A former Royal Marine is tackling one of sport’s toughest challenges – a calendar run of 496 miles in 31 days – to raise money for the world-famous Chester Zoo.
The Zoo, featured in Channel 4’s series The Secret Life of the Zoo, and home to 35,000 animals, has suffered financially through the Covid-19 lockdown, losing an estimated £5 million in revenue.
But Conor Davies, 27, a groundworker with North Wales-based Brenig Construction, is aiming to do his bit for the newly re-opened attraction and especially for his favourite animals, the elephants.
He set out on his gruelling mission this week with a one-mile jog on July 1, adding a mile a day until he does 31 miles on the last day of the month.
Royal Marines are famously tough but in that final week Conor, from Llandudno Junction, will cover 196 miles, the equivalent of seven and a half marathons.
He said: “I’ve always enjoyed a physical challenge which is why I joined the Marines and for the final part of your training you have to yomp across Dartmoor for 30 miles in full kit and carrying a rifle.
“They give you a big breakfast first and one of the guys threw up right at the start – he still completed the course though. I did too but my feet were in bits by the end.
“I’m not doing any special training. I’m pretty fit anyway – I do two hours in the gym every evening and so I’m pretty certain I can do the distance.
“I once did 40 miles in the Marines so I know I can do it, it’s whether I can do it day after day.”
Conor’s girlfriend, Jasmine Kepil, a personal trainer, suggested he took on the challenge to raise money for the zoo, the UK’s biggest, and he was happy to oblige.
He joined Colwyn Bay-based Brenig two years ago after being forced to quit the Marines because of an unusual eye condition – he suffers from light sensitivity and has to wear sunglasses, not usually an option on active duty.
He said: “I know Howard Vaughan from Brenig because he’s the manager of Glan Conwy football club whom I play for and he’s helped a lot with the fund-raising for the Zoo.
“It was disappointing having to quit the Marines with a medical discharge because I loved the life but Brenig have been great and they’ve encouraged me to have a go at the run for the Zoo as well.
“It’s a fantastic place and so important for all the work it does for the animals – I hope the money I raise can go towards the elephants or maybe the meerkats.
“I’m hoping to do the final day run from a new housing construction site at Trefnant where we’re building a new estate of houses for Adra housing association and go all the way to the Zoo, 31 miles.
“That’s on the Friday so I’ll be able to put my feet up on the Saturday.”
Howard, who set up Brenig Construction with his childhood friend, Mark Parry in 2012, said: “Conor is incredibly fit and strong and he’s picked a really great cause to support.
“It’s a really tough challenge though, I’d never heard of this before, 496 miles in a month but if anyone can do it Conor can.”
Jamie Christon, Chief Operating Officer at Chester Zoo said: “What Conor is doing for the zoo is amazing, we’re so grateful to have supporters like him.
“The love, the passion and the energy shown by so many people all over the UK has completely humbled us.
“We’ve been shown overwhelming kindness when times are hard for everyone, not just us, and I can’t express how thankful everyone at the zoo is to all of these fundraising superstars, just like Connor.
“This fight is far from over for us, even though the zoo is now open again, but we will keep doing everything we can to save our zoo. Each and every fundraiser is an inspiration and is making a real difference.”
Conor’s JustGiving page for donations is at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/conor-davies29