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Page last updated at 15:09 GMT, Friday, 19 February 2010
Running Man takes on Namibia Ultra Marathon
By Justin Bowyer

Namib desert
Three back-to-back marathons (78 miles) take place across the Namib Desert within 24 hours

Four years ago I had never even considered running (even for a bus) and had certainly never considered it something that might be "fun".

But when Helen, my wife, took it up I felt like I was missing out on more than just getting fit and soon laced up my first pair of proper running shoes.

Joining the local gym for a more holistic approach, I entered a couple of local 10k races and before I knew it was lined up for the 2008 Reading half marathon.

Seven months later and I had upped the game to my first full marathon in the New Forest. I finished with a respectable sub-4 hour time and knew I was hooked.

In 2009 I entered the Jurassic Coast Challenge - a marathon a day for three days along the Dorset coast - and followed this with my first "true" ultra-marathon, the Dartmoor 52k, and the Atlantic Coast Challenge, another three day event covering 127k.

Soon after I was presented with the opportunity to enter the 2010 Namibia 24 hour Ultra, one of the toughest in the world, comprising three back-to-back marathons (78 miles) across the Namib Desert in 24 hours. Of course I jumped at the chance and have been consumed by daily training since.

A serious run of this kind of distance would, I thought, be wasted if I didn't take the opportunity to raise money for charity. And so it is, on May 24, I will fly to Southern Africa with the intention of becoming one of the very few who tackle this gruelling challenge and with the hope of raising funds for both the Children's Hospital, Oxford and SOS Children's Villages.

Adventure Race Namibia 24 hour Ultra Marathon takes place on Thursday 27 May.

For more information about the marathon go to the link at the top right of this page.

Follow Justin's progress every month with BBC Oxford's Jo Thoenes. You can also read all about this mammoth undertaking every month as Justin writes about his training and the marathon itself.

Justin Bowyer
Justin trained for the Adventure Race Namibia 24 hour Ultra Marathon

February Training - 3 Months to go

After my long (60k) training run at the end of January I took a week out from road/trail running to recover and try and concentrate on some general gym work - I keep forgetting I will need to carry so much kit in Namibia and that some work on the upper body wouldn't be a bad idea!

To mix up the running a little I took part in the gloriously named May Hill Massacre - 9 miles of mud and hills through Gloucestershire forests - then headed back to the gym for more leg weights, treadmill and other tortuous activities.

All this led up to Sunday 21 February and a pretty monumental 70k (43mile-ish) trail run along the Thames path to Abingdon and back to Witney. I'm now counting the weeks rather than the months to the Namibia 24…

March Training - 2 Months to go

Less running, more gym this month. Most of the longer runs have dropped down to the 20-30k variety, positively sedate compared to the lengths I was literally having to go to during February.

But the gym work - and particularly the work with a personal (pretty masochistic) trainer has paid off in terms of improving core strength and stability (the foundation of your body's ability to work hard) and in building up my upper body strength to help with the pack weight I will be carrying for the best (worst!) part of 24 hours.

To keep the legs in training I entered the Chedworth Roman Trail 10 mile on Sunday 21 - a gloriously wet and muddy cross-country run with wild hills, deep woods and a river crossing for good measure. Just like Namibia I'm sure…

Oh, yes! And don't forget to sponsor me. It's all for two worthy causes.

April Training - 1 Month to go

April has been a real mix of both physical and mental preparation.

The miles of running both road and trail have, of course, continued along with the work with the personal trainer at the gym.

But it has also been a time to start thinking about the mental aspects of the challenge and to this end I met with a group of last year's Namibia competitors to seek advice.

Space here doesn't permit too much detail but I'm now painfully aware of hallucinations and (very real) snakes, scorpions, hyena and jackal. Oh, good.

On a sunnier note I headed to the coast to run the inaugural Brighton Marathon, an incredible event that proved conclusively that ice cream, candyfloss and rock do not count as performance enhancing…

May Training - 1 Week to go

Shorter runs - nothing more than 3 hours with backpack - have been the order of the month as I start to "taper" towards D-day. But the work in the gym has continued and to date the training has involved some 500 miles of runs and more than 100 hours in the gym…

I have also been finalising my kit to carry including taking delivery of an amazingly light (300g) Minim Ultra sleeping bag as well as sorting the last of the food to carry which amounts to around 5000 calories all told.

So, more or less, that's it! Training done, bags pretty much packed and just enough time to thank everyone for following my progress and to make a final reminder that all this hard work is in aid of two amazing charities. Please sponsor me if you can.

May 27, 2010

Justin Bowyer in Namibia
It's been a tough year for Justin Bowyer but the result was worth it

8.59am, standing under an already blistering African sun amidst the scrubby sand of the enormous Namib desert I was trying hard not to think too much about the 126 kilometers of run that lay ahead.

When the start gun sounded - an appropriately bloated 44 magnum - I concentrated instead on just putting one foot in front of the other until someone told me I had finished.

By mid-afternoon I was following a dried river bed whose canyon walls magnified the 40 degree temperature, but within an hour or two the heat of the day was subsiding and I was about to enter the magnificent Messum Meteor Crater where the sun set to my right and a full moon rose simultaneously to my left.

Head-torch on and I continued on through the night finally reaching the Skeleton Coast finish line 20 hours and 32 minutes after I had set off.

No, those few words above cannot do the challenge justice but nor, probably, could 10,000 words.

It had been a tough year of training and a tougher still 78 miles of running, but worth every precious memory of it.

I had beaten the Namibia Ultra Marathon, I had met the most incredible bunch of people you could wish to know and, thanks to you all, had raised money for two fantastic charities…



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