Completing a marathon is a major achievement that takes physical and mental stamina. Completing two marathons a day over five days to cover a distance of 266 miles from Sheffield to Brighton takes it to a different league. Add an Army issue Bergen rucksack filled to weigh 40lbs to be worn throughout, plus combat boots rather than trainers, and it becomes a test of endurance that only the super fit could achieve.
It is a test of endurance 34 year old Staff Sergeant (SSgt) Jim Offord, 39 Engineer Regiment; Cambridge has set for himself and nine fellow soldiers. From 1 to 5 November, Jim will head up a team of Royal Engineers to complete the physically punishing 10 Squaddies, 10 Marathons in 5 Days, which he created to support St Dunstan’s Forces Challenge. They will push themselves to the brink of physical endurance to complete two marathons a day from St Dunstan’s Training & Rehabilitation Centre in Sheffield to finish at its Training & Rehabilitation Centre near Brighton in East Sussex.
It is a challenge they will undertake to raise awareness and money for St Dunstan’s, the charity that provides specialist rehabilitation and training to blind ex-Service men and women, and soldiers who have been blinded in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Wearing their Bergen rucksacks filled to weigh 40lbs, which is the weight of an average five year old child, they will quick march through the day and night in the middle of winter, completing a marathon every six hours, followed by six hours recovery. However during the recovery time as they will need to treat their feet, shower and eat they will only get about four hours to sleep.
SSgt Jim Offord said: “I created the 10 Squaddies, 10 Marathons in 5 Days to support St Dunstan’s as we want to give something back to a charity that helps our fellow soldiers in difficult times. To keep it interesting I threw in the idea of wearing our Bergen’s filled to weigh 40lbs, plus combat boots rather than trainers. I went for 10 Marathons in 5 Days as I couldn’t find a record that it had been done before; there were plenty of reports of 5 marathons in 10 days, or 10 in 10 days, but no-one seems to have done 10 marathons in 5 days. People have said that’s because it’s physically impossible but we’ll prove them wrong.
“The 10 Marathons in 5 Days has the full support of the Regiment as they know the important work St Dunstan’s does to help ex-Service men and women who have lost their sight regain control to lead independent and fulfilling lives. I’ve picked a strong team as each person needs to have the mental and physical strength to complete a marathon day and night during the heart of winter.
“To prepare we’re following a 14 week training programme that includes running the local routes around Barracks and circuit training sessions, with some mixed martial arts. Additionally we each complete individual training in the evening, tabbing wearing our Bergen’s; sometimes for six hours overnight.”
They will start their 10 Marathons from St Dunstan’s Centre in Sheffield at 9am on Monday 1 November. The route will take them through Nottingham, Loughborough, Nuneaton, Daventry, Milton Keynes and Hemel Hempstead. They will arrive at St Dunstan’s head office in London at 3pm on Thursday 4 November before heading off to tab to Crawley where they will make the final onslaught to finish at St Dunstan’s Centre at Ovingdean near Brighton at 3pm on Friday 5 November.
Denise Yeats, St Dunstan’s Community & Events Fundraising Manager said: “We recently came across the Finnish term Sisu and it sums Jim and the team up perfectly as in English it translates as: strength of will, determination, perseverance, acting rationally in the face of adversity and having guts. It is also deciding on the course of action and sticking to it.
“We’ve had some great ideas for St Dunstan’s Forces Challenge, which is open to personnel serving with HM Armed Forces, and this is up there with the most inspired. The commitment Jim and the team are making is incredible and they have really helped to raise awareness of our work. We’ll be there to support them every step of the way in spirit if not physically.”
To find out more, or make a donation to Jim and the team: www.justgiving.co.uk/10squaddies To find out more about St Dunstan’s visit: www.st-dunstans.org.uk