A broken neck won't stop a Wellington man from running five marathons in five different cities this week.
Greig Rightford is game for the challenge, even though he says his injury has stopped him doing enough training. He broke his neck in a mountainbiking accident in October.
"I'm fairly apprehensive; we are nowhere near fit enough for the five marathons," says the 29-year-old personal trainer, whose neck is still healing.
He will run alongside his Les Mills colleague William Tokona.
Although running five marathons in consecutive days is no small feat, it will be just a warmup for the pair.
The big goal is the Marathon des Sables in April, a 243-kilometre run through the Moroccan Sahara in temperatures reaching 55 degrees Celsius.
"The five marathons will be a good indicator and give us a rough idea of how it will feel," says Mr Tokona.
Their first run will be in Dunedin today, followed by marathons in Christchurch, Auckland, Rotorua and, on Friday, Wellington.
About 800 runners take part in the Marathon des Sables, considered one of the toughest races in the world.
"It's debatable whether it is the hardest in the world, but it's in the top five," says Mr Rightford, who is originally from South Africa.
Regardless of how this week goes, they say they will head to Morocco and do their best. They have been training two years for the Marathon des Sables race.
"I never considered giving up. We made a commitment, and not just to ourselves," says Mr Rightford.
As well as the personal challenge, they are trying to raise $50,000 for the Wellington-based Malaghan Institute of Medical Research.
They say they chose that charity, which focuses on finding cures for cancer, asthma and other diseases, because it is local and its work has global effects.
"Raising money for the charity is a big motivation to do it," says Mr Tokona, who also had an injury setback when he tore a hamstring.
The men agree the climate in the Sahara will be the most formidable aspect of the race, and they will be heading there two weeks before the race to adjust.
Their marathon days won't be over after April, either.
"There is always some kind of new challenge. You should never limit yourself," says Mr Tokona.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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