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Locals invited to join ultra marathon bid

17 January 2013

Locals invited to join ultra marathon bid

Runners throughout the country are invited to join two ultra-athletes next week [28 Jan – 1 Feb] as they prepare for the gruelling Sahara ultra marathon in April this year.

Greig Rightford and Willy Tokona are running in the Marathon of the Sands (Marathon des Sables) between 4-15 April. The 234km race in the Sahara Desert is described as ‘the toughest footrace in the world’ due to the harsh terrain of sand and loose rock formations and the searing forty degree heat.

As part of their training the two Wellington fitness gurus are running five marathons in five days in five cities. They’ll begin in Dunedin on 28 January and finish in Wellington on 1 February, with training marathons in Christchurch, Auckland and Rotorua in between.

The pair are fundraising for the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research - a New Zealand organisation whose work has global implications. Its focus is to discover cures and improve treatments for such diseases and conditions such as cancer, asthma and arthritis. They hope to raise $50,000 for the charity.

The Malaghan Institute is also the charity partner of AMI Round the Bays, the annual fun run organised by Sport Wellington and attracting up to 14,000 entrants. The final marathon for the pair on 1 February will feature as a training run for many of locals who participate in the event.

Sport Wellington, in coordination with Athletics New Zealand, has organised runners to meet Rightford and Tokona every morning in each of the five cities, to run with them for the start of each marathon.

Training for their ultra marathon has not been easy, especially during the last few months. Rightford broke his neck in October in a mountain bike accident and was training in a neck brace. Tokona injured his hamstring.

“We want to attempt this feat anyway, despite the risks,” says Rightford. “We look forward to ordinary runners throughout New Zealand joining us, to both support the Malaghan Institute and learn more about the Marathon of the Sands,” he says.

How they handle the physical and mental challenge of competing in such an event is a main driver in the pair entering the desert race. A no less important motivation to them is providing inspiration to clients, friends and family - that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things - with the right attitude, planning and preparation.

AMI Round the Bays event director Craig Ireson says hundreds of runners are expected to start with the two runners each morning, especially in Wellington for the final leg.


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