A FORMER vet will be putting himself through the 26.2 miles of the Brighton Marathon this year in aid of an animal charity made famous by Hollywood.

Mark Jones has run marathons before but said this April's run will be special as it is for the Born Free Foundation - which he works for.

The 54-year-old of Herstmonceux, : “I’m a really keen runner, I’ve run five marathons over the last few years.

“My first was by the shores of Loch Ness, which is a beautiful race, for the first half you’re out on empty roads surrounded by this extraordinary scenery, and then as you draw closer to Inverness the crowds are cheering you on.

“I’ve done the London Marathon a couple of time too but Brighton will be special because I have a chance to do it for Born Free.”

After a lifetime working in animal care - first as a vet, then in aquatic animal welfare and more recently for international charities - Mark now works on wildlife protection issues for Born Free.

He said: “Most of my time is spent trying to get better protection for endangered species through legislation and enforcement, especially for lions and rhinos.”

Some in his office have suggested that the six-foot lion costume in their back office might make the perfect running gear, but Mark is not so sure.

He said: “It would be fun but it’s not really designed for running, I’d need something a lot more lightweight.

“We do a lot of work with rhinos so maybe some rhino headgear would help people notice the charity but still make the race possible.”

His training is now going well after a break over Christmas.

“I had a bad cold and chest infection which has set me back about a month, but I don’t train for specific events so much because I run all the time. I did a 16 mile run last weekend.

“I’ll throw in some longer distances as we get closer to the event,” he added.

The Born Free Foundation was founded by actress Virginia KcKenna and her husband Bill Travers after they were exposed to the plight of wild animals while filming the 1966 classic Born Free.

Mark said: “Born Free does amazing work, rescuing individual wild animals from lives of misery and abuse, and protecting whole populations from exploitation.

"Just recently we rescued Jora and Black, two Bulgarian circus lions who had spent their lives being forced to perform demeaning tricks.

"Thanks to Born Free these magnificent lions are now starting a new life at the Shamwari sanctuary in South Africa."

Those wishing to donate to Born Free can do so via their website on on Mark’s “justgiving” webpage.

The Brighton Marathon will get underway at 9.45am on Sunday April 17, starting in Preston Park and finishing along the seafront.