AN ULTRA fit Halesowen firefigher completed the challenge of a lifetime which saw him run 102 miles in just over 24 hours.

James Grove, of Wassell Road, joined explorer Ed Stafford to complete the gruelling feat dubbed the Century Ultra Marathon which is the equivalent of four marathons back to back.

The married father, who works at Brierley Hill Fire Station, started running from Nevill Holt in Leicestershire on at 4pm May 20 with Ed and four people he had never met before, and finished at Brancaster Staithe in Norfolk at 6pm the next day.

James, aged 36, said the challenge had pushed him to the limit.

He collapsed three hours before the end – his knee completely buckling from the side leaving him with bruising up his whole leg. Such was his detemination to finish he hobbled the last dozen miles.

He said: “It’’s not just about fitness - it’s about a state of mind.

“It was a constant battle with my own mind telling the rest of my body it needed to carry on.

“For the last eight miles the pain in my legs became almost unbearable.

“But As Ed said to me ‘pain is only temporary, glory is forever’.”

James, who has two children and two step-children, was following Mr Stafford’s successful attempt to become the first man to walk the length of the Amazon River when the former Army officer tweeted asking for people to join him on the run.

James said it took a while for the enormity of the achievement to sink in. He said: “When I look on the map I think there’s no possible way you could do that!

“Without the support of people on Facebook and Twitter it and family and friends it would have been a lot harder.

“Two people stayed up all night and posted encouraging messages.”

Four of the six participants completed the run.

The main charity benefitting from the run will be the Teenage Cancer Trust, but James is donating his sponsorship of around £600 to the Firefighters Charity and FASTAid, which provides medical equipment to community first responders.

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