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Carly O'Brien
Written by Carly O'Brien 8th April 2016

Inspirational Johnnie’s dry run

As the weekend approaches, some of us will be planning to get in some exercise, or perhaps go for a run. With the London Marathon just two weeks away, many will be getting in some last minute long-distance training in preparation for the big event.

But imagine taking on six marathons – that’s an incredible 156 miles – in six consecutive days. Now imagine taking on this amazing feat in one of the world’s most inhospitable environments, the Sahara Desert.

This is the challenge that faces Johnnie Farquhar this weekend, as he embarks on the Marathon Des Sables – dubbed the toughest foot race on earth. At 21, he’s this year’s event’s youngest participant, and with his friend Robbie, he’ll be heading out to Morocco to begin the ultramarathon.

Johnnie and Robbie have chosen to do this to raise money for WalkOnceMore, a charity that funds research into and supports people who are affected by spinal cord injury. The pair were inspired to fundraise for WalkOnceMore by a young friend who is paralysed, and other patients at Stoke Mandeville Hospital whose spinal injuries have rendered them unable to walk.

“We are so lucky to be healthy and active, and the thought of losing the ability to walk, run and interact with others is a living nightmare,” Johnnie explains. “That’s why we’re doing this. There is a cure out there, and science is bringing that cure ever closer but it cannot be done without support.”

Johnnie is under no illusions about the gravity of the challenge. He and Robbie have been training hard, treading the beach in Liverpool to get used to running on sand, doing Bikram yoga and using a heat chamber to acclimatise to the 45+ degree heat they’ll endure.

They must have strength as well as stamina, as they’ll have to carry the week’s supplies on their backs while they run, with water provided at 12km intervals and tents set up for their overnight breaks. All the while, though, Johnnie and his running mate will be thinking of the fantastic cause they’re supporting.

And that’s where you can help. The more money we can collectively raise, the more their incredible feat will have been worth all their hard work. So far, the team has totted up nearly £8,500. “It would be amazing to reach £15,000,” says Johnnie, “and an absolute dream to reach £20,000!”

So dig deep and give generously, by donating at www.justgiving.com/MDSJR.

Thank you for your support.