Personal trainer Neil Wheeler will battle sleep deprivation to run three of Britain’s longest canal races, covering 420 miles in total, to raise money for Julia’s House children’s hospice.

The 39-year-old from Collingbourne Ducis near Marlborough, completed the first leg of his triple Canalslam challenge in May, running 145 miles in 42 hours 31 minutes along the Grand Union Canal, from Birmingham to London.

Today he sets out on the non-stop 145 mile Kennet and Avon canal race, from London to Bristol.

Then on August 28 he will finish with a 130 mile race along the Leeds and Liverpool canal.

Neil, who works at Pure Gym in Swindon, said: “I’m a keen runner and I train at work as well, so the hardest part for me is the mental challenge. Because it’s on the canal, people get spread out very quickly and there are times when you don’t see anyone else for a long time.

“These races are non-stop through the night, and when you’re on your own and the sleep deprivation kicks in you could give up quite easily. There were 90 runners in the Grand Union canal race, but only 44 finished.

"It is really tough, especially around the 100 mile mark. In the last 12 miles, I was falling asleep while I was running.”

He said: “I’m a little bit anxious about the races coming up, but as long as I’m in good shape it shouldn’t be a problem. I’ll be running through Marlborough and the Caen Hill locks in Devizes, so I’ve got a few friends that will come out to help me, but for most of it I’ll be on my own.”

Neil has already raised £650 to support the charity’s care for some of the most seriously ill children and their families across Wiltshire. "With lockdown, I know that the charity has really struggled so it feels like the least I could do.

"I know how essential that care is for children with disabilities and complex needs, and especially for the families that are looking after them.”

He explained: “I’ve got a running friend who cares for her brother because he has a head injury. She juggles caring for him at the same time as looking after her own two children and working. That’s really hard for her and it’s important she has support, so she can have breaks and time for herself.”

Nicky Clack, Fundraising Administrator for Julia’s House, says, “We’re completely in awe of Neil’s energy and drive to complete his ‘Canalslam’ challenge for Julia’s House children’s hospice. We rely entirely on our amazing supporters to help us keep caring for seriously ill children and their families in Wiltshire, so we’d like to say a huge thank you to Neil for his ongoing support for Julia’s House – and good luck!”

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