Chief Executive of HIF challenges herself to complete London Marathon while raising money for Saint Michaels


Sharon Canavar is the Chief Executive of the Harrogate International Festivals (HIF)

We met with her to talk about her fund-raising for Saint Michaels and taking part in the London Marathon this year.

You are known by many as the CEO of the HIFs, but what does that mean you do ?

The role of HIF is an arts charity but it’s the team who are fantastic and deliver every year, from fire gardens to blow up cathedrals to more traditional chamber concerts and literary festivals, albeit one with a lot of beer surrounding it!

I’m incredibly proud of how we work to celebrate Harrogate as a destination but also to ensure that there are events and activities that the community want to get involved in and support.

I grew up in Harrogate and HIF gave me the opportunity to see BB King and the Halle Orchestra right here on my doorstep without having to go through to Leeds/Manchester when I was still really young, it had a massive impact and influence on my choices and now career so want to ensure this can continue for everyone in Harrogate.

Why have you chosen Saint Michaels hospice as your charity ?

It turns out I am incredibly unlucky in the ballots for races. I didn’t get Great North Run last year, I hadn’t been running very long and all at once I was relieved but then gutted. I called St Michael’s that morning on the off-chance they had some places and was lucky enough to join the team at GNR. Getting involved at this level means you take your learning about the organisation you’re fundraising for to a new level.

They looked after my Grandad, and friends at a truly awful time in their lives, but did it with great care and compassion. The same story came from everyone when I said who I was fundraising for and it’s rare that you meet someone who doesn’t have a personal story about St Michael’s and the great work they do.

When it came to the Virgin London Marathon I didn’t get a place there either, but St Michael’s had one place and I had to pitch for it – I did my best and was so incredibly lucky to get their space.

As it’s only me, I have to make sure I raise as much money as possible, so from harassing everyone I know near and far, annoying everyone with my social media and Strava oversharing, bucket shaking, raffle tickets and some amazing corporate sponsorship from HACS, Cold Bath Brewery and Destination Harrogate it means I can keep raising my target as the weeks go on.

How much are you looking to raise and how did you decide on the target ?

I told St Michael’s I’d try to get £2.5-3k, and set the target there to start but I’ve just tipped over £5k and I’d like to get to over £6k if I can….I just keep incrementally increasing the target and hoping that people are generous enough to keep donating.

What got you into running, did it come easily to you ?

Running does not come easily to me, it’s fair to say I am not built for it….! I did a lot of spin in 2017/18 and lost about 6 stone but then wanted to supplement the spinning with something else. A mate was doing a bit of running and Park Runs so went out with him to get going and now have done a few 10k/10m/the Great North Run and now the Marathon. The miles are getting higher now (up to 15m so far) and the training is tiring – plus I am hungry all the time (and I think my body might be falling apart) but I love how hooked on running other people in my life have got, a few of the team at HIF now run regularly too!

How much training are you doing each week ?

I’m following a BUPA training plan that’s stuck to my wall at work to keep me on track, running 3/4 times a week and cross training once, so about 30+ miles a week at the moment.

How do you fit that training in around family life and work life ?

Training fits in, and I’m lucky to have a v supportive family. Sunday morning runs for the long run and then the others just after the youngest has gone to bed, so lots of training in the dark at this time or year. Plus it’s time sensitive – this is my only marathon (I promise!) so it’s until the end of April and then I’ll keep running but some normality will resume!

Has the training given you any other benefits ?

I’m not sure what training benefits I’ve got, definitely fitter but as the miles go up I am eating so much more! You see more of different places when you’re out and about, went running on the ‘Vatican Loop’ last week in Rome which means you see parts of the city you might not otherwise explore. Plus I’ve explored bits of Knaresborough, seen amazing wildlife when I’ve got lost and  I‘ve made lots of friends through running too, I might not be in a running club but in general it’s a really supportive community!

To support Sharon then please follow the link

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