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Alumnus Jack set for desert marathon challenge

Posted 4 September 2012

I'm nervous in anticipation for it as it is an enormous physical and mental challenge. I have started training and at the moment I'm running up to 40 miles a week."

Jack Tavernor during a recent training run in Shropshire

A former Harper Adams student is preparing for the challenge of a lifetime – running more than 150 miles across the African desert for charity. 

Jack Tavernor, who graduated with a degree in Rural Enterprise and Land Management in 2003, will be taking part in the “toughest footrace on Earth”, the Marathon des Sables, in April 2013. 

He hopes to raise £10,000 for learning disability charity Mencap, and would be grateful if old friends from the University College would lend their support. 

The Marathon is a six-day, 150-mile "ultramarathon" across the Sahara Desert. With several UK marathons, and a 4x4x4 - four marathons in four countries in four days - behind him, it's not the first physical challenge Jack has undertaken for charity, but it's certainly the toughest. 

"I might be mad, but I get bored and need to challenge myself," says Jack, a partner at Strutt and Parker, based in Shrewsbury, "and it's great to raise money. I have a personal connection to Mencap. It's a very worthwhile charity and I plan to do my best for them”.

"I'm nervous in anticipation for it as it is an enormous physical and mental challenge. I have started training and at the moment I'm running up to 40 miles a week as well as cycling and playing rugby," added Jack, a flanker for the Market Drayton Rugby Club first XV. 

Jack’s thirst for charity challenges began one evening when he was at Harper Adams, when he accepted a simple bet: could he run a marathon? Jack said yes, and fellow student Pete Sutton (BSc Agriculture 2003) said no. The prize was a single pint of beer. 

Jack said: “Training for a marathon when in the final year at Harper was no easy task, but the London Marathon was completed in spring 2003 and the prize gratefully accepted. The students and staff at Harper were very supportive, sponsorship was pledged and a considerable amount of money raised for charity… I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for that one evening at Harper, I really don’t think I would find myself in this position now.”

Jack had often raised money for charity in the past as a child; however as a result of that one bet in the Harper Adams bar, the stakes have since risen considerably. Ten years later, he has completed numerous marathons and various other challenges: a race across the country along ‘Wainwrights’ Coast to Coast path, Kilimanjaro, the Inca Trail and the completion of four consecutive marathons in each of the four countries of the UK on four consecutive days. Tens of thousands of pounds have been raised for charity. 

But the Marathon des Sables ups the stakes yet again – Jack will effectively be running six consecutive marathons in the desert heat. He is paying his own entry fee and for his travel to Africa and all other costs associated with taking part in the challenge. As a result, 100 per cent of the money raised will be donated to Mencap

Fund-raising events are being organised in Shropshire, including a photo competition in Jack’s home village, Norton in Hales, and a promise auction. Donations are also welcome at www.justgiving.com/jackinthedesert

People wanting to follow Jack’s progress or simply send him good wishes are urged to “like” the Facebook page www.facebook.com/jackinthedesert

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