It is regarded as the toughest footrace on earth and in less than four weeks, Dave Henry and Bernie Quinn will be on the startline in Morocco.
The gun goes off for the start of the 2015 Marathon des Sables on Sunday, April 5, and will see 1,000 runners from around the world try to just make it to the finishing line of an event that involves completing a marathon a day for six days, and carrying everything they need on their backs.
Dave, a contracts manager from St Boswells, and Bernie, a university lecturer from Lauder, are hoping almost a year of special training will help them cover a total of 156 miles across the worst the Sahara desert can throw at them in temperatures above 50
Both men are members of the Lauderdale Limpers club and have recently been focus ing on gruelling ultramarathons.
“We’ve both been running for a good few years now and, after a couple of marathons, we progressed to taking part in ultramarathons, including the one at Jedburgh several times, plus the Kintyre ultramarathon which sees runners tackling a 68-mile route in a single day,” Dave told us during a break in training.
“But this is certainly going to be our most demanding running challenge yet, without a doubt. It’s not called the toughest footrace in the world for nothing.”
Dave and Bernie will be carrying special lightweight rucksacks with all their food, cooking utensils, sleeping bags and a medical kit that includes a venom pump for dealing with snake bites.
Tented encampments with fresh water supplies will be erected for them at certain points along the route.
The Borders duo will fly out to Morocco on April 2 and Dave says training has been going well so far: “We’re on track with our training schedule and this has been the focus of everything we’ve been doing for the last six or seven months.
“We’ve been out training most weekends, as well as putting in another 70 or 80 miles each week, plus regular sessions in the gym.
“During the race we have to be totally self-sufficient, with only the tents being erected for us. We will have a GPS unit which updates race organisers with our actual location every 10 mintutes, and we can press a transponder button if we have a serious problem – and all the runners carry flares in case of emergencies.”
As for their expectations, Dave says both he and Bernie – who are both married with families and full-time jobs in Edinburgh – will be delighted to simply cross the finishing line.
“We just want to finish – that’s our target. The big unknown for us will be how we cope with the heat. That’s going to be the determining factor.
“And while it can be baking hot during the daytime, temperatures overnight can then drop to freezing.
“So among our gear will be sand goggles and plenty of sun cream.”
Dave and Bernie are both self-funding the total entrance fee cost of £3,500, as well as the purchase of around £1,000-worth of kit: “It means all the money we raise will go to the charities we are supporting,” added Dave.
The British Olympic rower James Cracknell competed in the 2010 race and became the highest-placed Briton to take part, finishing 12th.
Started in 1986 by Patrick Bauer, the race is now in its 28th consecutive year and continues to grow in popularity every edition.
And what does the name ‘Marathon des Sables’, mean in English?
“It translates as ‘Marathon of the Sands’, which pretty much sums it up really,” added Dave.
Dave and Bernie can still be sponsored and are raising money for three charities:
z The Steve Cully Tribute Fund at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland (CHSS). Former Lauder police officer Steve, who died aged just 41 in 2011, took part in the 2009 Marathon des Sables
z Prostate Scotland
z The breast unit at Ward 6 of the Western General Hospital
More details at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/LimpersintheSahara or at bernieanddavesdesertadventure.co.uk