University staff member and graduate complete toughest footrace on earth for charity.

Posted on 22nd May 2017

A member of the Facilities team at the University of Chester and a former student faced the biggest physical challenge of their lives when they took on the Marathon des Sables (MdS) in April.

Alan Critchley and Lynton Dawson.
Alan Critchley and Lynton Dawson.

The MdS is a gruelling 156 mile, six-day adventure across the Sahara Desert in temperatures exceeding 50°C which takes place every year. The rules require athletes to be self-sufficient, carrying enough supplies, including food and emergency equipment, on their backs. Communal goats’-hair Berber tents are pitched every night for the athletes to sleep in and water is provided, though rationed. 

Alan Critchley, from Portering Services, spent five months training for the ultra-marathon and, prior to the MdS, he completed three ultra-marathon distances of 30 miles, 32 miles and 40 miles. He also practised hill training on Moel Famau, in North Wales, and sand running on West Kirby beach on the Wirral. 

He said: “Before taking part in the Marathon des Sables, I felt nervous as so much could go wrong; but training went well and sponsorship was steady. In the end the experience was amazing, with many highs and lows. Camp life, self-sufficiency and calorie deficiency played important roles. The heat was recorded at 130-140°C on day three!” 

Alan completed the marathon in an impressive 43 hours over six days, finishing in the top 400 and placing 88th for his age group. He has raised over £2,000 to date for Bloodwise (formerly Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research), a charity which has continued to support his mother-in-law since she was diagnosed with Leukaemia in 2012. 

Alan took part in the MdS alongside former University of Chester student, Lynton Dawson, who raised money for Families for HoPE - a non-profit organisation that was formed to address the needs of families and children diagnosed with holoprosencephaly (HPE) - a relatively common birth defect of the brain which can often affect facial features. 

Lynton, who graduated from the University in 2005, works as a tutor with Premier Training International. He has been taking part in triathlon and running events for the past seven years and has recently returned to taking part in events after a three year break due to injuries. He said: “I wanted to come back with a goal that would really make me push myself. I turned 40 in March and, having two beautiful children, I wanted to do something special to mark the occasion and inspire them in the future. I also saw it as a chance to raise some much needed awareness and money for a fantastic charity.” 

He added: “One of the goals I set is to present my finisher’s medal to a young girl who I am in contact with, who suffers with HPE. She will turn four this year and she continues to defy odds with her enthusiasm for life and courageous approach to living it to the fullest.” 

Lynton completed the marathon in just over 45 hours, finishing 580th out of 1,200 original starters. He said: “The MdS was an awesome experience. It was by far the toughest physical, mental and emotional challenge I have ever undertaken but, in comparison to what the little girl who I ran for and her family have to go through on a daily basis, it was easy. I am hopefully going to fly out to Oregon to meet Hannah and her family, and present her with my medal, once my fundraising is complete.” 

Alan and Lynton are appealing for final sponsorships to help them reach their fundraising targets before the end of May. 

Alan’s Just Giving page can be found at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Alan-Critchley1.