A soldier from Y Felinheli who attended Ysgol Friars and played for Bangor Rugby Club is spending his Christmas and New Year in Afghanistan training to run a gruelling 250Km race in the punishing heat of the Sahara Desert.
Captain Joe Adamson of the 1st Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles was deployed to Afghanistan some weeks ago where he and the Gurkhas are one of the lead elements in Operation TORAL, the United Kingdom’s military contribution to the NATO mission helping Afghanistan to take control of its own affairs.
If that wasn’t enough, Joe has set himself a target of competing in one of the most arduous and exhausting challenges on the planet – ‘The Marathon de Sables’. This race, which translates into ‘Marathon of the Sands’ sees around 1000 runners compete in the ultra-marathon over a distance of 250km (156 miles) equivalent to six regular marathons, across the burning sands of Morocco’s Sahara Desert, with temperatures reaching 50 degrees.
The runners aim to complete the race inside six-days and during that time remain self-sufficient throughout, carrying all their essential equipment, including cooking equipment, food and sleeping bag in the kit bag on their backs.
Joe is a platoon commander with the Gurkhas and it is his job to plan and execute Advisor Force Protection missions. The UK troops are out in Kabul providing protection and security to the NATO advisors and mentors – are far cry from days gone by during operations in Helmand when they were in combat with the Taleban.
Today the Afghan security forces take care of policing the city and the Gurkhas supported by other British troops are there to provide security and armed escort duties for NATO personnel. A typical day for Joe could be mounting an armed escort service to deliver a NATO Advisor to a meeting and ensure their safety throughout – that would mean planning to take multiple armoured vehicles out onto the bustling streets of the capital ensuring the advisor makes his meeting, then recover everyone back to base.
Joe will spend the next few months, whilst out in Afghanistan, training hard in the gym and on the treadmill to get himself into peak condition for the daunting challenge he faces in April when he’s back. Speaking of his time in Afghanistan Joe said, ‘We are conducting Force Protection missions every day and enjoying the challenge and the opportunity to train and operate here in Afghanistan. Mind you, I am looking forward to getting back for a proper beer and miss running outside – after many hours the treadmill gets a bit boring!’.
Joe, a former pupil at the Ysgol Friars School in Bangor, enlisted into the Army back in 2012 and was commissioned (became an Army Officer) into the Gurkhas in 2015. Growing up in North Wales he said: “The mindset and drive that I have developed at Bangor Rugby Club over the years playing there is serving me well.’”
During his time in the Army Joe has seen service in Kenya, Latvia, Germany, Brunei, Australia and now Afghanistan. He aims to raise £5,000 through running the Marathon des Sables for the charity Walk Once More, the spinal injury charity. Joe explained: “In an instant, a paralysing spinal cord injury robs the victim and their loved ones of so much.
“As things stand, once a person suffers damage to their spinal cord, it is almost always permanent, and the individual is usually left having to live with severe disability through paralysis. Any one of us can be affected at any time by this catastrophic injury, so you could say that the work of the charity is a bit of an insurance policy for us all.’”
A Just Giving Page www.justgiving.com/fundraising/adamsonmds19 has been set up for those wishing to donate towards Joe’s ultra-marathon challenge.