A soldier based at Perham Down has been praised after he and a group of friends took part in an extreme running challenge to raise funds for a Tidworth football club.

Reece Daly, along with Nathan Strong and Luke Sadler, took part in a ‘Virtual Goggins challenge’, named after the ultra-marathon runner David Goggins, which saw them run four miles every four hours for 48 hours around Tidworth, Ludgershall and Andover.

The trio completed the epic run this weekend, and have so far raised over £1000 for Kick Start FC, a football club that aims to provide mental health support in the area.

Reece, a physical training instructor in the British Army, said the support had “put his faith back in humanity”.

He had the idea for the run after hearing from his friend Michael Cunningham, the founder of Kick Start FC, who said the charity had been “facing some hard times” during lockdown, and so decided to raise money for the club.

Reece told the Advertiser: “I looked at the Goggins challenge and thought it was a good ridiculous challenge that I thought might grab people’s attention and raise awareness of mental health.”

The challenge was hastily put together for the weekend when Reece confirmed he was free with only a few days notice. A fundraiser was set up, and within hours was already at £600.

“I honestly didn’t think it would happen,” said Reece. “I set the goal for £100, and thought I might get £150, £200 at a push. It’s ridiculous. It does put my faith back in humanity a little bit and the reason I think we have raised so much is because the charity targets a thing that has become more known during Covid, and a lot of people suffer with poor mental health.

“It has a stigma, especially for a man, as mental health is said to be a bit of weakness, and we’re trying to get rid of that stigma, so it’s a very poignant thing at the moment.”

The challenge began on Friday, March 12, with the men taking a variety of routes in and around Tidworth, Ludgershall and Andover.

“Every route was different,” said Reece, “we thought it would keep up the variety. On the midnight run on Friday I had the idea of going to Cameo and Vinyl because I thought we could take a good snapshot of where we should be on a Friday night!”

Reece said that he had thought, with his army training, that he’d be relatively comfortable doing the run, but it proved more challenging than he expected.

“It was a different kettle of fish,” he said. “I thought I’d be quite conditioned to it but when it got over the 24-hour mark I felt myself going. I couldn’t even sleep, because as soon as I sleep and wake up I feel 10 times worse as my muscles start to swell and lactic acid starts to set in.”

He said that he had “dark moments” during the breaks between the runs, as his body felt like giving up.

“When I got up, I didn’t want to get out of bed and had a dreadful feeling,” said Reece, “but that made me realise when I was putting my shoes on that people with poor mental health probably feel like this for months or years.

“Just getting out of bed, just getting to work is a marathon for them so that spurred me on. I had 48 hours of hardness but they’ve had years, and it gave me a lot of respect. 48 hours is nothing compared to what they go through.”

The trio successfully completed the run on Sunday, March 14, and plans are already afoot for their next challenge.

“Nathan messaged me the other day about another challenge for Kickstart,” said Reece. “He suggested running 162 miles in six days, and I think what we’re going to try and do is run from football stadium to football stadium and plant a Kickstart flag there.

“That’s still in the planning, I haven’t given the thumbs up on my end yet, but I’m all up for keeping things going and keeping local people in the community healthy in their mind. I think that’s a really important thing at this time.”

To donate to the fundraiser for Kick Start FC, please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/reece-daly