Former soldier ran marathons in the world’s most dangerous countries

Meet the man who ran marathons in three of the world’s most dangerous countries: Former British soldier risked his life again to take part in fundraising races in Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan

  • Jordan Wylie is a best-selling author and TV star – he hunted Kay Burley on Channel 4’s Celebrity Hunted
  • His extreme jogging, a project he named ‘Running Dangerously’, raised over £35,000 for various charities  
  • Mr Wylie, from Blackpool, served from 2000 to 2009 in the King’s Royal Hussars – a fearsome tank regiment

Last year the Baghdad half marathon was cancelled because of Isis threats.

Former British soldier Jordan Wylie had entered – and ran anyway. Solo. Despite advice from the Foreign Office.

He may not be a man of steel, but he’s certainly, as he admits, a man of steely determination.

Jordan with a senior Afghan Police Officer, who was helping to provide security for the Marathon of Afghanistan 2018

Jordan with a senior Afghan Police Officer, who was helping to provide security for the Marathon of Afghanistan 2018

Eleven miles into the Marathon of Afghanistan in Band-e Amir National Park. Jordan describes it as the toughest of this three runs in 2018

Eleven miles into the Marathon of Afghanistan in Band-e Amir National Park. Jordan describes it as the toughest of this three runs in 2018

The Iraq run was one of three that he undertook last year in dangerous countries. The other two were in the equally adrenalin-inducing Somalia and Afghanistan.

Mr Wylie – who’s now a best-selling author, extreme adventurer and occasional TV star (he hunted Kay Burley on Channel 4’s Celebrity Hunted) – explained to MailOnline Travel that what motivated him to do the runs was a ‘steely determination to help educate the children in the countries I served in’.

His extreme jogging, a project he named ‘Running Dangerously’, raised over £35,000 for Frontline Children project charities – War Child (Afghanistan), Unicef (Iraq) and Darlington Foundation (Somalia).

And he most certainly risked his life to do it.

While he had an armed guard in Somalia, full security from the British Control Risks Group in Iraq and the Afghan Police Force watching over the race in Afghanistan, his protection was nowhere near the levels he had while serving.

Back then, as he pointed out to MailOnline, his back-up came in the form of tanks, helicopters and artillery.

The first race in February, 10k in Somalia, was supposed to take place in Mogadishu, but it was switched to Hargeisa because two weeks previously a suicide bomber killed 600 people and injured over a thousand more.

Mr Wylie, from Blackpool, who served from 2000 to 2009 in the Challenger 2-equipped King’s Royal Hussars, said: ‘Even as a hardened military man, this was a devastating incident and was an early reminder of the realities of what I could be facing over the next 12 months.’

He continued: ‘My anxiety levels were still high as I lined up on the start line in the first ever mixed gender race. It was exhilarating and humbling in equal measure, but I was relieved when the race was over and it was on to the next leg of the challenge.’

The first race in February, 10k in Somalia, was supposed to take place in Mogadishu, but it was switched to Hargeisa because two weeks previously a suicide bomber killed 600 people and injured over a thousand more. Jordan is pictured here after finishing the event

The first race in February, 10k in Somalia, was supposed to take place in Mogadishu, but it was switched to Hargeisa because two weeks previously a suicide bomber killed 600 people and injured over a thousand more. Jordan is pictured here after finishing the event

Jordan celebrates finishing the  Somaliland 10K race with Mohammed and Ishmail, two local competitors

Jordan celebrates finishing the Somaliland 10K race with Mohammed and Ishmail, two local competitors

And that next challenge was a 13-mile jog through Baghdad, in May of 2018.

Mr Wylie said: ‘A lot of British blood was spilled in Iraq, a place where I had served in 2005 and 2007. I lost friends and colleagues and at times I thought I was losing my mind. I was determined to return to raise cash and awareness for the children who, unlike me, can’t leave.

‘Unfortunately continuing and very real threats from Islamic State meant the Baghdad Half Marathon was cancelled so I made the challenging decision to run solo despite the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

‘As I ran through Iraq’s largest city, the many war memorials, soldiers and armour still patrolling the streets reminded me of those friends and colleagues I had lost including LCpl Alan Brackenbury, who was killed in an IED blast in 2005. Only a few hours earlier we’d been chatting together and running round the military compound for our morning exercise. I had his name on my shirt and his memory in my heart as I pounded the streets of Baghdad, spurred on by the thoughts of the money I was raising to help local youngsters access education.’

Jordan is helping this Afghan refugee to gain access to education via charity Frontline Children

Jordan is helping this Afghan refugee to gain access to education via charity Frontline Children

Mr Wylie’s final race was in Afghanistan, in October. And it was a full marathon.

What’s more, he knew that he would be a high-profile target for the Taliban. All he could do was blend in as best he could and hope that the Afghan Police did their job.

He said: ‘Afghanistan is a beautiful country with a bloodied heart. Days before I arrived a suicide bomb killed 17 people in Kabul. As a former British soldier I would have been a high-profile target for the Taliban, but I was determined to complete the last part of my running dangerously challenge.

‘Logistical challenges were against me but I was lucky the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service were supportive of my charity mission and got me on an aid flight heading to Bamyan Province [where the race would take place].

‘At the start line I was aware of being a high-profile target in this country and tried to blend in as best I could, but that wasn’t the only challenge. The marathon took place in Band-e Amir National Park. Incredibly beautiful but at 11,000 feet and with rough terrain it was by far my toughest challenge both physically and mentally. I ran through regular nose bleeds, blisters, sunburn and windburn but after seven long hours I did it.

‘I spent two days in hospital on my return to the UK with dehydration and exhaustion.’

Jordan served in a Challenger 2 main battle tank regiment and trained for the Running Dangerously project with his old unit. This picture was taken in January 2018

Jordan served in a Challenger 2 main battle tank regiment and trained for the Running Dangerously project with his old unit. This picture was taken in January 2018

Despite this, Mr Wylie’s appetite for adventure is entirely undiminished.

He recently scaled Ben Nevis with Kay Burley for charity and plans to row across the most dangerous stretch of water in the world – the pirate-infested Bab-el-Mandeb, the gateway to the Gulf of Aden.

He added: ‘This has never ever been done before and if I am successful, it will be a world first. As always one of the toughest parts to any fundraiser is getting to the start line. Please find out more and support me if you can at: jordanwylie.org/charity.’  

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