Sharmila's triple ultra challenge

Sharmila makes strides to support Martlets’ ‘new home’

Supporter Sharmila is taking on not one but three Ultra Challenges for Martlets this year to fundraise in support of our new hospice building. Here she tells us about her upcoming Easter 50 Ultra Challenge, the Thames Path 100k, and a marathon and trek through the Sahara Desert…and why you should always carry a charged phone and a spare pair of socks!

“I’ve decided to take on three Ultra challenges for Martlets which are endurance walking events. Martlets are building new hospice facilities that will ensure they can provide exceptional hospice care for decades to come. The team at Martlets need support from the local community to make this major building project happen, so I thought I’d do my bit to help.

I have strong connections with Martlets (my husband is on the Board of Trustees and I’m friends with Juliet the Board’s Chair) so I’ve been hearing all about what a difference this new building will make. I also used to work as a dentist and would hear so many lovely stories from local people about the care Martlets had given to their loved ones.

As a resident in Martlets’ catchment area, it could be that I or someone I care about may need their support in the years to come. That’s not an easy thing to think about, but terminal illness can happen to anyone at any time.

As a community we need to invest in the health of those we love and for me supporting Martlets is part of that commitment.

Martlets’ staff have cared for 34,000 people over the past 25 years, but to ensure their facilities are fit for the future this new building is essential. Although the majority of the funding is in place, they need the public – that’s local people like you and me – to raise that bit extra to make this happen. So, please consider sponsoring me via my JustGiving page – or consider taking on a fundraising challenge of your own. There is bound to be something fun you would enjoy taking on and it will make you feel so positive.

I can’t run because I’m quite musculo-skeletally challenged, and I had to give up my work as a dentist because the continuous bending over people was messing up my back. But I’m lucky that I can walk long distances if I maintain my core strength, so that’s how I keep active and that’s why I’m walking for Martlets.

Sharmila with her dogs walking in preparation of her ultra challenge

My first event is the Easter Ultra Challenge on 1 April and it’s a 50km walk from Windsor in a loop around Surrey and Berkshire. It’s a great way to kick off the 2023 Ultra Challenge season!

The Easter 50 Ultra Challenge starts at Windsor Racecourse and heads off through the Great Park with fantastic views of the Castle. Then it’s on to Runnymede, along the Thames Path, and through some wonderful countryside. Then, in September, I’ll be doing the Thames Path Ultra Challenge which is 100km from Putney Bridge in London upstream to Henley, along the towpath. It will take around 22 hours to complete so I’ll be walking through the night with around 3,000 other people. A month later, I get on a plane to Marrakech and begin my Saharan Challenge. I’ll be making an uncomfortable eight-hour journey in a van out to the desert and camping overnight. Then we’ll do two days of walking; the first is a marathon, then the following day a 50km trek.

Training for the UK events is relatively easy as it’s mainly on the flat and I can just walk up and down the esplanade by the sea. But in the Sahara, I’ll be dealing with intense heat and the terrain will be up and downhill, so my training has to be a real mixture of everything.

To prepare, I’m doing a combination of walking from Rottingdean to Shoreham on the flat and then going over Beachy Head and Seven Sisters to get used to steeper terrain. Hopefully, we’ll have a hot summer so I can put my kit on and get out in the hills – day and night. The main thing is to take a litre of water, invest in good footwear, and make sure you have a fully-charged phone with GPS. You need a head torch if you’re wandering around at night and wet weather gear in case it’s raining, and a change of socks. I’ll also be going to the gym regularly to keep up my core strength with Pilates and yoga. I listen to podcasts and make phone calls to friends when I’m training and take my lovely dogs along, Coco and Scout, for company.

The Thames Path Ultra Challenge is known as ‘the foot shredder’ because people’s toenails are often dropping off by the end! It might seem as though walking on the flat is quite easy, but you are using the same muscles over and over again which can be really hard. In the Sahara, the heat will be the main challenge, but we’ll be accompanied by guides so there will be water and food brought along. I’ve taken part in Ultra Challenges before with friends, but this is the first time I’ll be going solo. I’m sure I’ll meet people along the way though and get chatting.

Sharmila preparing for her ultra challenge with her dogs

I had never really thought of doing anything for charity, but I saw how hard the NHS and hospice staff were working during the COVID pandemic and it was inspirational. I wanted to support a local charity and Martlets was the obvious choice.

If I was going to ask family, friends and colleagues for money in sponsorship I needed to ensure that their money was going to a deserving cause. I couldn’t think of anything better than Martlets, a local charity that helps so many local families across such a broad area. The new building is coming along and it’s going to be amazing. I would encourage anyone reading this to go to the website, look at the plans and see what they’re doing because it will just be fantastic. And it’s being done with such care and attention.

There will be a new inpatient unit, a sensory garden, better gym and rehab facilities and a larger café; it will be a community hub. What I think is wonderful is that Martlets asked families what it was that they would most like to see in the new building. They asked for bigger ‘cuddle beds’, more family space, and ensuite rooms and that is what’s being provided. Clinically it will be fantastic and a really dignified environment with private space and social areas according to people’s needs. I’m really excited by the prospect and it’s an absolute privilege to raise some money and encourage everyone out there to support Martlets too. The hospice is such an important part of Sussex life and it’s so important to  make more people aware of the care Martlets provides.

So, if you’re thinking about donating to Martlets by sponsoring me, or in any other way, I would really encourage you to visit their website. Look at the videos that are on there and all that Martlets does and I defy you to not come away and put your hand in your pocket! Thank you so much for your support.”

Juliet Smith, Martlets’ Chair of the Trustees, adds a few words about her ‘wonderful friend’ Sharmila:

Juliet Smith friend of Sharmila and , Martlets’ Chair of the Trustees

“I had never particularly looked forward to going to the dentist until I met Sharmila. When she became my dentist we immediately connected with each other and became friends. I remember being in her dental surgery on one occasion and receiving an emergency phone call informing me that my mother was dying. I couldn’t rush off immediately because I had various appendages in my mouth and a procedure which needed finishing. She was so lovely and supportive.

We’ve got to know each other quite well and she’s been there with me on my journey through life over the past few years. We became walking buddies during the COVID pandemic. Her husband Mark was a much-loved and respected geriatrician at the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton, and he is now on Martlets’ board of trustees. It’s glorious what Sharmila will be doing to support Martlets when she takes part in the Ultra Challenges. Community fundraising is so important to Martlets and hopefully she will inspire other people to give it a go and to support her with a donation.

Every individual effort adds to the whole and if we all challenge ourselves in whatever way feels right, we really can make a big difference to Martlets’ fundraising total. Sharmila’s a wonderful person and that just shines through, so please do consider supporting her in these Ultra Challenges.”

Could you support Martlets?

To support Sharmila, please visit her JustGiving page.

If you’re interested in taking part in a fundraising challenge of your own for Martlets, visit Fundraise for Us on the Martlets website. If you have any questions about fundraising for us, please call 01273 747455 or email us at

You can also join our supporters Facebook group to see what other people are doing and to chat to the team: