AN ironman is going to extreme measures to help a hospice as it battles to raise vital funds during the pandemic.

BT manager Phil Cope is in training for the gruelling 18 hour Janosik Extreme Triathlon in Slovakia – a 2.5 miles lake swim in the dark, followed by a 112 mile bike ride and a full marathon with the combined ascent of 20,000ft.

He has set himself a target of raising £1,500 for St Teresa’s Hospice, where his wife Amy works as a nurse with the rapid response team, recognising the devastating impact COVID has had on the charity’s ability to make ends meet.

Phil, of Darlington, took up Ironman competitions in 2015 after the death of his father John, a retired forklift truck driver at Cummins.

“He was a really fit man and cycled to work every day,” said Phil. “It’s five years since he died and that is what motivates me. He always wanted me to push myself to see what I was capable of achieving. While I am fit and well I want to see what I can do.

“It is all about the challenge, having something significant to train for, and I’ve seen from Amy the strain COVID has put on the hospice, so I wanted to do something to help. Taking on what will be an ultimate challenge for me seems to match the challenges St Teresa’s is facing during the pandemic.”

Phil, 43, plans to tackle the triathlon in September with his friend Danny Shoulder.

“About 80 per cent of the triathlon will be in the dark and the run will be the biggest challenge as it is so steep you need to have both hands free to climb and because it is so tricky underfoot,” he said.

He has been preparing by running up and down Roseberry Topping three times every other week – though the triathlon with be the equivalent of 15 ascents of the popular Cleveland hill.

His training regime has also had to fit round work so he has been going out at 5am and as late as 10pm.

Hospice chief executive Jane Bradshaw said: “Listening to the challenge Phil has set himself to help us is enough to make me feel tired and he must be commended for his extreme efforts.

“The hospice does face an uphill struggle in trying to raise the funds it needs to care for people in Darlington, South Durham and North Yorkshire and we are incredibly grateful for all the help we have received so far.”

Anyone wanting to donate to Phil can visit his page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Phil-Cope9. Donations can also still be made to a hospice emergency appeal launched in March at www.justgiving.com/campaign/hugtostts.