Long-standing Appeal supporter Ryan Bowd recently took on the ultimate challenge and completed the Marathon des Sables, notorious for being one of the toughest footraces in the world. Covering 250km in a week (equivalent to roughly six full marathons) in the Sahara desert, Ryan braved extreme heat, tough terrain and damage to his foot on the first day of the race and crossed the finish line having raised nearly £800 for the Appeal so far.
Ryan's relationship with the Appeal began when Jane was training for her half IRONMAN challenge; he met her while working in PR for the company and went on to join her for her full IRONMAN challenge and her gruelling 4,200 mile cycle ride across America. He was instrumental in helping Jane and Mike to set up the Leeds 10K and Run For All and his support has continued ever since.
Speaking of his reasons for taking on the Marathon des Sables to fundraise for the Appeal, Ryan said: "I was privileged to know Jane personally. Everyone admires Jane and the myth and reality truly matched up. I am inspired to continue her great work.
"I had done multi-day adventure and cycling challenges before, but never a marathon. A space happened to open up and I called my wife to make the twenty-second decision to accept it so as not to get in trouble!"
Over seven days, Ryan took on six stages of varying distances, including the "long stage" of the race, which covered 86km in one day. Many runners were running in the dark, some not completing the stage until the next day. "The terrain, heat and geography were the biggest challenges" said Ryan. "This included soft sand, and jagged 'jebels' - dark rock that could be as hot as 57 degrees."
Describing the experience, Ryan said "It's incredibly unique. It's a week of no emails, no cellphone, in a totally alien landscape - it was beautiful. You're carrying everyone you need for a week out there on your back and it amounts to no more than 12kg. There's a simplicity in your routine."
Two people who stood out in Ryan's memory were a Welsh man who completed the last 22km (of 42.2km) on the penultimate day and then the final 7km, giant dune, 'charity stage' having dislocated his knee, and a Belgian lady with broken toes whose response was simply "I've suffered more than this." Ryan said: "You're there with some of the mentally toughest people and you just keep going. I made some amazing friends."
We can't thank Ryan enough for taking on this epic challenge to support the Jane Tomlinson Appeal. You can support Ryan's fundraising here.
Taking on your own challenge and want to share your story? Get in touch.