RAF Marham squadron’s challenge in Afghanistan raises thousands for Help for Heroes, Tickets for Troops and Epilepsy Action

A Tornado GR4 jet could be seen soaring across the clear blue sky as members of RAF Marham's 31 Squadron handed over cheques totalling almost �40,000 to three charities today.

The squadron's air and ground crews ran, cycled and rowed 54,000 miles to raise the money for Help for Heroes, Tickets for Troops and Epilepsy Action.

The challenge was made even harder as the squadron completed it during their four month tour at Kandahar airfield in Afghanistan last year where temperatures averaged 40 degrees.

The total amount raised and distance covered came as shock to many members of the squadron as they had set out to cover 31,000 miles and raise �31,000 to match their squadron number.

Flight Lieutenant Shane Rutherford, who came up with the idea of the challenge, said: 'The whole squadron embraced the challenge and put in so much effort for three worthwhile charities.

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'It was a hard challenge for me but I'm sure it was even tougher for the engineers because they were working 12 hours on and 12 hours off for four months straight but still got stuck in.

'When we left for Afghanistan, I couldn't even begin to imagine hitting our fundraising target let alone our mileage target so to smash both was incredible.'

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The culmination of the challenge saw the Goldstar's team up to beat the world record marathon time of two hours, three minutes and 38 seconds set by Kenya's Patrick Makou by running 409 legs of 104 metres around a running track.

This saw each participant run nine legs each and despite the soaring heat, the squadron achieved a time of one hour, 41 minutes and 12 seconds. Members of the squadron also completed their own version of the Great North Run in Kandahar.

Although other units have raised more money while on home soil, this is thought to be the largest amount raised by a single unit while deployed to a warzone.

Wing Commander Jim Mulholland, commanding officer of 31 Squadron, said: 'When the challenge was first suggested to me, it seemed like a great idea but I didn't think there was a chance in hell it could be done.

'But once we were out there and a chart went up to show how much we covered each week, it didn't take long for friendly rivalry to begin between the air and ground crews.

'As well as the squadron chipping away at the mileage, it soon became clear the money wasn't going to be an issue either which really surprised me and to beat both targets was incredible.

He added: 'I'm very proud of the guys and thankful for the people back home who put their hands in their pockets to help raise this sum.'

Speaking ahead of the cheque presentation, Katie Wilson, from Help for Heroes, said: 'We have guys surviving injuries now that five years ago people would have died from and we really want to make sure these guys are not only properly looked after now but for the rest of their lives.

'We are not a charity waiting to save for a rainy day because for us it is raining now. Every penny donated will go to create new recovery centres.'

After receiving a cheque for more than �13,000, Jonathan Mervis, trustee at Tickets for Troops, said: 'We are incredibly grateful for this donation and for what these guys have done for us.'

Philip Lee, chief executive of Epilepsy Action, added: 'I am really privileged to be here to receive this cheque.

'There are more than 600,000 people in this country with epilepsy and your donation will not only help change people's lives now but help them through the rest of the lives.'

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