TAUNTON man Geoffrey Bailey is walking a marathon in aid of St Margaret's Hospice - just days after turning 97.

Geoffrey is setting out on his challenge today (Saturday) - and expects to cover the 26-plus miles over eight days.

His route will take him to St Margaret's Hospice and home again.

He has worked out a number of different routes covering around three miles

He plans to take a rest day off in the middle.

You’ll be able to spot Geoffrey on his daily walk in a light blue St Margaret’s T-shirt and giant sunflower badge as he walks through central Taunton.

A St Margaret's spokeswoman said: "Geoffrey will be adhering to social distancing measures, but do please wave and cheer him on if you see him out and about."

You can support Geoffrey's fundraising efforts here.

Geoffrey, who celebrated his 97th birthday last week, came up with the idea when he learnt that the official London Marathon had been postponed due to the coronavirus crisis.

St Margaret’s was hoping to raise in excess of £5,000 from the marathon, so its postponement in April has left a big hole in the charity’s fundraising income.

However, inspired by the efforts of Captain Tom, who raised £33million for NHS Charities Together, Geoffrey came up with his own marathon challenge.

He is keen to help raise the profile of St Margaret’s, which cared for a close friend of his last year.

Geoffrey said: “I was a carer for a friend who died last March after a long battle with cancer, and the hospice gave her careful and sympathetic support, which impressed me greatly.

"I now want to give something back at a time when the charity has seen its ability to fundraise through traditional means severely compromised.

"While the London Marathon may have been postponed, I can complete this solo marathon from my own doorstep and help raise funds this way for a local cause.”

A keen walker who describes himself as “rather fit”, Geoffrey will use his phone, which has GPS, to show how far he has walked and to help count his steps.

Ann Lee, chief executive of St Margaret’s, said: "We are thrilled that Geoffrey has created this ‘Sunflower Marathon’ – what a wonderful way to remember his friend and to show his support for the nurses that cared for her at the end of her life.

"We are truly grateful to Geoffrey and everyone across our community who is undertaking challenges or simply helping their hospice from home, by planting and growing our sunflowers, or playing our weekly prize draw.

"You are all marvellous and a credit to St Margaret’s – thank you.”