On 23 April, three intrepid explorers began arguably the toughest footrace to exist: The Marathon Des Sables (MDS). Mark, Luke, and Marc – who all work on-ship together at Hornsea Wind Farm – face harsh terrain, intense heat, and cooler nights, and are covering 156 miles in just six days. And while this ultra-marathon has been a longed-for personal goal for the former armed force members, they’re doing it for the 99,000 children across the UK living with a life-limiting or life-threatening condition.
“We’ve all wanted to take part in the MDS for years however never taken the plunge. It’s something you hear a lot about it in the military and it’s always met with trepidation when it’s mentioned. As a collective, we wanted a challenge, something to focus on, an event that would test us both physically and mentally throughout. MDS will provide this test from start to finish.”
To the limits, together
Ahead of them lie experiences that will test not only their physical endurance, but their mental strength too. Yet they know that they’ll be able to help each other through, thanks to the deep bonds they have with each other. One day in particular weighs heavily on their minds – the 52-mile day after running near-marathon distances for three days prior.
“The heat and the sand will be the most difficult part. Distance you can train for but mentally preparing for the strain that up to 50°c will put on our bodies and exhaustion from sand dunes is something you can’t really prepare for at the same level. It’s essential that we stick together and bring each other through it. No doubt we’re going to face some obstacles at different points along the way but we’ll have each other to offer support which is priceless. Not many people get to do this with their mates by their side as it takes a huge amount of commitment.”
Preparing your body, strengthening the mind
The courageous trio has all prepared for the challenge in different ways while training together on-ship. For Mark, acclimatising to the heat has been a priority; heat chamber sessions at a state-of-the-art facility have prepared him for heat stress and seen him train under guidance from experts. He’s also run The Yorkshire Three Peaks – numerous times!
Luke’s been on many 20-mile runs with a weighted backpack, incorporating inclines to strengthen his legs; he also completed The Lakes in a Day, which is a 50-mile foot race in the lake district over 24 hours with a 13000ft ascent.
To give him insight into managing hydration, food, and running on tired legs, Marc has twice completed a challenge that involves running four miles, every four hours for 48 hours; the second time with a weighted back and no music throughout for the mental challenge.
The motivation that will keep them going
Marc, Luke, and Marc have seen incredible support from their friends, colleagues, and family. So far, they’ve raised over £5,600 and hope to reach their £9,000 target.
Raising funds and awareness for seriously ill children, along with families going through the most harrowing of circumstances has been key for all of us and we're going to push ourselves to the absolute limits to do so. It'll be a huge motivation throughout the MDS. When the seed of doubt comes in to play – which it will – and we're asking ourselves why we're here, that's why. As fathers ourselves we couldn't imagine how hard it would be to go through that experience and knowing there's a charity helping people cope is a godsend.Marc
We are thinking of Mark, Luke and Marc as they trek through the desert. To us, they are heroes. And to the children and families that they’re raising money for, they are priceless source of support, showing them that they never have to struggle alone. If you’d like to support them, you can donate via their JustGiving page.