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David smashes the 30-miler Commando Test for PCRF

16 October 2014

A consultant anaesthetist from Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, has re-run the final Commando Test that earned him his Green Beret some 25 years ago – raising over £20,000 to date for PCRF.

David Birt, from Tavistock, his son Harry (20) and three military friends  - Andy Burgess, Anaesthetist, Royal Navy, Tony Cramp, ex-Fleet Air Arm helicopter pilot and Martin Allison, Sergeant, Royal Marines - completed the All Arms Commando Course on 29 September.

David and team with PCRF banner

David’s aim was to complete the 30-mile yomp across Dartmoor in less than 12 hours  - no mean feat for a 49 year old,  but doubly challenging as he has to cope with chemotherapy treatment every fortnight. Incredibly, the team finished in eight hours, 20 minutes – just 20 minutes over the actual time required for new Commandos to achieve their Green Beret.

The five-strong team were supported along the route by their wives and friends. David’s wife, Sara, recounts the day’s events:

“We drove up to the start of the 30 miler route through the early morning mist, arriving at Okehampton camp to find several well-wishers waiting to see the team off on their epic journey. This set the tone for the rest of the day with more and more people joining the support team, peering through binoculars to catch a first glimpse of the 5 of them.

“Armed with stoves, kettles and a splendid collection of sausages, bacon butties, cakes and biscuits we were barely setting up camp when the runners appeared over the clapper bridge at Postbridge. They had covered 12 miles in three hours 30 minutes. This was going to be fast, with David barely out of breath and smiling broadly… any doubts that he was fit enough to complete this, banished.

“Refuelled, they disappeared up the road towards Bellever, accompanied by various dogs. We decamped to Bennett's Cross, preparing for their next stop. They duly arrived one hour 20 minutes later having covered a further six miles. Plied with pasties, they set off towards Hound Tor, regretting the carbohydrate load as they toiled up the first hill.

“Hound Tor, 7 miles on, was an opportunity for fresh socks, a change of clothes and a cup of tea. They were all looking a little sweaty by this stage, some with a glassy looks to their eyes. The end was only five miles away, but this the most gruelling section. They appeared running, strongly as a tight unit, led by David and his son Harry, shoulder to shoulder, finishing at 14.55. There was not a dry eye amongst the many spectators. led by David and Harry

“This challenge has raised a tremendous amount - to date over £20,000 with the Gift Aid. What has been so moving has been the outpouring of goodwill, which we have seen. Comments on the Justgiving page show the very deep affection and respect which people have for David. This is not from just a few friends, but from literally hundreds of people.

“This was a challenge which took real courage to undertake, determination to see through, and unselfishness to even think of. But it has been the cheerfulness which has shone the most brightly throughout - David’s attitude to life which makes the world a better place for everyone who knows him.

“Thank you all for your support. It has been overwhelming.”

There is still time to donate to the team – visit David’s fundraising page here.

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