A FORMER Royal Marine is taking on a gruelling fundraising challenge in aid of Chester Zoo which will see him attempt to complete a calendar run of 496 miles in 31 days.

Conor Davies, 27, will begin his month-long mission on July 1 with a one-mile jog before adding a mile each day to reach his target and finish with a run from Trefnant to the zoo.

So tough is the challenge he faces, in the last week he will need to cover 196 miles – the equivalent of seven-and-a-half marathons.

Conor, who lives in Llandudno Junction and is a groundworker with North Wales-based Brenig Construction, wanted to do his bit for Chester Zoo in its time of need and especially for his favourite animals, the elephants.

The popular animal attraction reopened its doors earlier this month to operate on a reduced capacity after losing an estimated £5m in revenue due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Conor, who has raised nearly £600 so far, said: "I’ve always enjoyed a physical challenge which is why I joined the Marines and for the final part of your training you have to yomp across Dartmoor for 30 miles in full kit and carrying a rifle.

"I’m not doing any special training. I’m pretty fit anyway – I do two hours in the gym every evening and so I'm pretty certain I can do the distance.

"I once did 40 miles in the Marines so I know I can do it, it's whether I can do it day after day."

Conor’s girlfriend, Jasmine Kepil, a personal trainer, suggested he took on the challenge to raise money for the zoo, the UK’s biggest, and he was happy to oblige.

He joined Colwyn Bay-based Brenig two years ago after being forced to quit the Marines because of an unusual eye condition - he suffers from light sensitivity and has to wear sunglasses, not usually an option on active duty.

Conor said: "I know Howard Vaughan from Brenig because he's the manager of Glan Conwy football club whom I play for and he's helped a lot with the fundraising for the zoo.

"It was disappointing having to quit the Marines with a medical discharge because I loved the life but Brenig have been great and they've encouraged me to have a go at the run for the zoo as well.

"It's a fantastic place and so important for all the work it does for the animals – I hope the money I raise can go towards the elephants or maybe the meerkats.

"I’m hoping to do the final day run from a new housing construction site at Trefnant where we’re building a new estate of houses for Adra housing association and go all the way to the zoo, 31 miles."

Jamie Christon, Chief Operating Officer at Chester Zoo, said: "What Conor is doing for the zoo is amazing, we're so grateful to have supporters like him.

"The love, the passion and the energy shown by so many people all over the UK has completely humbled us.

"We’ve been shown overwhelming kindness when times are hard for everyone, not just us, and I can't express how thankful everyone at the zoo is to all of these fundraising superstars, just like Connor.

"This fight is far from over for us, even though the zoo is now open again, but we will keep doing everything we can to save our zoo. Each and every fundraiser is an inspiration and is making a real difference."

Conor’s JustGiving page for donations is at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/conor-davies29