Super-fit Andrew Greenwell is swapping farming for fundraising when he takes on a gruelling ultramarathon regarded as the toughest footrace on earth.
The 39-year-old has signed up for the energy-sapping Marathon Des Sables (MdS) – a six-day, 250km (156-mile) event in the sweltering Sahara Desert – for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH).
The MdS, approximately the distance of six regular marathons, is held every year in southern Morocco and the longest single stage is an eye-watering 91km.
It is regarded as the most difficult footrace on the planet but Andrew is up for the challenge and recently stepped up his preparations during a training camp in Lanzarote.
“I’m looking forward to it and decided it was something I wanted to do about 18 months ago,” said the dad of two, whose wife is expecting their third child this month.
“I’ve always done a certain amount of exercise and running, but it’s nice to have a challenge to focus on and work towards. It seemed like a great challenge in a part of the world I probably wouldn’t have the chance to go to otherwise.”
Andrew has been training for the past nine months to ensure he is fit enough for the race. He is now taking expert advice on the final stages of training as well as kit and nutrition.
“It’s roughly a marathon a day for the first three days and then a double marathon on the fourth day,” he said.
“After a rest day, you do another marathon before finishing with six miles on the last day. It’s going to be tough physically, of course, but also mentally, because of the distance and solitude. There will certainly be plenty of thinking time!
“However, I’m very much in the mindset that I want to make the most of it, so it’s a case of thinking positive thoughts and not negative ones.
“My wife is very supportive and it’s a fantastic opportunity to do something completely different – something that will probably only come along once in a lifetime.”
Andrew, who lives near Woodbridge and runs Capel St Andrew Farms, flies to Morocco for the MdS in April. It is a self-sufficiency race, so participants carry their own belongings. The only thing they are given is water, which is rationed.
They sleep in open-sided tents, which are big enough for seven or eight people.
“You have to carry your own sleeping bag and coat, for when it’s cold at night, a sleeping mat and your food, which is basically dehydrated, high-calorie ready meals,” added Andrew.
“The organisers set a limit of at least 2,000 calories a day that you have to consume. That’s mandatory but, in reality, I’ll probably take on closer to 3,000.
“Then there are other bits you have to have – a venom pump, in the rare event of a scorpion bite, safety pins, a knife and compass.
“They inspect your kit as part of the checking-in process, when you arrive and register.”
Andrew is no stranger to fundraising or supporting worthy causes, having previously supported the MS Society, Cancer Research and ABF The Soldiers’ Charity.
He and his business are also part of the Giving Circle – an important network of dedicated supporters who commit to making regular donations totalling £1,000 a year or more towards EACH’s work.
“The EACH hospices are local to me and it’s a fantastic and very worthy cause,” said Andrew, who has been invited for a guided tour of The Treehouse, in Ipswich.
“I’m excited about raising money and awareness and it’s nice that I can do something positive for EACH, which is so crucially important for so many families.
“I don’t have a fundraising target in mind, although I’d like to get to five figures if I can. We’ve got quite a lot of business and farming connections and I’m hopeful they’ll be generous.”
To sponsor Andrew, head to his JustGiving page.