“A great soul serves everyone all the time. A great soul never dies. It brings us together again and again.” — Maya Angelou
And so James Read has brought us all together on this journey, inspired by a too-short life that was nevertheless lived to the fullest. James was just 20 years old when he passed away from complications of APS Type 1 in 2021. An avid hiker, James was planning to climb the three highest peaks in the UK: Snowdon (Wales), Ben Nevis (Scotland) and Scafell Pike (England). He never got to finish that ambitious trek. In tribute, his friends and family planned to walk 1000 miles; they have graciously allowed us all to join in. They’ve also shared some words about James, who is remembered as a passionate environmentalist, a gifted singer, a devoted friend, a fearless adventurer, a fitness fanatic, and so much more than can be captured on a two dimensional page.
From Joann Read, James’ mother:
“…. Having been given his third diagnosis at the age of 11, James asked his paediatrician “What’s going to happen to me next Dougie?” He received the reply: “Well James. I don’t know which bits of you are going to stop working. I don’t know which bits of me are going to stop working. So my advice to you is to get out there and live your life.”
So what did he do? He took up that baton and he ran with it all the way to the end. He went paragliding over Lake Garda when he was 11. He went to Iceland when he was 15 and swam over deep water ravines in an inflatable suit…. James was so determined to go on an Expedition to Tanzania and climb Mount Meru that he DID raise the £2,000 he needed in order to get there. It took 42 job applications at the age of 16, but he finally got a job…. and earned that £2,000. We knew that the rescue helicopters didn’t fly at night. We knew that if anything happened on that mountain in the dark the chances were that he wouldn’t come back. But he did come back, still smiling, having given his watch to a little African girl who was besotted with him and with so many stories to tell.
From Mia Gray, James’ good friend and roommate:
“When I think about James, my first thoughts are about his creative flair for art and music and the general ‘sparkle’ he carried from his smile through to his famous sparkly shoes…. He was a huge advocate for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. I was lucky enough to join him on adventures around the world, where his mental resilience was like no other. Hiking up Tanzania’s Mt Meru in the dark, he lifted our spirits singing Bohemian Rhapsody on repeat until we reached the summit at sunrise…. A Racery hike that I will log is along the Yorkshire coastline to the beautiful Robin Hood’s Bay, one of James’ favourite family locations…. I went back last month to where we had trekked, 6 years ago now, in a heat wave, stuffed full of ice cream!
James pushed us to travel, grasp any opportunity for new experiences, and to truly believe that we can do anything we put our mind to. He had so many more mountains to climb, songs left to sing and memories to make, but we know he would be so proud to see the impact he made bringing everyone together to take on this 1000-mile challenge, with a ‘sparkle’ in our steps.”