Harrogate army instructors to join Sir Ranulph Fiennes in ‘ultramarathon’

Major Al Grant and Captain Tristan Burwell (s)

Major Al Grant and Captain Tristan Burwell (s)

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A pair of instructors from Harrogate’s Army Foundation College will take part in ‘the toughest foot race on earth’ in April.

Major Al Grant and Captain Tristan Burwell are part of a four-man team that will be heading out to southern Morocco to compete in the Marathon des Sables next month.

The race is a gruelling multi-stage adventure through a formidable landscape in the Sahara desert and the pair will run a total of 251km (156m) in just six days.

To prepare themselves for the equivalent of running five-and-a-half full marathons, the instructors have been training in the North Yorkshire hills.

Al, 30, joined the college that prepares young people for Army life as a company commander in September (2014).

He said: “It has been difficult to prepare ourselves for the desert when it’s the middle of winter in Harrogate. We have to wear lots of layers of warm kit to make up for the lack of sun.

“It has meant a lot of very early morning starts for me and Tristan, and it’s lucky that we work together. Although we were already keen runners, Tristan and I didn’t start training together until late September.

“We’ve been getting out into the hills at the weekends, going for early-morning runs before college starts, as well as going to the gym. It’s a case of balancing the training alongside a busy job.”

The instructors decided to tackle the event in June as they neared the end of their second tour after deciding they needed a new challenge post-Afghanistan.

Al and Tristan will also be raising money for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and Tristan, 30, who is a company second-in-command, said the challenge would not be as tough as the ABF’s work.

He said: “We’ll be carrying around 10-15kgs, which Army life does prepare you for. It builds you up gradually and makes you quite robust, but you are generally moving quite slowly. Carrying weight also affects the way you run.”

Sir Ranulph Fiennes, 71, will also be taking part in the event this year and Al said that he is hoping the pair finish faster than he does.

Al said: “We’re feeling strong, but are up against a field of professional ultramarathon runners. Only 1,500 are selected to take part in the competition, so just getting a place is pretty tough.”