FALLEN trees and submerged rocks in ankle-deep mud failed to stop Parkgate ‘desert runner’ Ray Matthews from completing his longest endurance feat to date.
Ray, 70, completed the 100 kilometres London to Brighton run for Blind Veterans Uk, accompanied for 67 kilometres by blind ex-Army officer Kerry Levins, 41, of Aldershot.
Ray said: “We met for the first time at the start of the race but immediately gelled as a team. I would like to pay tribute to Kerry and his determination in reaching the 67k point in extremely difficult conditions and against all the odds.”
Kerry was forced to leave Ray to soldier on, when previous injuries from a motorbike smash led both hips to dislocate and his ankle to ‘cave in’.
After they parted company at 3.30am Ray found himself heading a group of eight ‘lost’ runners - and on a mission to get them to the finish line although all were suffering from multiple injuries.
“We made our way through the night towards Gatwick Airport, before turning east on to the South Downs,” said Ray. “Dawn brought a welcome relief as the sun broke through the mist just before checkpoint seven, but the rain was soon lashing down again.”
The final group linked arms and spread the Union Jack to make the finish line in a time of 30 hours.
“A great number of athletes pulled out of the event quite early on because the terrain was so difficult,” said Ray. “I felt like the pied piper towards the end as I kept picking up followers, including a woman whose appendix had been removed just three weeks previously. It was an amazing effort by everyone and hopefully will raise a good amount for a very deserving charity.”
Ray recently launched his first book, titled ‘Me and My Shadow’ that follows his life path in boxing and running, to the point where he conquered the Sahara Desert race - and now represents the UK for the organising body of that event.
Blind Veterans UK cares for ex-Service men and women who were blinded in action or through accident, illness or old age.