North Tyneside man, 64, will run two Sahara Desert marathons in two days
At an age when most people think of taking life easy, a North Tyneside man prepares for the challenge of his life in the searing heat of the Sahara Desert.
Retired civil servant John Dunwoodie, who turns 65 in April, is aiming to complete two marathons in two consecutive days in sweltering conditions to raise money for the Alzheimer Society.
John’s father, also known as John, died of dementia in 2012, so he made it his life’s task to mark the 10th anniversary of his death.
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The challenge will pit John against the elements and grueling terrain as he attempts to run, jog or walk 52 miles on May 14-15 in temperatures reaching 30C.
“Dad would think I was crazy for trying this at my age,” joked John, from Shiremoor, “but at the same time I know he would be very proud of me.
“He was a lovely guy – a former bus driver who has lived in High Howdon all his life.
“It was sad to watch him struggle with dementia, but in many ways our family was lucky because he always knew who we were until the end.
“We used to have the same conversations day in and day out, and towards the end he lost a lot of confidence and became a bit of a recluse after he had a few falls, but luckily he never made it to the stadium. where he would forget the important people in his life.”
The fearsome double marathon in Morocco will take John from the lush Draa Valley to the sun-scorched Saharan dunes.
He trained by hiking on the beach at Seaton Sluice, building up his stamina and getting used to the shifting sands beneath his feet.
He is funding the trip out of his own pocket, meaning all donations will go directly to the Alzheimer Society. And that’s not all he does for the charity.
John has also signed up to volunteer for the Newcastle Glow Walk on March 5.
The popular annual event returns to the city after the lifting of Covid restrictions, with hundreds expected to take part in the 5K Night Walk, starting and ending in Times Square.
John said, “This isn’t the first time I’ve volunteered for Glow, but I’m especially looking forward to this year’s event. I think people are ready to go out and have fun again and there’s still a fabulous atmosphere at Glow.”
There are 900,000 people with dementia in the UK, including 39,000 in the North East and over 3,000 in North Tyneside. In 2025, the national figure will be one million.
Siobhan Marsh, community fundraiser for the Alzheimer Society of the North East, said: “It has been an incredibly difficult two years for people with dementia and they need our support now more than ever.
“I’m impressed by people like John who are taking on a phenomenal challenge that not only raises awareness of the disease, but funds that will allow us to reach more people through our lifesaving services, like the Dementia Connect support line, which is 0333 150 3456.”
Anyone wishing to support John can do so by visiting his Just Giving page at www.justgiving.com/greatsaharachallenge2022-johndunwoodie
Anyone interested in learning more about Newcastle’s Glow Walk night walk on March 5 should visit https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/memory-walk/glow/newcastle
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