HE is a veteran of three tours of Afghanistan and two of Iraq.

Now, as he prepares for an epic six-month challenge which will involve ski-ing, sailing, cycling, canoeing and running across Europe, Taunton Marine Richie Hayden says: “I was born to do this.”

Colour Sergeant Hayden, a dad-of-two who serves with 40 Commando at Norton Fitzwarren, is taking part in the Royal Marines 1664 Challenge, which will see a few hardy souls pushing themselves to the limit in some of the most testing conditions imaginable, to raise money for the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund.

CSgt Hayden, a Marine of 18 years, has spent the past two weeks in Norway, preparing for the challenge which begins on February 2.

Back at home are wife Kirsty and children Alfie, aged six, and Holly, three.

CSgt Hayden said: “They are my life. I am not able to see them for seven months due to the training for the challenge and the duration of it.

“I have completed three tours of Afghanistan and two tours of Iraq, plus countless NATO tours, so my wife is fully supportive of me going away, but it is a testing time for my family and me.”

The thought of the challenge would be enough to turn most people to jelly.

It begins with a 1664km cross-country ski from north to south Norway, in freezing temperatures.

Phase two is a 1,664-mile sail from Norway to Cadiz on board a Joint Services Challenger 67 yacht, which is likely to take the whole of April.

Then there is a 1664km cycle from Cadiz to the Normandy beaches, involving a crossing of the Pyrenees.

Phase four is a non-stop canoe across the English Channel, and the final challenge will see team members running 1664km around England and Scotland over 58 days, finishing with the RM 350 Corps marathon into London on July 25.

CSgt Hayden is one of only six people taking part in every leg of the challenge, but he says: “I was born to do this challenge.

“Everything about it is what I’m about.”

To find out more about the challenge, including how to donate, click here