A charity worker from Sheffield will start a six-day marathon tomorrow in aid of the Grenfell Foundation.
Mik Parkin, 46, will run 163 miles from Sheffield to the site of the tragedy to raise money and awareness for those affected.
“I’m kind of nervous, kind of excited. Every twinge in my body that normally wouldn’t bother me does, thinking this is gonna be the thing that does me in,” he said, adding:
“The training’s been hard, it’s been lots of 6am starts and six hour runs and horrible hills and being pick sick of running but after six days I’ve not lost anybody, I’ve not had my home taken away from me. It puts what I’m doing into contrast.”
In previous years, Mik has been involved in a number of runs from Anfield to Hillsborough in support of Hillsborough fans. When those runs reached their end, Mik was looking for the next challenge to inspire and grab him.
“I was watching the news and in the Liverpool against Chelsea match some of the fans had taken a Grenfell banner down and I thought, there’s a parallel there.
“There’s people being disregarded, there’s people who’ve lost their lives there’s not enough happening to get that truth, justice and change that the Hillsborough fans were wanting,” he said.
After deciding to take up the challenge, Mik went to one of the Silent Walks held on the 14th of every month to remember the tragedy.
Since then, he said it has been a learning curve as he learnt more about the Grenfell tragedy, meeting those who are affected, and became more aware of the scale of the problem.
He said: “There’s people from every walk of life getting involved because its a national scandal and an even bigger national scandal that there are all these buildings that nothing has been done about.”
After the Grenfell tragedy, the government made £400 million available to fix social housing blocks fitted with the flammable ACM cladding similar to that which spread the fire in the Grenfell Tower.
While progress has been made in this area, in the private sector next to nothing has been done to remove the dangerous cladding, leaving thousands of leaseholders across the country living in fear and precarity.
Will Martin is a resident of the Metis Building in Sheffield, one of 166 buildings in the UK identified as having combustible cladding on it.
Like many others, the cladding is yet to be removed from the Metis Building. Tenants are in the middle of an on-going debate about who should pay for its removal.
While the government say it shouldn’t be leaseholders, there is no legislation in place to make developers and freeholders responsible for the removal.
The cost of re-cladding a building the size of the Metis is around £2 million, which is a sum of money many tenants like Will do not have access to, leaving them in a state of limbo.
“It’s miserable, I can’t do the things that everyone else takes for granted; I can’t sell my property, I can’t remortgage my property, I can’t spend money on things that I’d like to spend on,” Will said.
“We’ve been living with this fear and anxiety for two years now and our mental health has been hugely affected, partly because of the finances, but lets not forget I’m living in a building that has got similar cladding to that of Grenfell and we all saw the tragic events that unfolded two years ago.”
A recent report conducted by UK Cladding Action Group (UKCAG) found that many residents living in this situation have experienced relationship breakdowns and medical problems because of the situation.
Residents in some buildings have also been forced to take measures such as nightly “waking watches” in which they patrol their buildings throughout the night, to ensure they are safe; this is on top of having a full-time job.
“The irony is that this man is running past a building on Saturday that has got this cladding on, down to a building that burnt down and killed 72 people because of this cladding.”William Martin, UK Cladding Action Group
Will who is one of the co-founders of UKCAG, said although they were not aware of each other until recently, UKCAG and Metis residents are fully supportive of Mik’s adventure.
“The irony is that he is running from past a building on Saturday that has got this cladding on, down to a building that burnt down and killed 72 people because of this cladding.
“We’re in complete awe of Mik, we’re gonna be cheering him along on the way. Its vital that we keep raising awareness about the Grenfell victims, not all of them have been rehoused and that’s a disgrace in itself,” he added.
Mik’s journey will start at the Metis Building on Saturday 4 May at 7.30am and he will have six stops along the way at Mansfield, Melton Mowbray, Kettering, Luton, St Albans, finally finishing at the Grenfell site on 9 May.
Of the £2000 fundraising target, £1610 has already been made and it is hoped they will reach the target before the run’s end.
“[The community] is really strong and they’re not going away and they’re organised and they are gonna keep going to get that change, its really inspiring seeing them.
“I made loads of really good friends through this, people have really shown up to support and all I can do is try and show it all back. Anything that I can do to help I’d love to,” Mik said.
After the intense training and a month of no alcohol, Mik is looking forward to “a huge cold pint, a kebab and a sleep” at the end.
For more information on the Grenfell tragedy and work being done to support the survivors, please visit the Grenfell United website.