MORE than seven teams of local fitness enthusiasts drawn from a range of interests joined together at Monmouth Leisure Centre last Friday (3rd July) to raise money for Nepal as part of the Everest 565 Challenge.

The innovative event was the brainchild of Mike Bennett, who leads circuit training classes three evenings a week at Monmouth Leisure Centre. The challenge involved each team of 10 participants aiming to complete 50,000 exercise reps between them from 6pm to midnight. This gym marathon involved a full range of exercises from the staples of press-ups, squats and sit-ups to spin bikes and static rowing machines.

The event was originally planned as a showcase for the benefits of circuit training which improves both cardiovascular fitness and all over muscle strength of sportsmen and women of all ages, abilities and disciplines. However, since the earthquakes in Nepal, it was decided to use the event to raise funds for the relief effort. The event at the leisure centre raised more than £1,000 for The Nepal Trust which is providing relief for victims of the recent earthquakes.

All participants far exceeded initial expectations and pressed on for five full hours of circuits.

Over at Haberdashers' Monmouth School for Girls, (HMSG) kind-hearted pupils and teachers also took on an Everest challenge for Nepal. Around 160 pupils and 20 members of staff covered 8,000m in swimming, running and rowing relay races.

Debra Davies, housemistress and chairman of HMSG's charity committee, said: "There was a great atmosphere and every girl between Year 7 and 10 who was able to, took part in the challenge.

"Even girls who aren't natural runners got involved - it was a brilliant team effort.

"At the end, during the ergo race, everyone stood around in a circle to cheer the rowers on."

Pupils at HMSG were desperate to do something to help the eight million people thought to have been affected by the tragic earthquake that happened in April.

Rachel Badgami, Year 8, has grandparents and other family members living in Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, and was particularly moved to make a difference.

"Prabhat Shah from Pontypool, who was seeing relatives in Nepal when the earthquake struck, came to speak to the girls in assembly last week" Debra added,

"Some friends of his had made a video especially for us when they heard we were raising money for them.

"Lots of Nepalese children were saying 'good luck' to the girls, encouraging them to 'run hard' and thanking them for their support.

"I think it made the whole thing more real for the girls, to see those children laughing and joking who are just like them, but a lot less well-off.

"It made the challenge a lot more personal."

Four teams of pupils, representing each of the houses at HMSG, took part in every Everest event, with a team of staff also competing.

"Overall, the staff team won, it was a really positive way to end the last day of term."

Younger girls at Inglefield House, the preparatory school for HMSG, have also raised nearly £1,000 for the appeal in the last few weeks with their 'Grow a Pound' challenge, cake sales and a sponsored haircut.

The organisers would like to thank the many local businesses and organisations who contributed to the event and made it possible