An Andover charity is set to benefit from an extreme challenge in which will see three men cover over 800 miles in six days of gruelling triathlons.

Rob Sutherland, Matthew Jenkins and Jonathan Lynch will be completing six back to back Ironman triathlons over the space of six days, which will see them cover almost 850 miles in total. They are taking part in the challenge for the Abel Foundation, an Andover-based charity that supports those with mitochondrial disorders.

Rob said that the group aim to inspire others “to do something crazy for charity”.

The Ironman challenge was pioneered in Hawaii in the 1970s, where athletes were challenged to take part in a triathlon including a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and then a marathon run to complete the set.

Since then, athletes from all over the world have taken part, with Rob, Matthew and Jonathan the latest in a long line of sportspeople taking on the challenge. The team have been in preparation for the challenge for over a year, having been inspired by former Southampton footballer Francis Benali, but Covid has forced them to change their plans.

Instead of doing one Ironman triathlon in a different county, the trio will now undertake five of the challenges in the Lake 32 Outdoor Centre in the Cotswolds, with the rural location ensuring they can remain safe while raising funds. The final challenge will take place in Andover, with the team hoping to end the race outside the doors of The Abel Foundation.

Rob said: “When the idea of this crazy event came into my head last year after being inspired by Francis Benali’s Ironfran, there was only one charity I wanted to do it for.

“I’m sure Matthew, Jon and myself would all agree this has been the hardest 12 months getting ready for it but if we raise our target and inspire others to do something crazy for charity too then it has been worth it.”

The Abel Foundation was established in 2015 by Tony and Claire Noakes, whose son Abel was born with a rare genetic disorder in his mitochondria. The mitochondria carry out respiration, which releases energy from sugar in order to power the body, and are inherited from mother to child.

Pre-conception, IVF techniques can allow the creation of so-called ‘three-person babies’, where a donor passes on their healthy mitochondria to replace those of the mother which contain genetic disorders. Post fertilisation, however, and little is known about how to cure these diseases, with treatments generally focused on improving the quality of life of those with a disorder.

The Abel Foundation aims to support families of children with mitochondrial diseases, and fund research into treatments.

The charity said: “The Abel Foundation are really pleased that Rob, Jonathan & Matthew have chosen our charity for their 666 Ironman challenge. The money raised will go straight into finishing off our community support room which will enable us to run support groups for the families of Mitochondrial disease.

“We will also be able to offer the space to others in the local community. We wish them well on this very challenging task. Please sponsor the team if you can as every penny makes a difference to us.”

Rob, Matthew and Jonathan have been training to support this charity throughout the pandemic, despite the limitations it posed. This meant they couldn’t often train together, while swimming training was also curtailed. However, the team now say they are counting the days until they begin their challenge.

The 666 Ironman Challenge begins on Sunday, May 23 and will reach the finish line on Friday, May 28. For more information, and to donate, visit: