Tinkerbell, Elvis, Minnie Mouse: Tracey Wheeler Runs Around Incognito

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Tracey Wheeler from Cabin Crew may run half-marathons but let us assure you – she does nothing in half-measures. Originally planning to run 12 half-marathons in 2014 for Free the Children (one for each month of the year), Tracey has just completed her 20th half-marathon – and is preparing for her 21st in January. Luckily, she enjoys sports.

So where did she gather her inspiration from?

“In 2010, I was really fortunate to visit one of the villages that Free the Children offered aid to, and I helped build a school. I came out with a completely different perspective and wanted to challenge myself some more – for their benefit. So between 2010 and 2013, I got involved in several of the adventure charity trips and that really inspired me.”

These adventure charity trips, from climbing Mt Fuji, cycling across the Masai Mara in Kenya and Rajasthan in India, to trekking along the Great Wall of China, were all part of Virgin Atlantic’s charity challenges for Free the Children.

“Whenever I do a Virgin Atlantic challenge – whether it’s a mountain climb or a cycling trip – there’s always a support network, you’ve always got people around you who are doing the same thing and feeling the pain with you.

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Tracey after completing another successful run in Barbados

“The great thing about them is that they’re not just for crew – it’s open to everybody across the company. It’s fantastic to spend a week with people from the Press Office, or Internal Comms, or Cargo. You get to learn about the charity, but also about these people and what they do.
 

“Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and it’s great to see people draw on their own reserves to help each other out. Plus sometimes it’s really hard – you’re roughing it up and there’s a lot of camping involved – we don’t stay in nice hotels. But that’s what makes it such an achievement. That’s what you take away when it’s over.”

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Wonder Woman saves the day

And while she’s often running half-marathons with as little as 13 hours between landing and taking-off again, she still finds plenty of energy to enjoy herself. She’s dressed up as Wonder Woman, Minnie Mouse, Elvis, a princess, Tinkerbell and even a devil for Halloween.

“I think it breaks down barriers when you dress up – people stop and have a chat with you. There are, of course, lots of people who take them all very seriously, but the Disney marathons are definitely worth dressing up for. I’d like to dress up for the final marathons as a Virgin Atlantic air hostess – even if it’s just for five or 10 kilometres. Although, I don’t think I’d be able to run in my Vivienne Westwood skirt for too long!”

What’s the appeal of running in a Virgin Atlantic uniform though?

“I’m really passionate about the work I do for Virgin Atlantic. I really love the way people here are just different – in a good way. It’s not just an airline to me, it’s a way of living. I’ve been working here 11 years in January, and I hope the next 11 years bring as much happiness and reward as the last.

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Will this be Tracey’s next running outfit?

“People that work here all have that same passion and drive to make a difference. Whether that’s on a passenger flight or on a much larger scale, like with the charity work we do, I think we’re really compassionate people. You can tell that we’re all working on the same page – we all come from different walks of life and want the best for each other.”

As for her plans to celebrate the end of an impressively successful year, they’re no less spectacular than her feats to-date.

“I want a big finale – it’s been such an incredible year that I thought it’d be a shame to just end with another half marathon. So I’m doing a four-day event which ends with a full, 26.2 mile marathon – in Disneyworld, Orlando. It’s called the Walt Disney World® Dopey Challenge.

“The goal for me was to go out and have a great time, raise money for a worthy cause and awareness for Virgin Atlantic and its charitable work around the world – and I did. I’ve got so many great memories from this year, it’s been incredible.”

Tracey’s already achieved well beyond her original £3,000 fundraising target – to more than £8,000 – but if you’d like to show your support and donate, visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/tracey12halfmarathons

Read more about Virgin Atlantic’s volunteers and our partnership with the charity Free the Children.

Visit our careers website to read more about life at Virgin Atlantic.

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