Five-and-a-half marathons - in six days!

A RUNNING enthusiast will take on the challenge of a lifetime when he competes in five and-a-half marathons in the space of six days in the blistering heat of the Sahara Desert.

Annie Davidson

A RUNNING enthusiast will take on the challenge of a lifetime when he competes in five and-a-half marathons in the space of six days in the blistering heat of the Sahara Desert.

Richard Merry, from Colchester, hopes to raise £15,000 for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity when he takes part in the gruelling Marathon des Sables in March next year.

Mr Merry, who works for Wilkins and Sons Ltd, producers of Tiptree Jam, is a keen marathon runner who has taken part in two of the 26.2-mile races so far this year.


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But he will be tested to the limit when he travels to Morocco for the Marathon des Sables which is 151 miles long - some of which will be run in 45 degree centigrade heat.

The competitors have to carry all their supplies ranging from a cooking stove to distress flares in a rucksack and are rationed to nine litres of water per day.

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Mr Merry, 40, who had to join a two-year waiting list before he could take part in the event, said: “My main aim is to finish and finish without too much discomfort.

“I'm not planning to compete with the top runners but to enjoy the experience and test what I can of myself.

“It won't be easy as I believe that in the western world we rely too much on personal comforts and don't really experience the real harshness of the world.

“I think this will also make me appreciate what I have and what I hold dear to me even more, and help me deal with challenges better in the future.”

Mr Merry, who is married to Mandy and has a daughter Freya, four, added: “I chose Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) Children's Charity as my charity as I still find it hard to believe that such an institute needs public support as the NHS will only pay for the nurses wages.

“Since I adopted this charity I have been amazed by the amount of people I have met who owe a great deal to GOSH for saving their son or daughter's life.”

He began training in earnest in July and is now running five times a week, carrying a weighted rucksack during two of those training sessions.

As well as running the South Downs and Faversham marathons already this year, he is taking part in the Thames Valley marathon next month and the Steppingley event in Bedford in November.

Mr Merry said he had been sponsored by Wilkins and Sons but still needs further corporate support. Anyone who wishes to contribute can contact Mr Merry via the websites www.desertram.co.uk or www.justgiving.com/littlescarlet

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