Trio complete ‘world’s toughest foot race’

Paul McCleery, Dain Jensen and Adam Slater, of Hastings Athletic Club, at Marathon des Sables
Paul McCleery, Dain Jensen and Adam Slater, of Hastings Athletic Club, at Marathon des Sables
  • Hastings AC trio complete ‘world’s toughest foot race’
  • McCleery, Jensen and Slater finish Marathon des Sables
  • 156-mile race over six days in Sahara Desert
  • Temperatures top 50degC in some places
  • 1,200 people started and 134 withdrew

Three indefatigable Hastings Athletic Club members completed an event considered the world’s toughest foot race.

Paul McCleery, Dain Jensen and Adam Slater finished the Marathon des Sables, a 156-mile ultra marathon held over six days in the Sahara Desert in southern Morocco.

This is about my eighth or ninth ultra distance marathon and it’s the toughest thing I’ve ever done without doubt.

Paul McCleery

McCleery said: “This is about my eighth or ninth ultra distance marathon and it’s the toughest thing I’ve ever done without doubt.”

The event was divided up into six stages of between 34k and 84k in distance and competitors ran across sand dunes in temperatures which in certain hot spots exceeded 50degC.

“It’s brutal,” continued McCleery. “They were giving us about 12 litres of water a day and you’re drinking it to the point where you don’t want to drink any more.

“I took just over 2,000 calories to eat every day and I was probably burning over 3,000. I lost half a stone in weight.”

What made the event particularly tough as far as McCleery was concerned, however, was the overnight accommodation.

There are no five-star hotels or ice baths to aid recovery in the Sahara. Instead, it was sharing a very basic ‘tent’ with seven other people in the desert.

To give an idea of the difficulty, around 1,200 people started the event and almost 60 withdrew on the first day. Some 134 had pulled out by the finish.

“To actually finish it was the objective in the end,” said personal trainer McCleery, who was a very respectable 195th in a time of 38:50.40.

Jensen, who has lost several stone in weight since starting training around the 20-stone mark, was 385th in 46:25.06 and Slater was 561st in 52:02.40. Aside from plenty of blisters, they all got through it relatively unscathed.

“It’s less about the physical and more about the mental strength,” added McCleery, who has a 100-mile race planned for October and intends to do another ‘big one’ next year.

“When it comes to ultra stuff, you have to focus the mind and as long as I fuel myself, really it should be possible.”

While McCleery took part just because he likes doing endurance events and fancied the challenge, Jensen - who owns Kiley’s Karpets - and Slater were raising money for the Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link.

So far they’ve raised more than £3,300 towards a target of £10,000 and anyone else wishing to make a donation can do so by visiting https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/dainjensen1

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