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Joining the Rat Race; For Jon Purnell and Jerome Donagh a charity challenge means running through mud, crawling through tunnels and a 20-mile run. Kirstie McCrum heard all about it IT CHANGED MY LIFE...

Byline: Kirstie McCrum

GETTING soaking wet and covered in mud doesn't sound like most people's idea of fun, but then Jon Purnell and Jerome Donagh aren't most people.

The friends from Bridgend are preparing to face a charity challenge that will see them tackle the biggest - and toughest - assault course in the world, the Full Mucker Rat Race. Their aim is to raise PS10,000 for Sense, the national deafblind charity.

Taking place on May 11 in the grounds of Burghley House in Cambridgeshire, the 20-mile challenge involves racing through marshes, woodland and ploughed fields. On top of which, the running partners from Bridgend will have to go through, over and under mud and water, while tackling obstacles, including water cannon, smoke grenades and even arrows.

Jon, who is 41, says they're looking forward to it - in a manner of speaking.

"We both have camper vans so we go away camping a few times a year and this event involves a weekend away with an after-party. We'll be camping out on Friday, doing the race on Saturday and then having a party at night and camping again, the whole weekend sounded perfect, if a little daunting," he smiles.

It may tick all the boxes for former rugby player Jon and marathon runner Jerome, who is 49, but the event would definitely spook the faint-hearted among us.

"The course is 20 miles, but there are 200 obstacles, so every mile there are 10 big obstacles. It's not just about running for 20 miles, it's getting through the obstacles in the middle of it. We haven't seen the actual course, but on the internet there's a detailed breakdown of the course and every single obstacle. We've got a lot of work to do. Some of the obstacles are fantastic, they're huge.

"There are water cannon, we'll be crawling through tunnels, running through thick mud, going over giant haybales. We're going to get very wet, there's a bit of a swim involved across one of the lakes. I think we stopped reading after the fifth mile because we didn't want to know any more," he laughs.

Working as a financial adviser is a world away from the rough and tumble of the Rat Race, but Jon's no stranger to exertion.

"My rugby days are well and truly finished, I had to hang up the boots at 39, but I missed it and I had to find some more challenges, something to keep me fit and hopefully something to raise money as well. I've done one marathon and then done a couple of other things like the Three Peaks Challenge and a bicycle ride from London to Bristol and madcap things like that. It's something to replace rugby for me.

"Jerome, who works as a GP, has done about three marathons and a number of half marathons. I always try to do something big at least once a year to try and raise some money, and this time the Rat Race and Sense caught my eye," he adds.

Previously the pair raised PS8,000 when they did the Three Peaks Challenge, so they are aiming for matching that with their latest fundraising venture.

They have been training hard in preparation, running at Merthyr Mawr Sand Dunes and following an intense workout regime to build the strength and endurance needed for this relentless course.

"We're doing high-intensity circuit training three times a week and we've been building up our mileage running on the sand dunes with my German Shepherds, Maximus and Hercules, we're up to about 10 miles now with about 12 weeks to go, so we're on track. Running on the sand dunes is a lot harder than running on the grass. The other couple of days in the week we do our own thing - I've got a gym in my garage, Jerome likes to go out on a Sunday to do 50-mile bike rides, so that's the training at the moment," he says.

The money raised by the Bridgend runners for Sense will help deafblind children and adults overcome the isolation they face on a daily basis and enjoy some of the things that most people take for granted.

"Knowing that we're helping to support deafblind children achieve their own goals will keep us going till we cross that finish line.

"If we haven't finished it in about five or six hours, I think I'll be in a bit of trouble, so we've got to do it in under five hours. I don't think my body will last any longer than that."

To sponsor Jon Purnell and Jerome Donagh visit www.justgiving.



jonpurnell, right, and Jerome Donagh, left, training on the Merthyr Mawr sand dunes with Jon''s two dogs, Maximus and Hercules, to get ready to take part in the forthcoming Full Mucker Dirty Rat Race Pictures: Richard Swingler
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 6, 2013
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