TWO Hampshire fundraisers have completed their toughest challenge yet - walking the circumference of the Isle of Wight in less than 24 hours.

In a bid to raise vital funds for cardiac charity Wessex Heartbeat, Lewis Rule and Sam Williams, both aged 21, donned their walking boots to tackle the 100km trek, successfully completing the challenge in 22 hours.

They took on the walk, which clocked up 262,466 steps between them, after being inspired by their close friend Alex Ind – a long-time supporter of Wessex Heartbeat who has been under the care of the charity after being born with a congenital heart condition.

Lewis said: “I think we can safely say that this was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done. Having previously only walked 50km in training, we knew this was going to be tough.

“The excitement of what lay ahead quickly wore off as it turned dark and things started getting cold, and there were plenty of challenging moments along the way. But, as the sun rose, we gained a second wind and ploughed on to the finish.

“With the inspiring story of our best mate Alex constantly in our heads - and the long-awaited beer with him at the finish line - we found the strength to complete it.”

Under the care of Southampton General Hospital, with after-care support from Wessex Heartbeat, Alex has faced a lifetime of operations – including four open-heart surgeries, with the most recent performed just a year ago.

Despite his condition, and living with a pacemaker, Alex has embarked on a number of fundraisers for Wessex Heartbeat and the hospital's cardiac unit. Alex and his family have raised more than £100,000 in total for Wessex Heartbeat.

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