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Marathon Man

Tuesday October 12 2021

Chris Rossi, a physics teacher at St Joseph’s College in Dumfries, was looking forward to his first ever marathon in Stirling later this month, until it was cancelled due to Covid-19.

 Undaunted, Chris decided to do a marathon anyway – and raise funds for Mission Aviation Fellowship at the same time.

A graduate in Mechanical Engineering with Aeronautics at Strathclyde University, he had a three-week voluntary placement with MAF at their airstrip in Dodoma, Tanzania.

Along with a team of locals, Chris’s team spent two weeks in 2018 clearing an airstrip at Kilamantide, a rural village many hours’ drive from the Tanzanian capital. The area was covered with bushes and undergrowth, some with three-inch spikes. Using machetes and old Land Rovers, Chris helped create a safe place for MAF aircraft to land.

Chris recalls: “A real highlight was seeing an MAF plane land for the first time at that tiny place – 300 miles from the nearest hospital. That plane did a medical emergency flight to a hospital less-equipped than the science labs I teach in. 

“It was crippling, exhausting but so rewarding. Knowing that the locals can now have access to medical care is incredible. That trip will always stick with me – it was a truly eye-opening experience. I want to run this marathon to keep MAF planes flying in remote places. I’ve seen where the money goes, and I know this challenge can help people living in very isolated areas.”

Despite completing a half-marathon a couple of years ago, Chris would never consider running a sport he does for fun. But when the coronavirus pandemic hit Scotland – which transformed his hands-on teaching job to hours spent in front of a computer – he developed a deep desire to get outdoors.

Chris explains: “During the first lockdown, my son Matthew [7] and I would do PE outside every morning, just to get fresh air. We started running together and both loved it – so I decided to keep going. I’ve always wanted to do something memorable in my 40th year, so I thought ‘Why not a marathon for MAF?’”

Chris turned 40 in May 2021 and started preparing for the Stirling marathon, which will now take place in May 2022. After weeks of training, Chris has decided to run the distance near the previously scheduled date in October, also participating in MAF Scotland’s 7&5 campaign which marks 75 years since the charity was founded in the aftermath of World War II.

Chris has surpassed his fundraising target of £200 and MAF’s 7&5 campaign has raised over £16,800, which Chris hopes to boost over £17,000.

Chris concludes: “I’m super proud of Matthew, and grateful to my friends and family who have been so supportive. Some of them are joining me for parts of the route – so it will be a really memorable day.

“This has been a tough season for everyone and running has really helped keep me mentally strong. Knowing that it’s all for a great cause has also kept me going and any donations will help deliver vital cargo – including vaccines, medicine, food and doctors to help those living in real isolation.”

Head of MAF in Scotland Heather Malloch, who spearheaded the 7&5 campaign in May 2021 by walking 75 miles with her MAF Scotland team said: “We started the 7&5 initiative before the vaccine was readily available and while there was so much uncertainty. But now, we feel so grateful for Chris and every other person who has got behind us and raised more than double what we hoped for. We pray the money we’ve raised together across Scotland will help turn the tide on poverty and isolation through MAF’s work. A big well done Chris, and all the best for your marathon.”


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