Sahara awaits the dune-running team

The five local runners who will be competing in the Marathon des Sables.15LAJAN24a-1 PPP-150125-101612006
The five local runners who will be competing in the Marathon des Sables.15LAJAN24a-1 PPP-150125-101612006

FIVE runners are getting ready to tackle the toughest foot race in the world.

The Bognor Dune Runners will be lining up in 63 days at the start of the Marathon des Sables. Ahead of them will lie 
150-156 miles running through the Sahara desert.

The route changes yearly to take account of the shifting sand dunes and security concerns. But the challenge stays the same.

Ian Bayley, 48, of Felpham, Chris Gallagher, 39, of Bognor Regis, Luke Simmonds, 33, of Felpham, Gary Pidgeon, 47, of Yapton, and Colin Hiscock, 40, of Aldwick, are just one of a couple of British teams in this year’s race.

Legendary explorer Ranulph Fiennes is in another. Ian said: “It’s got to be the ultimate challenge in running. It doesn’t get any harder than the Marathon des Sables.”

The race is in its 28th year and covers five and a half marathons in five or six days in one of the most inhospitable environments on earth.

The sand will kick up a fine dust when the runners plough their feet through it so they have to wear shoe guards to stop the blisters which afflicted nine out of ten runners last year.

Their sweat will evaporate in the 100F-plus heat. The dune-runners will be training in the University of Chichester’s heat chamber soon to acclimatise themselves to the extreme conditions.

They have to carry 12kg packs with all their needs, except water. Colin said: “We will be wearing our packs in the heat chamber to simulate the conditions as best we can.”

The team have spent three years preparing for the race. They are running some 50-60 miles a day as their training peaks. Shoreham was last Sunday’s marathon.

The Steyning Stinger is next. Despite the hazards, Gary said: “I’m really excited and can’t wait.”

They hope to raise £25,000 for the Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice. Some £17,000 has come in so far.

Luke said: “We’ve been to the hospice several times to see the good work they do.”

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