Ultra runners go the extra mile

26 March 2024
Left to right: Rafina O’Brien and George Jennings.

Two ultra fundraisers are preparing to go the extra mile (and many more besides) in support of Dentaid The Dental Charity. Rafina O’Brien, a dental hygienist from Yeovil in Somerset, and George Jennings, a final-year hygiene and therapy student, have signed up for Ultra Challenge Series events to help people experiencing homelessness, poverty and abuse access life-changing dental care.

Rafina will run an incredible 300km over three events this summer. She starts with the Jurassic Coast Ultra Marathon in May, followed by the Cotswold Challenge in June, and the Peak District Challenge less than a month later. Each event is 100km of running over varying, tough terrain and must be completed in less than 24 hours.

Rafina said, “I’ve run marathons before but never done anything like this. But I wanted to see what I could do. I run anyway, and I love the Jurassic Coast, so I signed up for that one, but the Cotswolds and Peak District Challenges seemed exciting, too, so I’m doing all three! There’s not much time between them, so staying fit is also a challenge, but I have an armed forces background and a training programme that includes lots of hills, so I’m hoping I’ll be OK.”

Dentaid’s fundraising events programme helps the charity deliver outreach dental clinics for people who struggle to access care both in the UK and overseas. 

“Dentaid has been around for a long time and I’ve always been aware of its work,” said Rafina, whose career has spanned the NHS, Royal Navy and community dental services. “I’ve been looking for ways to get involved and am also volunteering for the BrightBites oral health programme and on the charity dental unit in the UK. I’ve set myself a fundraising target of £500 for these events. The team at Colosseum Dental in Yeovil has been brilliant by dedicating themselves to organising fundraising events and offering unwavering support by cheering me on during races, even on their days off.  It’s wonderful to know my colleagues and patients are rooting for me. It is a long way, but I’ll have my support crew and am looking forward to getting going.”

Joining Rafina on the Cotswold Challenge is George.

“This is the first time I’ve done anything like this but I’m excited,” said George. “I got the idea from a video I saw on TikTok and thought I’d give it a go.

“I’m a keen walker but have never attempted a distance like this, but I’ll have lots of support to keep me going.

“I think it’s great that we have a dental charity that supports people both in the UK and overseas, and I’d love to volunteer with Dentaid in the future.  I am very grateful to everyone who has sponsored me.  Training is going well, and I’m looking forward to June.”