Jack Folkestone, 22, from Salisbury, completed what is said to be the toughest footrace on earth yesterday (10th October) raising over £40,000 for local charity Horatio’s Garden.
Marathon des Sables is a six-day ultramarathon, amounting to the distance of six regular marathons – that’s 251km. The event takes place over five days in the blistering heat of the Sahara Desert. The longest stretch is 91 km long, which sees two marathons run in one single day.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the marathon has been cancelled three times, so Jack has been training for over two and a half years for the event.
Having never run a marathon before in his life, Jack was inspired to take on the challenge after working at Horatio’s Garden as a volunteer.
On his Just Giving page Jack writes: “The Marathon des Sables is a physical but more importantly a mental challenge. Having seen the psychological challenges facing patients with spinal injuries, I intend to put myself through the toughest endurance race on earth to honour them.
“Every step of the way I will be thinking about the impact that life-changing injuries have on so many people”.
Yesterday (10th October), Jack not only completed his challenge but came 32nd out of 753 competitors.
“He called yesterday from the finish line to say he was safe and well. Over 50% of competitors abandoned the race due to the heat, but Jack was the 6th Brit to finish, and 1st in his age category. They started him with the pro racers who are from all over the world and at 6ft 5” tall, Jack towered over them.
“He also told me his shoelaces broke on day one so he completed this mammoth challenge with shoes full of sand. He said “nowhere to buy spare laces in the desert Mum’,” said Jack’s mother, Melissa Radnor.
Horatio’s Garden is a national charity founded in Salisbury and named after Horatio Chapple, a local schoolboy who wanted to be a doctor and volunteered at the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre in Salisbury during his school holidays. Tragically, Horatio’s life was cut short at 17, when his camp was attacked by a polar bear whilst on an expedition to Svalbard.
Now, the charity creates and preserves gardens in NHS spinal injury centres to support those affected by a spinal injury, an idea that came from Horatio himself during his work experience in Salisbury.
The money raised by Jack will go towards supporting the charity as they move the gardens nationwide.
Jack was born in Salisbury hospital and would like the money to be invested in the garden there, in order to aid the recovery of patients in the South West. Having raised such a huge amount, he would also like the funds to go towards building the new garden being created in Northern Ireland.
“He never envisaged raising quite this total. Jack is thrilled that what he has raised will make a difference to the charity nationwide,” added Melissa.
Speaking to Love Salisbury, a spokesperson from Horatio’s Garden said, “We are in awe of Jack and what he has achieved. He paid equal dedication to his fundraising as he did his training. The support he mustered was phenomenal. Everything he did was simply off the scale.
“We are so grateful to him and are trying very hard not to ask him ‘What’s next?!’ The money he raised will go directly to support those people facing life-changing spinal cord injuries”.
Image from Marathon Des Sables website – official pictures.