Challenge66 comes to town

Andy McMenemy

Andy McMenemy

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SUNDERLAND is one of 66 cities in the UK that will be at the centre of a world record endurance event at Silksworth Sports Complex on Tuesday, May 17.

Challenge66 will see Andy McMenemy, the son of a former soldier, attempt a new Guinness world record for consecutive ultra marathons (50km) with no rest days.

On March 16, he will commence his toughest challenge yet – to run 66 50ks in 66 consecutive days in each of the 66 UK cities.

McMenemy will challenge the official Guinness World Record which stands at 52.

The record attempt is in aid of The Soldiers’ Charity that gives lifetime support to serving and retired soldiers and their families – and has been doing so for the last 66 years.

McMenemy will run the first ultra marathon at Leeds on Wednesday, March 16, and will follow a route taking in all the official cities in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. The final ultra marathon will be run in York on Friday, May 20.

Sunderland Harriers and Sunderland Strollers are getting behind the charity run by helping out on the day and getting the event off the ground.

Harrier Andy Abbot, a retired surveyor, is responsible for the course and club president George Cockburn will act as the liaison officer.

Stroller Phil Watson, a veteran marathon runner, is responsible for getting runners to support McMenemy in his arduous task.

Watson said: “Andy will be running at around 12½ minute mile pace, and will be on his feet for about 6½ hours, so he will need a lot of company. We want to make sure that Sunderland fully supports him and the chosen charity.

“Runners who wish to run a lap or two or the whole distance need to register on the website at challenge66.org and click on Sunderland.’’

Abbott has managed to get a relatively flat lap of about 3k around the lakes and 20 circuits would need to be completed to get the distance in, although the start and finish will be outside the ski slope changing rooms adding a climb to the finish.

Cockburn said: “While this is a world record attempt that hopefully will get in the Guinness Book of Records, we want to try and raise as much money for the charity as possible.”

McMenemy has an experienced background in ultra endurance running choosing the Marathon of the Sands, reputedly the toughest footrace in the world, as his debut to the world of extreme ultra marathons in 2007. He ran 5½ marathons back to back across the Sahara Desert in six days. He then came second in the 2008 Namibian Desert 24 hour ultra marathon, enduring 46°c temperatures and completing 78 miles in 24 hours, having had to dig deep to overcome fatigue and hallucinations.

Sunderland is the 63rd city on the schedule followed by Durham, Ripon and York. The run is expected to get under way at Silksworth at 9am.