An Arctic adventurer from Larne has raised thousands for charity on a 350 mile trek.
Cairncastle man Jonny Davies recently returned from his trip to the Yukon, where he undertook the gruelling 6633 Arctic Ultra Marathon to raise funds for Smith-Magenis Syndrome and Great Ormond Street Hospital.
The paramedic was motivated to fundraise for Smith-Magenis syndrome after his 27-year-old sister Clare, who attends Larne Adult Centre, was diagnosed with the condition.
Jonny has raised a total of £4,400 so far, £3,500 of which will go to the Smith-Magenis Foundation with the other £1,000 going to Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Reliving his eight-day epic experience, Jonny told The Times: “The temperatures were as low as -30 degrees and we were walking for nine hours a day covering 50 miles while pulling a sled carrying our food.
“I slept for two hours a day at the side of the trail and started hallucinating.
“We were walking along the frozen road used by the Ice Road truckers and I learned to fall asleep while I was walking and sleepwalk.”
From the start, Jonny says it was apparent that only the fittest would complete the race.
He revealed: “I used to live in the French Alps and was quite prepared for the cold weather but at the start line there were 120mph winds and they wouldn’t let us go through so we had to do a 46-mile loop up and down the hills while dragging the sled.
“A few of the competitors put their backs out.
“You have to be careful as if you sweat it freezes due to the cold.
“I got a touch of frostbite on my fingers and toes but I didn’t need any medical treatment.
“I did end up breaking one of my teeth in half though after I bit into a cold bar of chocolate!”
Prior to beginning the race, Jonny undertook an extensive training regime which included competing in seven marathons, a half iron man triathlon and walking for miles. However, despite this thorough preparation, he says the Arctic circle still proved challenging.
He explained: “The terrain is very flat with no mountains, only endless roads, so you could see the 15-20km in front of you that you had to walk down in a line.
“Everything was so far away and you were trying to get to a landmark by walking nine hours a day.”
Despite the hardship he endured, Jonny says he also witnessed breathtaking sites.
“I saw a snow leopard which ran out in front of me which is cool as they are very, very rare.
“We also saw some karibou, but I was glad to avoid the polar bears and moose!
“The Northern Lights were also phenomenal.
“They said it was the best they had been in generations and there were massive skies,” he continued.
Jonny says that it was thoughts of his family and how the money raised would help Smith-Magenis sufferers and the patients at Great Ormond Street Hospital that kept him going.
He stated: “The thought of raising money for the charities spurred me on.
“I did a lot of my training around Larne and I would imagine that I was out with my dad and brother, who are both keen on fitness, walking around Feystown.
“The Northern Irish landscape is very similar to the Canadian landscape, which just has more snow and is flatter.
“I never had the thought that I wouldn’t finish the race, but at one stage I couldn’t walk on my ankle as it was swollen with all the walking.
“I managed to manipulate it a bit and walked it off.”
Understandably, the local man says that the highlight of the journey was the finish line.
He recalled: “We had been told by a local that the finish line was only 20km away but it then emerged that it was actually 40km away.
“So we decided to run the last 20km as we were sick to death of it.
“We crossed the finish line at midnight which was amazing as only 11 people in history have done it. I finished in fifth place which was a great achievement.
“Most of the competitors had to be helped across the finish line.
“That night they gave us food, tea and coffee and we stayed in a heated school hall which seemed like a palace.”
After returning to the UK on March 31, Jonny says he has been “eating like a monster” as his body recovers, and at night still dreams that he is competing in the race.
However, despite his success he says that he will not be competing in the 6633 Arctic Ultra Marathon again.
“I would never do it again,” he said.
“I would do a longer course, maybe 450 miles, but I would do a different trail in the Yukon, or perhaps in a desert like the Gobi desert.”
In the meantime, Jonny says his family are “very chuffed” at his achievements after following his progress in the race online.
Jonny will be speaking at a conference on Smith-Magenis syndrome in Birmingham in May, and also intends to use his experience to fundraise closer to home.
He revealed: “I would like to organise a triathlon in Ballygally in 2016 in aid of Larne Adult Centre and I’m appealing for sponsors.
“I would also like to thank everyone from the Larne area who sponsored me for the 6633 Arctic Ultra challenge.”
To contact Jonny regarding sponsorship, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To donate to the Smith Magenis Foundation UK visit https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/jonnydavies6633
The link will be open for donations until June.