Daring runner crosses Africa in 650km relay

MAN-eating lions, civil unrest and soaring temperatures lie in wait for a daring Highgate athlete. Alexander Budge, 21, is setting out for Africa to run across the Kalahari Desert

Tan Parsons

MAN-eating lions, civil unrest and soaring temperatures lie in wait for a daring Highgate athlete.

Alexander Budge, 21, is setting out for Africa to run across the Kalahari Desert.

The Leeds University student will be passing through Zimbabwe, Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia as he conquers almost the entire length of the continent.

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With three friends, he will set out to travel 650km from Alexandria in Egypt to Cape Town in South Africa.

They will run in relays - taking it in turns while the others follow in a Land Rover.

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This adds up to each runner undertaking eight half marathons in as many days.

"The temperature will be in the region of 300C every day," said Mr Budge, who lives in Brookfield Park.

"It's certainly going to be interesting. There will be a danger of getting heat stroke and there will be a lot of wild animals too.

"We've been told there are man-eating lions where we are going."

His family have tried to persuade him not to go but his mind is made up. If any of the runners are injured, the remaining three will have to increase their distances to make up the shortfall.

The Land Rover will be the group's support vehicle, carrying food, fuel and water and providing their accommodation.

The terrain will be arid scrub and sand - particularly tough running conditions.

Last year, they drove through the desert to the Western Sahara and the idea of doing something similar for charity came up while they were talking in the Land Rover.

The group are starting out on their epic eight-day trek on September 4 but will spend two months in Africa before the dramatic journey to acclimatise to the heat.

"It's pretty daunting. With the Kenyans kicking off and Zimbabwe on the brink of a civil war, it does look slightly dangerous - but that's really all just part of the challenge," said Mr Budge.

"We have a lot of work to do between now and then, in terms of both fundraising and training.

"At the moment, it's just about ticking over with the running. We don't want to get injured or strain anything before we go."

The other team members are university chums Robert Hemms, who is the expedition's cook, team mechanic Harry Mossop and his twin brother Toby, the group's vehicle co-ordinator.

They are hoping to exceed their target of £30,000 which will be donated to the charities Help For Heroes and the Tusk Trust.

Help For Heroes raises money for British servicemen and women, while the Tusk Trust helps to conserve wildlife, promote education and support community development programmes across Africa.

One of the problems facing them will be maintaining their fitness during the trek. But they are drawing inspiration from Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

"Fiennes is a great inspiration for us - partly because he's absolutely barking and we wanted to do something slightly mad as well," said Mr Budge.

"My family aren't very happy about it and my father has tried to convince me not to go, but I'm set on it now - my mind's made up."

The men are planning to keep a log of their progress on a web page currently being constructed.

The frequency of their updates will depend on the availability of internet connectivity in Africa.

o To sponsor the group, log on to www.just



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