Leon will be a marathon man - five times over!

TO complete one marathon is beyond most of us – so spare a thought for Lowestoft man Leon Bernasconi.

The former soldier is preparing to tackle five marathons to raise money for the military veterans charity Project 65 – and what's more, he plans to run them on five consecutive days.

The gruelling challenge will see the father-of-four run a total of 131 miles from Ilfracombe in North Devon, through Exmoor, the Quantocks, Somerset and Salisbury Plain before finishing near Bulford Camp in Wiltshire, the UK's biggest Army garrison. He will be joined by four serving soldiers.

The race, known as the Forces March, has become a benchmark for endurance runners and for Mr Bernasconi, 38, who served in the Army for 10 years, it is a chance to raise much-needed funds for the men and women wounded while serving their country.

He said: 'People ask me whether I think I'll complete it. Even if I break my leg I'll drag myself to the finish line. I'm doing it for the soliders who come back from Afghanistan injured – the guys who have to drag themselves around for the rest of their lives. That's what I'll be thinking about when I complete it.'

Mr Bernasconi, who lives at the Pastures in Lowestoft, served with the Royal Logistic Corps and the Royal Corps of Transport, serving in the first Gulf War and in Bosnia, and completing numerous tours of Northern Ireland. He ended his service as a physical training instructor.

Every year since he left the forces he has taken part in fundraisers, from running in the Las Vegas marathon to parachuting for NSPCC. He wants to raise at least �1,000 and has already topped �800.

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To train for the event Mr Bernasconi, manager of the LifeSkills centre in Lowestoft, runs along the seafront every morning. 'I'm up at 5.30am and I'm normally out for two hours,' he said.

'I'll take my dog, a black Labrador called Spud, and we'll normally go along the seafront. The five marathons I'll be doing are quite hilly, but because it's so flat around here I haven't really had chance to train for that.

'I'm not 100 per cent sure how I should be training to be honest, so I'm just doing normal marathon training and hoping that when the time comes I'll be able to drag myself out of bed each morning.'

The Forces March starts on May 21 and ends at the Forces Festival, an annual celebration now in its second year, near Bulford Camp. It has been organised by Project 65 – The Veterans Charity, a cause founded in 2007 to raise funds for the care and support of wounded armed forces personnel and families.

l To sponsor Mr Bernasconi, visit www.justgiving.com /Leon-Bernasconi0

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