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Radio 1 DJ Greg James in Belfast to begin charity challenge and to meet up with Uncle Hugo

By Allan Preston

Published 02/02/2016

BBC Radio 1’s Greg James
BBC Radio 1’s Greg James
BBC Radio 1’s Greg James with BBC Radio Ulster DJ Hugo Duncan

Radio 1 DJ Greg James has been limbering up for Sport Relief and will complete the first of five gruelling 50-mile triathlons across the UK in Belfast this coming Monday.

For what's being dubbed the 'Gregathlon,' the 30-year-old broadcaster told the Belfast Telegraph all about his preparations, his hopes to catch up with old BBC pal Uncle Hugo and how an eye-opening visit to a refugee camp in Jordan inspired his training.

"The training has been going very well," he said. "I've really hit my stride. I'm ready physically, it's just the mental challenge of doing five triathlons in five days. Even saying it out loud is scary."

After an intense training regime, the DJ will have to swim through freezing open waters and brave the harsh winter elements as he runs and cycles through the city streets.

"It's my own fault," he admitted. "Because I said I wanted to do a big challenge and Sport Relief came back with this idea, they made it harder and the distances a bit longer and now I've to fly to Belfast and jump in the sea."

At 50 miles, each stage of the Gregathlon is a punishing 18 miles longer than the standard Olympic triathlon distance of 32 miles.

Greg said he hopes to inspire those in all the cities taking part - Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow, Sheffield and Norwich - to sign up for flagship Sport Relief events in March this year.

Laughing off the challenge, he said: "It's not necessarily a speed challenge at all, it's more like 'don't die'."

He added that he will be the last to know the route of the Belfast leg of the Gregathlon.

"In Belfast it's going to be open water, it'll be in the sea," he said. "I don't know exactly where, I don't think they're going to tell me until the morning."

As if a daily 'super triathlon' wasn't enough, Greg has also set himself the challenge of presenting his daily three-hour Radio 1 show each day. "That's definitely the bit that's unknown for me," he said. "I'm only thinking about the activities that I'm doing, but when it gets to three o'clock I'll be thinking, 'Oh my God I've gotta do the radio in a minute.'

"But I think it will be entertaining for the listeners at the very least. I imagine we'll be doing the show from BBC Radio Ulster which I've been to many times before and I'm looking forward to meeting some of my old favourites - Uncle Hugo being one of my absolute heroes.

"He's a wonderful man is Uncle Hugo. We used to do some stuff with him on the show, we used to feature him quite a lot when I first started and I eventually met him when I came to Belfast so I was very excited."

In preparation for his Sport Relief campaign, Greg says a visit to a refugee camp in Jordan last weekend gave him the determination to train.

"It really gave me such a brilliant focus for this challenge because I got to see the people the money from this challenge will be helping," he said.

He recalled the harrowing story of one Syrian family he met who were separated when their father was arrested on the Syrian border.

The mother and daughter then endured two years of waiting in the refugee camp in Jordan to learn he had been killed.

"The scary thing is that this is not an abnormal story," he said. "That sort of thing happens quite a lot and it's really affected me just hearing those sorts of things.

Belfast Telegraph

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