South West Wales

Pembrokeshire villagers' 107 miles for 107th birthday

Bessie Phillips
Image caption Bessie Phillips, aged 107, is described as a remarkable character

Villagers are staging an 18-hour fun run over a total of 107 miles to mark their eldest resident's 107th birthday.

Clunderwen in Pembrokeshire has done something special for Bessie Phillips' birthday since she turned 100.

More than 100 people are taking it in turns from midnight to run, walk or roll pushchairs or wheelchairs the mile between her house and local chapel.

They are also raising money so a teenage relative of Mrs Phillips can take part in the 2012 Paralympic Games.

It started just after midnight and is expected to finish at about 1800 GMT on Saturday, when 107 people will have each covered the distance.

Those taking part range from the youngest toddlers in the village to residents in their 80s.

Huw George, the minister at Blaenconin Baptist Chapel in Llandysilio where Mrs Phillips is a member, said this year's celebration had fired up the whole community.

"It's not every community that has a centenarian so we have done something special for the last seven years," he said.

'Remarkable character'

"She is a remarkable character. Last year we released 106 Chinese lanterns but this has really brought the community together."

Mr George, who is also the county councillor for the area, said the relay had a duel purpose as money raised would help Bessie's great-great nephew Jacob Thomas, from the nearby village of Bethesda, train for the London 2012 Paralympics.

The 16-year-old has Duchenne's Syndrome, a form of muscular dystrophy, and is the current Welsh and British Wheelchair Boccia Champion, a sport similar to bowls for athletes with severe disabilities affecting motor skills.

"He is an incredibly brave and determined boy," said Mr George.

"All the money raised will help towards his training and when the tickets come on sale for the Paralympics in September I think the boccia will be full just from this community."

'Tremendous response'

Jacob's friends are just some of the those are taking park in the relay, which was started by members of the young farmers' club in fancy dress overnight.

Among those taking part is the former England and Glamorgan cricketer Robert Croft, who is due to run a mile in the village at about midday.

Andrew Davies is Bessie's grandson and helped organised the event. He said a "combination" of people came up with the idea for the relay.

He told BBC Radio Wales: "It started at midnight and has been going on through the night at 10-minute intervals.

"She was fast asleep when it started, mind."

"Everybody walks the mile and they are allocated 10 minutes. So everyone starts on the ten minutes whether the person coming down or going up has finished or not.

"There's been a tremendous response in the community. We couldn't have asked for more really."