With only days remaining to the start of the gruelling Marathon des Sables, the countdown is definitely on for Wellington-based runners Greig Rightford and Willie Tokona.
Described by the Discovery Channel as the "toughest footrace on earth," next month Greig and Willie will spend six days running 254 km across a formidable landscape in one of the world's most inhospitable climates - the Sahara desert. And they are doing it to raise money in support of the Malaghan Institute.
“It’s just so insane… isn’t it? To not only run in the searing heat and sand swept terrain of the Sahara, but also ensure one’s safety against the perils of sandstorms, quicksand, cobras and scorpions that occur and inhabit the desert,” says Greig.
“It’s what makes it so appealing,” says Willie. “It’s the possible danger to one’s own safety and well-being that attracts me to this event. It allows you to examine your physical and mental capabilities, in a way that very few people will encounter in their lifetime.”
How they handle the physical and mental challenge of competing in such an event is a main driver in the pair entering this desert race. A no less important motivation to them is providing inspiration to clients, friends and family - that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things - with the right attitude, planning and preparation.
“I want to do this event because I feel like this race is the answer to the question I've had since I was little,” says Greig. “Can I run a little further, can I extend myself a bit further - I need to do this event to find out the answer.”
Greig and Willie also wanted to use the opportunity to make a difference. “We thought that it would be great to represent an organisation that has a positive impact in the Wellington community and after reviewing several charities, we agreed on the Malaghan Institute. It had the appeal of being a local organisation with global implications,” says Greig.
Their journey thus far has not been without its dramas. A mountain biking accident late last year resulted in a broken neck for Greig, while Willie is still recovering from a serious hamstring injury. Fortunately both are "tough as teak" and soldiered on to complete five marathons in five days a little over a month ago.
Supporters also gathered at Foxglove on the Wellington Waterfront on 28 Feb 2013 for a Sports Auction. Legendary sports broadcaster John McBeth MC’d what was a fun evening that raised $22,000.
Greig and Willie encourage you to support their fundraising efforts for the Malaghan Institute. They have set a significant goal of raising $50,000 and every donation counts.