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Six marathons in six days... in the Sahara

For most of us, running one marathon on a brisk British morning is enough of a challenge. However, Build Africa supporter Richard Perlhagen took his running up a notch (or six) with the gruelling Marathon des Sables (known as the toughest footrace on Earth) and raised a phenomenal £37,000. The six day race covers 251km through Morocco and the scorching Sahara Desert. Crucially, it’s a ‘self-sufficiency race’, meaning runners need to carry supplies for the full event.

We spoke to Richard, who finished an impressive 167 out of 1,200 runners, once he’d had time to recover.

Why did you want to run the Marathon des Sables?

Yeah, good question. I’m still not sure! I had completed a few marathons, so just decided to do something more challenging. When I signed up a year ahead it seemed so far away. But by the time it actually came, I’d already told everyone I was doing it. I couldn’t really back out!

Did you enjoy the challenge in the end?

The entire experience was incredible. The remoteness of it, the scenery, the people around you… Every once in a while you’d look around at 1,200 other people who’ve chosen to spend months training and then to travel to the Sahara and compete in this nutty ultra-race in one of the harshest environments. It was surreal.

So, what did you enjoy the least?

Sleeping was uncomfortable and all the blisters and foot injuries were pretty unpleasant – including losing four toenails. But the worst part for me was probably the food. I went for a low weight/high calorie strategy, bringing only granola, nuts, dried fruit and beef plus some protein and carb powders. That’s all I ate for seven days. By day four, I already couldn’t stomach granola and had to force feed it down. I still haven’t eaten it since … I definitely regretted that decision.

Would you ever do it again?

I’d do something similar. There are so many amazing events that it would seem a shame not to try something new. Plus, I wouldn’t mind something with a bit less sand and heat. I would, however, definitely recommend it to someone who wants a challenge.