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News report from the Burnley Express (Feb 05)

The Challenge

A BURNLEY man is aiming to raise funds for disabled athletes by leading his running pals on a marathon in the clouds. Mr John Roche is limbering up as part of the eight-man team for the Everest Marathon, where they will brave a 26 mile hike in unforgiving temperatures and at altitudes of more than 17,000 ft., all in the name of charity. Father-of-two Mr Roche, who is an operations manager at ele Advanced Technologies, in Colne, said the team is hoping to raise more than 30,000 before they take on the mountain in November. To entice sponsors the team have bought a transit van, which will display company logos in exchange for donations. The van, which is also being loaned out for other charitable causes, including transporting clothes for the Tsunami appeal, will ferry the team members to a number of events planned to build fitness and generate much-needed support. The squad, who met while running for the Clayton Harriers athletic team, were inspired to fight for their cause after being inspired by the 2004 Paralympics in Athens. Mr Roche admits they team is facing a real challenge. He said: We saw the performances from the disabled athletes and basketball players in the summer and it was just mind-blowing, its quite a humbling experience. We all get together through running, our lives pretty much revolve around sport, and we realised that there are no local disabled athletes coming through from this area, and thought why not? We aim to get enough cash and exposure to find someone from this area at grass roots level and help promote disabled sport in the region. After a successful first week, where the team pulled in more than 6,000, Mr Roche is optimistic goals can be met, but is urging everyone to dig deep and help. The main charity benefiting will be the Get Kids Going scheme, which aims to provide specially-built sport wheelchairs to local athletic tracks and provide support and encouragement for wannabe champions. However, the fund will also help East Lancashire British International Wheelchair athlete Shelly Woods. After adding her endorsement to the fund-raiser, the team promised to finance her training and travel expenses on route to the Beijing Paralympics in 2008. The team has already planned five running events throughout the year starting on Saturday, February 12th, at the 20 mile Wadsworth Trog Fell race, with a place in the London marathon also on the cards in April, and a 24-hour challenge across Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis, the three highest peaks in Britain, in June. A number of social events are also expected to generate public interest. Mr Roche said the team is itching to getting started. He said: It is going to be very difficult and the events will keep us very busy throughout the year. A few members of the team are hardened mountain runners, and the others will have time to get enough experience to take part. We are looking forward to it and any help is more than welcome. The team is due to launch their own website at where people can donate cash on-line.

Dominic Wiggan