Runner is missing on Greek mountain
THE family of a man who went missing during a cross-country marathon in Greece are pleading for help to find him.
John Lawton disappeared midway through the 35km-long Taygetos Challenge race in the mountainous Peloponnese region on Sunday.
Search teams have now widened the area where they are looking for the 62-year-old from Alsager, as concerns for his welfare grow.
But John's wife Lynda and son Steve are calling on the British and Greek authorities to provide more practical assistance.
Volunteers armed with only basic equipment are facing major challenges in searching very mountainous terrain.
Lynda, aged 61, had travelled to Greece with her husband, as the couple hoped to enjoy a holiday as John took part in the race.
She said: "It's been five days now and I don't know how much longer John will be able to survive up in those mountains. It gets so cold up there, and John was only wearing a shirt and leggings. I was up there myself wearing a fleece, a coat and scarf and I was still cold. We're still hoping though.
"My son and I have spent a ridiculous amount of time calling MPs, the Foreign Office and the British Embassy, just trying to get as much help as we can get. This is a small part of Greece, and they just don't have the resources that would be available if something like this happened in the UK.
"The volunteers have been absolutely amazing. They've closed down their shops and bars to take part in the search. But at the end of the day they are just volunteers."
Steve joined his mother in Greece after learning his father had gone missing.
The 42-year-old, from Cambridge, added: "We have had no answers from the Greek or British authorities on basic issues, such as whether it is possible to use my dad's mobile phone or his Garmin navigation device to pinpoint his whereabouts.
"The local police team here in Greece doesn't even have access to infra-red binoculars, despite requests for a pair to be sent to them."
John, a member of Sandbach Striders running club, set off with around 80 other runners from the village of Kardamyli, near Kalamata, on Sunday.
It is believed John disappeared between the fourth and fifth checkpoints, and the search teams initially focused on this 5km stretch.
But they have now widened the search area, in case John missed the checkpoint and got lost in the mountains.
Lynda added: "People back home might think of a marathon as being run on roads, but this is different. It starts and ends on roads, but most of it is along tracks in the mountains. It is possible to get lost.
"This is something John has always wanted to do. He'd run the Snowdonia Marathon three times, and had done a lot of training in Snowdonia, so he was no stranger to running in this sort of terrain. He would have picked up water and some food at the checkpoint, but that was five days ago."
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: "We can confirm that British national John Lawton has been reported missing in Greece while taking part in the Taygetos Challenge.
"We are providing consular assistance to his family and closely liaising with Greek authorities as search efforts continue."