105-year-old marathon fundraiser plans to celebrate MBE with champagne

Ruth Saunders was made an MBE after walking 26.2 miles to raise money for the Thames Valley Air Ambulance last year.

A 105-year-old who walked a marathon to raise money for charity plans to celebrate with champagne after being given a royal honour, adding: “I think I have earned it”.

Ruth Saunders, from Newbury in Berkshire, was made an MBE after walking 26.2 miles to raise money for the Thames Valley Air Ambulance.

The centenarian raised more than £39,000, far surpassing her original target of £500.

She said she felt “excited” to receive the honour and “relaxed” in the grand surrounds of Windsor Castle.

Ruth Saunders charity walk
Ruth was 104 when she crossed the finishing line at Newbury Racecourse (Ben Birchall/PA)

It was her second visit to the royal palace, but the first in around 85 years.

When Ms Saunders was 19 and a member of the Red Cross she was presented to Princess Mary, the daughter of George V, and recalled: “There was a crowd of us. I was the second one in line because I was a lance corporal then.

“And the Princess Royal, the first Princess Royal, came along the line and had a chat with the head one and me.

“And she had the most perfect blue eyes, I always remember it. And so this is my second experience coming to Windsor Castle.”

She said the current Princess Royal, who was handing out the honours on Wednesday, seemed impressed by her charitable efforts.

After being asked by Anne if she had any future plans, Ms Saunders said she wants to raise more money next year.

“I’m going to do what I can next time,” she said, explaining that she was not going to set a specific target but hoped to do more laps in February 2022 when the weather might have improved.

Ruth Saunders charity walk
Ms Saunders started her daily walks near her Newbury home, aiming to walk 104 blocks to match her age at the time (Steve Parsons/PA)

She said her granddaughter in France had issued the marathon challenge.

Ms Saunders said: “She laughed and said ‘if I can run a marathon’ – because she could – ‘you can walk a marathon’.

“And the gauntlet was thrown down. And so I did it.”

She added the secret to her long life is exercise, lots of vegetables and limiting her alcohol and junk food intake.

“When I was doing the walking, my leg was better and my body seemed better and I was really well and felt well. So it’s exercise that does a lot of it,” she said.

“I don’t drink a lot. I only have a glass of something – champagne.

“I like vegetables and I’ll eat any vegetable. I don’t gorge on cakes or chocolate. I’ll have a little, but not too much.”

Oh her champagne-fuelled celebratory plans, Ms Saunders said: “They might say ‘go on, have another one’. I think I have earned it today.”

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