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Graham Roberts and Luke Humphrey to tackle 300k race across African desert in aid of Children with Cancer

In a bid to raise £10,000 for a children’s cancer charity, two fitness fanatics are taking part in a long-distance foot and fat-bike race across Africa's Namib Desert to the Skeleton Coast, where they will tackle towering sand dunes and spurt past shipwrecks that litter the shoreline.

Race to the Wreck. Image via Rat Race Events (6606557)
Race to the Wreck. Image via Rat Race Events (6606557)

In November, Graham Roberts, 37, and Luke Humphrey, 38, will fly out to Namibia in southern Africa to tackle the Race to the Wreck challenge.

Over 96 hours, they will run 100k (62.5 miles) and cycle 200k (125 miles) – an estimated eight to 10 hours of intense exercise each day.

The pair – both fathers of Bishop’s Stortford College pupils – are training throughout 2019 for the exhilarating adventure and fundraiser for Children with Cancer.

Graham, who lives in Thorley Park with wife Lisa and their six-year-old son Thomas, is no stranger to endurance challenges. He frequently competes in ultra-marathons and, in December 2017, he completed a 24-hour race in Iceland, where he got mild hypothermia.

He has also run the Yorkshire Three Peaks, a race traversing the rugged and spectacular Yorkshire Dales, jogging up and down the mountains of Pen-y-ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside.

He is addicted to extreme escapades, so when he discovered Race to the Wreck his eyes lit up. “It’s a good adventure and it seems like a cracking part of the world,” he said.

Bishops Stortford. Luke Humphrey and Graham Roberts are taking part in The Race to the Wreck next year. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (6606554)
Bishops Stortford. Luke Humphrey and Graham Roberts are taking part in The Race to the Wreck next year. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (6606554)

By taking part in such an enormous challenge, Graham saw an opportunity to raise money for a cause close to his heart. “A friend of mine lost his daughter to leukaemia,” he explained.

Children with Cancer funds research into developing new treatment and provides support and care to young cancer patients and their families. The charity's hub is opposite Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

Graham’s bereaved friend paid for his entry fee to the race. All he needed to do then was to rope in another adventure-seeker to take part in the challenge with him – which is where Luke comes into the story.

Luke is the director of coaching at Hertfordshire and Essex Cricket Centre (HECC) near Sawbridgeworth and is married to Lauren, who works for travel agent Tui in Market Square. They have three children: Joseph, 10, Teddy, 5, and Orla, 4.

Last summer, Graham took Thomas along to HECC for some holiday coaching and asked Luke if he would join him in the Race to the Wreck. “Graham said 'Do you fancy doing something a bit epic?' I think those were the exact words,” Luke recalled.

Race to the Wreck. Image via Rat Race Events (6606551)
Race to the Wreck. Image via Rat Race Events (6606551)

Luke agreed as he wanted to push himself to take on a new challenge, one that would make a positive impact, and something that would inspire his three children. “It’s like a pre-midlife crisis,” he joked.

But unlike Graham, Luke is not used to long-distance fitness challenges. “I’m not a runner, I’m a sportsman. I tend to run 22 yards between stumps,” he said.

“But having Graham say, ‘No, I’ve done this before’, I’m putting my faith in him to get me over the finish line.”

If anyone can encourage Luke to complete the 300k challenge, it is Graham. Six years ago, he set up his own business, Ispire. He is a motivational coach who teaches clients how best to achieve their goals, whether they be professional, academic or personal.

Luke started training for the race in August, but encountered a setback for a couple of months when he developed pneumonia.

Namibia, Africa
Namibia, Africa

Now Luke has recovered, he is restarting his training and the duo will kickstart their fundraising. They have a charity quiz planned and Graham plans to coach a series of running sessions.

While £10,000 is a lot to generate and the 300k race will be tricky – pedalling for long distances across endless sand is something brand new to both of them – Graham is cheerful about the challenge that lies ahead.

“I kind of have this belief that everything’s possible, you just have to find a way to do it,” he said. “We’ve got to take it on day by day like it’s a project. You get back up and you get back on the saddle each day.

“A mantra me and some of my ultra (marathon) friends use is that everything will pass. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.”

* To sponsor Graham and Luke, visit their online donation page.

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