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Stephen Murray, Namibia Ultra Marathon

A Liverpool-based lawyer is preparing to satisfy his thirst for an extreme physical challenge by tackling a torturous 250km foot race across the arid terrains of southern Africa in aid of a community scheme in his home city.

Stephen Murray, the managing director at Accident Claims Lawyers UK, has committed to compete in November’s Desert Ultra – a five-stage feat of endurance which pits runners against scorching sun and the other-worldly dunes and scrubland of the Namib Desert – despite being a relative newcomer to long-distance events.

The 45-year-old only ran his first marathon in March of this year but has a gruelling training programme planned ahead of hitting the start line in Namibia for a demanding five-day race that sees runners having to carry their own supplies as they traverse everything from ankle-deep sands in dried riverbeds to Moon-like rocky outcrops.

Aside from the potential rewards of spotting ostriches, giraffes, elephants and zebras, the animal-lover is hoping his decision to lace up in the wilds of Africa will raise funds for The Inclusive Hub.

Set up in the cooler climes of Kirkdale in 2016, the community interest company has expanded from running non-contact boxing and fitness sessions for children with autism to become a provider of exercise and education for a wide range of people, including those with Down’s syndrome, behavioural needs and physical disabilities, as well as amputees and victims of domestic violence.

“When I spoke to The Inclusive Hub’s organisers, I knew immediately that it was the organisation I wanted to run for,” explained Stephen, who also serves as the legal director of the Spirant Group. “The commitment of its volunteers and their willingness to support those facing disadvantage is phenomenal, and I am hoping any sponsorship I can attract will help towards the running of the Hub as what they do is fantastic.”

The personal injury law expert was first inspired to pull on his running shoes in 2018 when he entered a 14km trail run in Snowdonia and – having caught the bug – returned to the Welsh mountains for a half marathon a year later.

After a detached pectoral muscle ruled out a rapid return to his usual gym activities, Stephen then set his sights on a trail marathon, only to have his plans scuppered by the Covid pandemic.

The wait for normality to resume, however, only fuelled his desire to seek out a more testing challenge and ultimately served as a starter’s gun to his current adventure.

“I really enjoyed Snowdon and after the half-marathon I just wanted to go further,” said Stephen. “I was hooked and spoke to a friend who had previously run the Marathon Des Sables and he invited me to join him for the Desert Ultra.

“I signed up immediately after watching the event’s promotional video.”

Stephen has been clocking the miles ever since, with his weekly running schedule featuring increasingly longer back-to-back runs at weekends. In addition, he has already completed two half-marathons this year and has two trail marathons – in Coniston and Snowdonia – in the diary before departure.

“I’m under no illusion that the Desert Ultra is going to be easy,” he concluded. “Being from Liverpool I’ve only really done cold weather training to date and running on roads is very different from the ground I will be crossing in the desert.

“The enormity of the challenge – which includes having to always carry 2.5 litres of water, at least 2,500 calories worth of supplies a day, a sleeping bag and other provisions – is becoming more real with every day that passes. I have an ileostomy which adds another layer to the challenge but I am not setting myself any other goals other than just finishing.

“My aim is to complete not compete.”

“When Stephen approached the Inclusive Hub about his intentions to complete such a mean feet we thought he was mad! This is a superhuman task and we wholeheartedly thank Stephen for approaching this on behalf of us at the Inclusive Hub. When we receive a donation, the money goes straight back to the front line of changing people's lives for the better, not only that but potentially saving lives. Thank you, Stephen and the team from everyone associated with The Inclusive Hub”

Liam Starkey, Business Development Manager, The Inclusive Hub

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