By Mick Hill
Running a marathon is a big challenge, and an ultra-marathon is tougher still. But the Marathon des Sables is something else entirely. The race is 250km across the Sahara Desert, with competitors carrying all their own food and equipment. There are big sand dunes, rocky climbs and dried-up river beds, and with temperatures topping 50 degrees, the drop-out rate is incredibly high. Last year more than half the competitors failed to make it through day one of a six-day event. It is not called the world’s toughest foot race for nothing. So why am I doing it?
I am not short on motivation. I am running to raise money for the Airborne Gunner Trust, the official charity of the 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery.
Over the last two years we have been taking on loads of challenges, including other ultra-marathons, plus crazy things like flipping tyres and climbing the height of Ben Nevis on a rope. The response has been brilliant and I can’t wait to take on the biggest challenge yet.
The charity is run by soldiers for soldiers, and every penny we raise goes to help serving military, veterans and their families. We are there to support anyone who finds themselves in a tough spot. That might mean helping them out with financial support, such as covering transport costs for people who may not be able to visit family, or delivering care packages to people in need. Often you can’t beat just sitting down with a brew. We want everyone to know that there is a friendly face out there ready to talk, and who understands what they are going through.
Sam Sheriff at Reorg has been a great support with the practicalities of setting up our charity. But logistics aside, in spirit we are very close to Reorg. We are doing it our own way of course, but at heart we are trying to achieve the same thing. Because of the nature of the job, military personnel and veterans can often experience problems like PTSD and related conditions. They need to know there is someone there that cares and can help.
Getting involved with any activity that gets you moving and socialising is a good thing. When it is also challenging like jiu-jitsu this adds extra value, because focusing on something difficult is important for all of us. I know from personal experience that jiu-jitsu is great for clearing your head and getting life’s little problems into perspective. And you get the same thing with ultra-marathons, only more so. Once you get focused on that race, nothing else matters, you are totally dedicated to the task, and that’s a great way of sweeping worries away and resetting your mind.
I’ve been through a lot of tough stuff in the military. But this will definitely be the biggest physical challenge of my life. We have been overwhelmed by the support so far, and we want to continue getting the word out so we can raise as much money as possible for anyone that may need our help.