A University of Chester worker faces the toughest foot race on earth to help beat blood cancer.
Alan Critchley, 50, who works in the facilities team at the university, is preparing to tackle the biggest physical challenge of his life in aid of a charity which is close to his heart.
Next year he is to compete in the famous Marathon des Sables through the Sahara Desert to raise money for Bloodwise, formerly Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, a charity which has continued to support his mother-in-law since she was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2012.
The event is a gruelling 156-mile adventure in Morocco in temperatures exceeding 50°C.
Those taking part run six marathons in six days including one back-to-back marathon on day four. The rules require athletes to be self-sufficient, carrying seven days’ supplies, including food and emergency equipment, on their backs.
Communal goat-hair Berber tents are pitched every night for the athletes to sleep in and water is provided, though rationed. If competitors exceed the ration, they get a time penalty.
Alan, who is married to Ronda and has two children, Elliot, 16 and Oliver, 12, has been training for the ultra marathon since his place was confirmed in November 2015.
His weekly fitness regime consists of a 22-mile run along West Kirby beach, speed running and hill sessions, strength training sessions at the gym, cycling and running to and from work each day.
Although Alan feels that preparation is key, he is still apprehensive about the challenge ahead.
He said: “Although I am looking forward to taking part in the Marathon des Sables, I’m feeling nervous as so much can go wrong. Preparation, which includes endless nutritional trials, training, footwear and kit, is of great importance.
“The challenge is incurring a personal outlay of around £4,000, not including kit, so I can’t afford not to prepare properly.”
Alan hopes that by taking on the race, he can raise as much money as possible for the charity.
“When my mother-in-law, Adele, was diagnosed with leukaemia it was obviously a huge shock to the whole family. Once she started receiving treatment, Bloodwise offered her fantastic support.
“She really wanted to give something back and started supporting the charity with various fundraising events, which also gave her the opportunity to meet people in a similar situation.
“Now, with the help of medication and a great support network around her, she tries hard to maintain a normal life.
“I hope that by taking on the toughest foot race on earth, I can raise as much money as possible to help Bloodwise continue its life-saving research and provide support to people like Adele,” he said.
This will be the second physical endurance challenge Alan has taken part in for the charity.
In 2014, he cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats in just seven days, with three friends who were going through a similar situation.
Cycling 200km a day, they managed to raise a staggering £35,000. Last year Alan’s wife, Ronda, cycled from London to Paris in four days to raise money for the charity.
Alan will be heading for the desert with former Chester University student Lynton Dawson, age 39, from Northampton. The pair were put in touch with each other by staff at the university on discovering that they were both taking part.
Lynton, who graduated from the university in 2005, has been taking part in triathlon and running events for the past seven years and has recently returned to taking part in events after a three year break due to injuries.
He said: “I wanted to come back with a goal that would really make me push myself.”
A Just Giving page has been set up to help Alan reach his £2,500 target at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Alan-Critchley1 .