SOON it will be time to fall silent again in memory of the 96. The anniversary of Hillsborough is upon us, which this year has taken on a particular resonance given the recent opening of fresh inquests into the deaths of the victims and the fact, somewhat incredibly, that it is a quarter of a century since those fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters did not come home from a football match.
Liverpool supporters have their own ways of remembering the tragedy, now a full-blown national scandal, and for one in particular the anniversary has certainly become more than a point in the calendar to pause and contemplate. For Dom Williams, it is a cause, a chance to help others, and a reason to put his body through the most exhausting of processes.
It started in 2012 when Williams, alongside five others, decided to mark the anniversary with a three-day, 76-mile charity run stretching from the memorial to the 96 in Sheffield to the pitch at Anfield. All the money raised from the “3-6-76-96” effort was donated to the Hillsborough Justice Campaign and the Hillsborough Families Support Group, marking the first occasion in which the two bodies had been involved in the same initiative.
The feat was repeated last year, with the focus this time on raising funds for Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in West Derby and the Sheffield Children’s Hospital, located in the Broomhill district of the city. More than £10,000 was collected and donated.
The hospitals are again the focus this year, but this time the scale of the run has grown. Now Williams, alongside four others, will run 96 miles, with the route reversed so they start in Liverpool and finish in Sheffield.
“We still want to help the two hospitals but this year it’s also about creating a legacy for the 96, hence why we’re running for 96 miles,” says Williams, who was raised in Allerton and attended his first match at Anfield in 1988. “It’ll be tough, especially because by reversing the route we’ll now start with two flat days and then have the hardest part – running over hills – on the last day, when we’ll be at our most exhausted. But we’re determined to do this.”
As part of his desire to create a legacy for the 96, Williams will mark the first day of the run, on 13th April, with the launch of a 5k charity race through Stanley Park. Former Spice Girl and Liverpool fan Mel C will be there and the aim is for the race to become an annual event. “Hopefully the city can get behind it and, long-term, make it their own,” says Williams.
Once that has been completed, Williams, alongside Wesley Young, Mik Parkin, Scott Cunliffe and Earle Jackson – who was at Hillsborough in 1989 and whose idea it was to reverse the route – will set off from the memorial at Anfield at 10.15am for the most gruelling challenge of their lives.
The plan is for them to complete 32 miles each day, with free overnight stays kindly provided by the Everglades Park Hotel in Widnes on night one and the Bredbury Hotel, in Stockport, on night two. The last day, 15th April, will see the group arrive at Hillsborough for 2pm, where they will lay a wreath outside the stadium prior to attending Sheffield Wednesday’s memorial service at 3.06pm.
“Wednesday have been amazing,” says Williams. “The club has come in for a lot of stick over the tragedy, and particularly after the Hillsborough Independent Panel published its report into what happened that day, but they’ve given us their full-backing, no one more so than [director of communications] Trevor Braithwait.
“We’ve had a lot of support for this run, including from the hotels who are allowing us to stay with them for free and from Rocket Embroidery, who have provided all our kits and logos at no cost. I must also give a special mention to our support team. They put in as much work as we do.”
That support team is made up of eight people; media manager Andy Thornley, website designer Niki Odolphie, navigator Ben Williams, drivers Geoff Hughes and Marc Garlock, physio John Mitchell and support runners Amerjit Taggar and Paul O’Neill, who happens to also be Mel C’s brother. “Without them, none of this would not be possible,” stresses Williams.
For the man himself, preparation for what lies ahead has been a case of “lots of running.” Now living just outside Glastonbury in Somerset, the 39-year-old has used the hills around him to get “as many miles in my feet as possible”, extending a near-obsession with staying fit that began a year before the first charity run, which was inspired by Williams seeing a mosaic for the 96 at the club museum. He used to be a 20-a-day man but quit for good in May 2011 and has since completed a host of half and full-marathons, to go alongside the annual trek from Merseyside to South Yorkshire.
The demands of wanting to spend time with his partner and three children, not to mention of a new job incorporating inconvenient hours, has made planning this year’s run difficult, but Williams was never going to not see it through, especially as he has yet again received support and encouragement from the likes of Steve Kelly, from HJC, Margaret Aspinall, from HFSG, and Steve Rotherham MP.
“They have always been huge backers of the run and that means an awful lot,” says Williams. “They are the real heroes of the justice campaign and all we’re trying to do is show that their cause is our cause too.”
To donate to the Hillsborough to Anfield Run 2014, visit: http://hillsborough-anfieldrun.com/donate