Ballykinlar man, Mark Smyth is preparing for the challenge of a life time – The Marathon Des Sables (MDS as it’s known) all to raise money for two very worthy causes. Business owner, Mark is hoping to raise £10,000 between the Southern Area Hospice and Huntington’s Disease Association of Northern Ireland by undertaking what is known as the world’s toughest marathon – 270km in 48 degree heat.
Mark’s reasons for supporting these two particular charities are the same as many others he has been directly effected in his own family by Huntingdon’s and he has seen first-hand the work of the Southern Area Hospice– everyone knows someone that has been in the hospice. Many people have been blessed by the staff that care for their relatives in such traumatic times- giving dignity, care and love. Huntington’s Disease is a cause close to Mark’s heart. He lost his grandmother Kitty Smyth to it and his mother, Rosaleen also has it. There is 50% chance that Mark may also have it. It is a cruel disease that many people don’t know about as Mark puts it ‘If I can raise awareness even just a tiny amount I will feel I have done a good job. I want people to know there is support out there’.
It has been no easy task preparing for the gruelling challenge ahead and Mark has been running around 120km every week in the mountains around Hilltown as well as doing daily hot yoga sessions in the Hot Yoga studio in Newry. As Mark says ‘Heat will be the main issue. While I am used to running, running in 48 degree heat is another story! I am daunted by the challenge ahead but I am doing everything in my power to prepare’. Of the thousands of people that compete each year only a fraction will complete the challenge “Last year around one quarter dropped out just days into the competition. Injuries and heat exhaustion are the key reasons but there have been people suffer heart attacks and strokes’.
Mark is organising a children’s fun day on April 2nd with thanks to sponsorship from Sean’s Bouncy Castle Hire. With all donations going directly to the cause. He has also organised a raffle and auction in the Downshire Arms, Hilltown on the night of April 2nd with prizes including a one week residential for two at the boot camp Mark owns in England worth over £2,000. Other prizes include an overnight stay in a 4* Hotel and 1000 litres of heating oil. Mark explains ‘The support I have received from local businesses has been humbling. With such fantastic prizes we are really looking forward to the auction night. It is not too late for any business that would like to donate. All donations are greatly appreciated’.
-Visit the JustGiving page to donate to Mark’s fundraising effort https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/mark-smythdessables or visit his Facebook page - MarkathonDesSables