A postmaster has braved sand storms and searing temperatures to complete one of the world’s toughest races.
Phil Payne, from Ardingly, has just got back from his latest adventure – a six day, 156 mile challenge across the Sahara.
Although the postmaster at Ardingly Post Office is no stranger to endurance events having taken on marathons and an Ironman triathlon, the Marathon des Sables was his toughest test.
The rules require competitors to carry everything they need to survive, except water.
“Mentally, it pushed me to my breaking point,” said Phil.
“Each day was the same grind: wake at 6am, cook breakfast, pack your bags, and start the stage. We stayed in little back tents, which slept eight. The ground was rocky which made sleeping very difficult. On the third night we had a horrific sandstorm which blew the tent down and sand covered our gear.”
Mentally, it pushed me to my breaking point.Phil Payne
The temperature in the day reached 53 degrees at its hottest with runners collapsing all over the course.
Phil found stage 4 – a 91.7km stretch over two days – the hardest part of the challenge.
“In the middle of the night, at check point five (50 miles in), after mile upon mile of sand dunes in total darkness, I started to hallucinate and suffered terrible blisters on the soles of my feet.
“My mind was playing tricks on me, I kept imagining that people were watching me from the dunes.
“I thought I was going to pull out at that stage but pure grit and determination got me through. The final day was just a hobble to the finish line - my feet were so bad that I couldn’t possibly race anymore. Crossing the finish line was an incredible feeling and very emotional. I had survived the hardest footrace in the world.”
Phil took on the race to raise money for the NSPCC. He has nearly raised £10,000.
“It was complete dedication to the cause - I even celebrated my 30th birthday by running and walking the South Downs Way over two and a half days.”
Phil ran the Athens Marathon and the Barns Green half marathon with a heavy rucksack to make sure he was fit enough to take on the challenge.
He told the Middy he was nervous and constantly checking his food and kit before the run.
“When we arrived at the start point in Morocco, we had to queue to have our medical forms checked and tracking gadgets fitted; I wondered what on earth I was doing, that I didn’t really want to do this.
“I suppose I didn’t want to let my friends and family down and knowing that it was for charity was the final push I needed.”