Suffolk marathon runner to take part in the world’s toughest foot race to support Palliative Care East Louise Hamilton Centre.

Jonathan O'Hara who is taking part in the world's toughest race, the Marathon des Sables across the

Jonathan O'Hara who is taking part in the world's toughest race, the Marathon des Sables across the Sahara Desert to raise funds for the Louise Hamilton Centre. - Credit: Archant

A dedicated running enthusiast is in training to take part in what is considered the toughest race in the world.

Jonathan O'Hara, from North Cove near Beccles, is taking an endurance challenge for charity alongside expedition legend Sir Ranulph Fiennes OBE.

On April 3 he will be jetting off to Morocco with 329 other UK/Ireland athletes to be a part of the 1300 strong field competing in the 30th Marathon des Sables.

This race is considered to be the 'toughest footrace on Earth' and consists of approximately six marathon distances (approx. 250km) over seven days in the Sahara Desert.

To make it even tougher for the competitors the race is deemed as self-sufficient. This means that for the duration of the race all competitors have to carry their own food, kit and bedding,


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The only provisions provided by the organisers is a bivouac at the end of each stage and rationed water at each check point (limited in total to 12 litres per day).

'I am fundraising as a personal challenge. My challenge is running and marathons in particular,' said Mr O'Hara who works for Shell UK.

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'This is a race of strategy, fitness, mental strength and stupidity,' he said.

The area of Sahara Desert where the races takes place consists of stereotypical sand dunes for about 5pc of the race with the remaining terrain rugged sandstone and rocks.

'There are some significant hills which are really mountains in an Englishman's world,' said Mr O'Hara.

There are six contested stages consisting of anything from 10km to 42km apart from day 4 (which is called the longest day) and the competitors have until the evening of day 5 to complete the 80km stage.

'Although there are no time cut-offs for each stage, unlike ironman racing, there are two camels that walk behind the starting competitors.

'If you should be sufficiently slow and are overtaken by the camels then you are immediately disqualified – which would be very disappointing after 40 weeks of training and huge personal investment,' said Mr O'Hara.

To date he has completed 1,600km towards his training with approximately 600km to go.

Previously Mr O'Hara has taken part in the 2012 and 2012 UK Ironman challenges to raise fund for the Palliative Care East Louise Hamilton Centre in the grounds of the James Paget University Hospital at Gorleston.

The total raised by Mr O'Hara from all his endurance challenges for Palliative Care East amounts to £8331.22 and he is hoping his latest challenge will raise another £1,000.

Maxine Taylor Palliative Care East Appeal co-ordinator said: 'It is absolutely remarkable what one man can achieve and continues to do to support his local charity. Thank you so very much Jon, and to all those who have supported him.'

• If you would like to sponsor Jon for this once in a life time endurance event visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/jon-ohara-MdS2015 or you can send donations direct to Palliative Care East.

• Are you raising funds for a charity or good cause? Email david.lennard@archant.co.uk

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