Emily’s Mad March Ultra Marathon Challenge

Posted: February 16, 2018



Turning 40 can be daunting for most but mum-of-two Emily Denham has decided to celebrate her big birthday with something really extraordinary.

The Head of Learning Disabilities for Sirona care & health plans to run not one marathon but six in six days across the Sahara desert.

And for every day of the multi-stage event she needs to beat camels to the finishing tape while carrying all her kit including food and water.

“I am no athlete,” she laughs, “I used to be the fat one bunking off PE but over recent years I’ve realised life is what you make of it and make of it you must. So I’ve done a bit of running for a while now and wanted to challenge myself to something really extraordinary for my looming 40th birthday.”

Emily will be taking part in the Marathon des Sables (MdS) known as the Marathon of the Sands and will be raising money for the Sirona Foundation, the charitable arm of Sirona.

“It’s billed as the toughest foot race on earth, it’s all about getting back to basics – eat, sleep, run, repeat. I can’t wait. I am most excited about the night of the ‘long stage’, where we will have to complete 50 miles in 24 hours. We’re due a full moon, and the thought of running in that environment, with the moon and stars gives me goose bumps”.

She has been training for nearly two years including on sand dunes in Lanzarote which involved sleeping in the crater of a volcano on one night as that simulates Sahara conditions . “It’s been tough and I know it’s going to be tough in the desert but I’m also enjoying it and want to use the experience to benefit local charities.

“Within the Learning Disability service in Sirona we have a hydro pool and we are fundraising for a new hoisting system which costs £25,000 so I’m hoping to be able to contribute to that.”

She is also raising money for Fair Frome and Springboard Nursery in Chippenham.

But that’s not all – she is also challenging her colleagues at Sirona, a not-for-profit social enterprise providing health and care services across South Gloucestershire, parts of Bristol and Bath and North East Somerset to get involved too.

Emily, who lives in Frome, has challenged people to run, walk, crawl, hop or shuffle 26.2, 50 or 100 miles from March 1 to March 31.

“It’s open to everyone with the £20 entry fee boosting the fundraising and it will be fun for everyone to have a go at their own pace. It’s going to be an adventure for all of us,” she said.

“Working in learning disability services is a privilege. Every day we get to work with people making the most of every opportunity. I think doing things that challenge us is good for us, I am hoping that my colleagues will join me outside of their usual comfort zones”

So what’s in store for her 50th? “Gin and chocolate!,” she says with a grin.

This year’s MdS runs from April 8 to April 16. To donate