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Orpington man conquers 250km desert marathon fundraising for Cure Parkinson’s


Orpington man, James Betteridge, 57, has just completed the gruelling Marathon des Sables, a seven day, 250km self-sufficient race in the Moroccan Sahara Desert, considered one of the toughest foot races on Earth.

James, who works at local at charitable leisure trust Mytime Active, which manages the golf, wellbeing and leisure hubs in the area, has so far raised almost £3000 for Cure Parkinson’s, a charity very close to his heart, as friends and close family have been diagnosed with this disease.

James says: “When I signed up for this challenge I genuinely thought it was unachievable. I’m a keen runner and have completed many running and sporting challenges, such as Iron Man, but the Marathon des Sables is in a different league. The daily distances are incredibly challenging, but what adds to the difficulty is the requirement to carry all personal food and gear for the seven days. My backpack weighed in at 10kg, and we slept in a basic tent that the organisers put up each night in the desert. Early mornings were crucial; we'd start at 6am to tackle most of the running before the scorching 44-degree heat set in. One particularly intense day saw us covering a staggering 85km.

“The only way I managed the race was to think about the distances between each water check point, rather than focusing on the full day of running ahead. I was ecstatic and relieved when I finished, and was really pleased that I still completed the final half marathon on the last day in two and half hours.

“It’s taken a few weeks to recover from the race, as I suffered with blisters, swelling of my hands and feet, shin splints, extreme tiredness and an insatiable appetite, but I’m pleased to be back at work and back to my ‘normal’ activities, including swimming, running with my dogs and cycling.

“The Marathon des Sables is one hell of a personal challenge, and I was grateful to be additionally motivated by fundraising for Cure Parkinson’s, which works tirelessly to find a cure for this cruel disease that effects around 153,000 people in the UK.

I ran this event for me. However, what kept me going, encouraged me to do well and not fail, was the knowledge of what Parkinson’s does to people. The disease effects people differently, but one common characteristic is that it greatly reduces people’s ability to be active, whether that’s seeing a show in town, having a meal out, going to the pub or running a marathon; Parkinson’s is unrelenting in its impact on life.

“I’m already looking for another sporting event for next year. However, more important to me is the day to day difference that exercise, be that running, cycling, swimming or walking, makes to my long-term wellbeing, both physically and emotionally.”

Jason Stanton, CEO, Mytime Active says: “We are all so proud of James and his massive personal achievement, demonstrating his grit, determination and sheer willpower. This endurance run isn't just about physical strength, it's about mental toughness and pushing limits. We are also blown away by his fundraising efforts and people's generous donations.”

There’s still time to donate to James' fundraiser

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