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Charity Neath Port Talbot News South Wales

Reality TV winner takes on challenge of a lifetime

THE WINNER of Channel 4 series ‘The Circle’ Natalya Platonova will be part of an Army team aiming to complete the Marathon des Sables and raise funds for the Army Benevolent Fund.

Natalya, who lives in Port Talbot, will attempt to complete more than 250km over six days in one of the hottest races on earth. The event, billed as the toughest race on earth, is staged in the Moroccan Sahara Desert in April and will see more than 1,000 competitors compete from all over the world.

Natalya will be joined by barrister, broadcaster and author Rob Rinder as well as an elite team of Army professionals to tackle this challenge, including Warrant Officer Class One Paul Carney, Olympic gold medallist Major Heather Stanning, and Military Cross recipient Infantry Colonel Mark Nooney her quest to raise funds for the Army Benevolent Fund.

Natalya said, “It’s going to be incredibly therapeutic. I started practising meditation as part of my training, just to learn to be at peace in my head. You know, just sit in the quiet because I think I will spend so much time in the desert alone… I think the scariest part is what am I going to think about for six days? I’m just mentally preparing myself for that part. But I’m looking forward to it. I think it’ll be an incredible experience, quite life changing.

“I remember watching a documentary on the Marathon des Sables two years ago, there was a lady called Fiona (Oakes) raising money. And she was so inspiring. I could never ever picture myself ever competing in something like that. So to me, it was like a pipe dream that would never become reality. And then the Army Benevolent Fund approached me to do it. I was quite gobsmacked. I never thought this would be something I’d ever conquer in my lifetime. It’s just been one of those kind of bucket list things that people dream of doing.”

Natalya is a corporal in the British Army and is currently training at Birmingham City University to become a military mental health nurse.

She took part in the third series of Channel 4’s The Circle, posing as a man called Felix, to win the title. She has since spoken about the impact winning the show had on her mental health and how that has inspired her subsequent career choices.

Rob added, “For me this is about celebrating our Armed Forces which are one of the few things that galvanize and we can share with all communities because they represent the best of who this nation is, at our very best, from everywhere.”

Competitors are self-sufficient, carrying all their equipment with them, besides a tent and water supplies. Every evening they will sleep in basic tented shelters, as desert temperatures drop from daytime highs of up to 32C down to close to freezing.

The Army Benevolent Fund is the British Army’s national charity, giving a lifetime of support to serving soldiers,former soldiers and their immediate families. In 2024, the charity will celebrate 80 years of being at the frontline of support for the Army family, helping them avoid hardship and live with independence and dignity.

To sponsor Natalya, Rob and the team, visit their Justgiving page.