A LIFELONG fundraiser is heading to the Sahara Desert to run two back-to-back marathons in aid of a ground-breaking North-East charity.

Grainger Simpson, from Washington, will run a total of 52 miles in the unforgiving desert – where temperatures can soar to 47 degrees Celsius – to raise money for the North East Autism Society (NEAS).

The 62-year-old, who is the charity’s Operations Manager, is no stranger to tough challenges. He has already trekked across the Sahara in 2009, walked the Great Wall of China, and two years ago, finished a similar back-to-back double marathon in Iceland.

Grainger said:

Every so often a tough challenge comes along and I wonder ‘Can I do that?’. And I arrive to do it, and I’m still asking that question. But I just focus on the finish, and something in my head makes me keep going – I just take it one step at a time.

In Iceland, I climbed into my sleeping bag wet and freezing cold, and I thought: ‘next time I do something like this, it’s going to be somewhere warm.’ Well, you don’t get much warmer than the Sahara.

After suffering an injury to his heel three weeks ago, supporters feared he would be forced to postpone the challenge, but Mr Simpson was pleased to report that he has recovered well.

He will fly to Marrakech on October 10, before heading to a Bedouin camp deep in the desert. He will then run 52 miles in two days to complete the challenge, and return to the UK a few days later.

Through working for NEAS, Mr Simpson has a strong connection to his chosen charity, and he sees first-hand the value of the work the organisation does.

He said:

I get to see the money I raise go straight back into the society, and I get to see the good it does. The charity does such meaningful work, and it truly changes people’s lives.

When I look back 15 years to when I joined NEAS, it’s incredible to see just how far the organisation has come, one step at a time.

To support Grainger’s fundraising, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/grainger-simpson7