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Operation Smile: Welsh ultra-runner’s ‘Grand Slam’ challenge

AN ULTRA-RUNNER is preparing for his biggest challenge yet: running more than 1,000 miles over five events in five months.

Scott Jenkins is one of a growing group of runners who cover distances longer than 26 miles. Along with his brother he has completed numerous extreme running challenges over the last decade, raising more than £100,000 for various UK and US charities.

This year he is taking it up a notch – running over 1,000 miles over five events in five months. Nobody has ever completed all five events before.

Mr Jenkins’ passion for running for charity stems from when he worked as a personal trainer with cardiac rehab patients. Wanting to raise money to support them he ran 75 marathons in 75 days, over 200 miles, from Boston, Massachussetts, to Austin, Texas.

“It really changed my philosophy in life,” said Mr Jenkins.

“When we get older, what do we want to reflect on and remember? I want to look back at the great adventures I had, and how I helped other people along the way.

“Those will be the things I remember, not the material, trivial things.”

Mr Jenkins decided to continue running for charities including Operation Smile, which helps children born with cleft lip and cleft palate.

Mr Jenkins has previously run 135 miles across the hottest place on Earth – Death Valley – twice, and completed a 240-mile race in the Utah desert.

“More people have climbed Mount Everest than run in the Death Valley race,” said Mr Jenkins.

“It was tough going, but it was the 240-mile race in Utah that really pushed me to my limits. It took 93 hours to run, almost non-stop.”

In 2015, Scott travelled to Ethiopia to meet some of the people his fundraising for Operation Smile was helping.

“I met a small child called Mezarai, who had hiked across Ethiopia with her mother for five days to see if she was suitable for an operation to repair her cleft lip, not knowing if they would be able to receive help,” said Mr Jenkins.

“When they arrived to the aid station, they hoped her cleft lip could be treated, but there was no guarantee. Fortunately, she was able to receive surgery.

“I got to know the pair and even carried Mezarai back to her mother from the operating theatre. To watch someone see themselves smile for the first time and the sheer joy that accompanied it was amazing.

“I hold on to that moment in the dark times during my runs. I feel very privileged to have played a small role in helping families.”

Mr Jenkins is currently training to take part in five ultra-marathons in America in five months (between May and October 2021). He’s named it the ‘Grand Slam’.

Scott’s Grand Slam comprises:

  • Cocodona 250, May 3 2021, Arizona (coronavirus depending – UK alternative in place).
  • Badwater 135, July 19, Death Valley: an elite race, which is invitation only – his brother is joining him.
  • Bigfoot, 200, August 13, Washington.
  • Tahoe, 200, September 10, Lake Tahoe, USA.
  • Moab, 240, October 8th, Utah. This racecourse has an exceptionally high elevation gain for the course (29,467 ft) – the elevation gain is equivalent to hiking Mount Everest.

Mr Jenkins is training daily, which includes cold shower, six hours on a treadmill, followed by an hour of rest, then running 36 miles. His Grand Slam will raise money and awareness for Operation Smile.

In the UK, children are screened prenatally, with a cleft diagnosis made before the child is born. The first operation is done between eight and 12 weeks; and the second between eight and 10 months.

If not treated, infants born with cleft conditions have nine times the risk of dying within the first year of life. They may be rejected by their families or communities. They may be unable to feed or have problems speaking due to the hole in the roof of their mouth.

For more information, visit www.operationsmile.org.uk/fundraise

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