Be A Good Sport: Jonny Hopes To Inspire Others

Be A Good Sport is back for 2022 and we have a host of events to suit every taste. Team up and make a difference for our family of NHS hospitals in Greater Manchester. You can choose to support our whole hospital family, or any one of our individual hospitals.

You can also choose from a range of events – whether you prefer cycling or running, whether you are a beginner or a veteran, young or old, we have something for everyone. What will your 2022 challenge be?

As Jonny Davis from Wilmslow will attest, the thrill of the challenge and doing something for a worthy cause is what keeps people pushing themselves…..

Between the ages of about four and six years old, I had a type of leukaemia called ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukaemia) and I was treated at the old Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital in Pendlebury. I remember being on the ward and loved playing with building bricks in the games room at the end. There was also a really good hospital school and I have memories of going in and out of theatre. The staff were just amazing. I’m 35 now and the hospital has always remained close to my heart so I knew I wanted to give something back.

Jonny in hospital on the day of his diagnosis

I was previously in the Army for eight years, so I was generally fit anyway so I was looking for a challenge that was a bit more full-on than a normal marathon. That’s when I heard about the Marathon Des Sables. Its tagline is “The Toughest Footrace on Earth” and they weren’t lying! It’s actually a desert trek across Morocco covering 250km – a marathon a day for six days.

When you hear desert you think ‘sand’ but it’s a whole mix of things – sand, rock, hills, dried riverbeds, powdery sand dunes, mountains: you name it, it’s probably in it. You’re also carrying all your essentials on your back. The only consolation is that your bag does get lighter as the days go on, but on day one you’re starting with about 7-10kg.

I took on the challenge in 2021, having delayed the trip from 2020 due to the Covid restrictions. The first couple of days the temperatures peaked at about 56-58 degrees, which is a lot hotter than normal but the event was in October instead of the usual April/May time. Normally the highs would have been in the 30s and 40s.

Jonny during the Marathon De Sables on a sand dune

You also sleep in eight-man tents called bivouacs. It’s sort of a protective sheet rather than a proper tent. You’re also running for about six hours a day, carrying your own food, clothes, food, your water for the day and your sleeping stuff. It’s tough.

Unfortunately there was a stomach bug going round our group and dehydration was a very worrying concern. Normally the drop-out rate is 5% but in 2021 there was a 50% drop out – and I was one of them. On day four of six I decided I couldn’t continue – I either picked up the bug going round or I had heatstroke, but either way it wasn’t safe for me to continue. I wasn’t able to eat or drink so it would have been dangerous and silly to carry on.

Of course, it’s not the result I wanted, but I’m really proud I was able to do something that most people will never do. And I was still able to raise some money for Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

I’m determined to try again in 2023 when the event is pushed back to the cooler months again.

For anyone thinking of taking part in a challenge, I’d say being part of a team challenge like this one is worth it. You do really bond when it’s just the group of people doing the challenge in the middle of nowhere.

Jonny with wife Olivia and dog Pepper

One day, when the Covid-related restrictions on visiting are lifted, I’d love to go into the children’s hospital and talk about my experiences and the challenge. I want parents to know that I had leukaemia when I was little and now I’m doing things like this. I want families to know you can recover from sickness and not have it affect your adult life. I’m now married to my lovely wife Olivia and we’re expecting a little boy later this year [2022].

I hope my story can give someone hope, or maybe even inspire someone to take on their own fundraising challenge.

  • If Jonny has inspired you with his story, visit our Events Page to see what you can sign up to.