks after announcing this for the very first time on Facebook, are making
steady progress. Let’s hope that can be said right to the very end at Newmarket.
Their plan is to hopefully have two maybe three more people to join them on the entire
walk. They are currently in talks with two ladies and a possible third gentleman that may
join them. The problem that they identified was if one of them can’t walk for a few days
due to an injury or illness it would be tough on the other person to go it alone, hence the
need to increase the numbers. Having said that neither of these determined chaps hope
this will be the case and they can both complete all 60 legs of the walk. On each leg they
hope to be joined by others even if it’s only for a mile. Whether it be racing fans, jockeys,
owners, trainers, racecourse staff, stable staff or even a couple of racehorses, in fact
anyone will be welcome to get involved.
The ambitious aim is to raise £1 million, whether it be by donations, sponsorship, selling a leg to a local company or through merchandise they will have for sale. With all profits and donations being split equally to the three charities.
They don’t mind incurring a few expenses from their own pockets in these early days,
and in fact, Graham will be taking unpaid leave from his job with Ladbrokes in Gibraltar for the duration of the walk.
They hope to gain corporate sponsorship through partnerships with various
organisations, not just in monetary terms but for things they will need, like a support
vehicle from one of the big rental companies, trainers/walking boots from the likes of
New Balance or Nike. Accommodation along the way from one of the budget hotel chains,
specialist walking clothing from the likes of Go Outdoors or Sports Direct, band aids and
other medical supplies from one of the pharmacy chains, down to water and bananas
from Aldi or Lidl. Vehicle fuel will also be sourced from a sponsor.
They intend having volunteers from the three charities to man their stalls/stands at each
racecourse, assuming the racecourses will permit this. They are hoping to gain a few
brand ambassadors and are trying to open up talks with the likes of John Francome, Hollie Doyle, Tom Marquand and Ruby Walsh as an example.
As well as all the support and partnerships that are being created, they are also seeking
one main headline sponsor, just like the Grand National of old became the Martell Grand
National, this appeal will be known then as The (Sponsor’s name) Course to Course Charity Walk Challenge. This will give the headline sponsor massive coverage from branded logos on everything to do with the walk, clothing, advertising, media coverage, support vehicle signage and so on. Plus, this would also provide the company with very positive PR for the support shown to this worthwhile cause.
They are also recruiting people as volunteers to help them with social media work,
personal assistance, physiotherapists and even support vehicle drivers. As we said
earlier, they are four weeks in, with about sixty-four weeks to go, COVID-19 allowing.
Dates for each leg have not been set due to the racing calendar not being published yet
for 2022 but with so much planning needed it is all systems go.
They have decided that the expedition will start from McCain car sales in Southport from
where Ginger McCain and Rummy set off all those years ago in an effort to win the Grand
National. Red Rum was stabled behind Ginger’s car showroom and used to use the
Southport sands as his gallops.
Graham and Mark along with their fellow walkers hope to win the hearts of the nation and certainly the hearts of the racing industry in 2022. If you have any questions please contact either via email, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or you can call Mark on 07942910920 or Graham on 07776 415808.