Colin and Keith Haylock – Completed the Ultra Desert Race – Marathon des Sables
Brothers Colin and Keith Haylock are no strangers to epic challenges, with around 60 marathons under their belt between them – however nothing compared to the challenge they faced on April 6 2018 which marked the moment the pair took on The Marathon des Sables (MdS) in aid of Shooting Star Chase. Known as the toughest footrace on Earth, MdS is a multi-stage marathon (six marathons over five days) in one of the world’s most inhospitable environments – the Sahara Desert.
The arduous journey involved them running more than 250km (156 miles) through a multitude of tough terrain in temperatures regularly reaching 50 degrees. “The ethos is self sufficiency,” explained Keith, “so for the full 7 days of the event we needed to carry all our food, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, cooking equipment and all your safety gear – including an anti venom pump!”
The brothers did quite a few jogs around Richmond and Bushy Park with prepped backpacks to get used to the weight. “The practice runs helped with the distance but not the endless dunes, Jebels (mountains) as high as Snowdon and the heat range from 53 degrees to -2 degrees at night,” said Keith.
As is the tradition at the MdS each stage is started by Patrick whilst AC/DCs “Highway to Hell” is blasted out from the sound system!
The annual event is huge with over 1000 runners, 700 volunteers and staff and over 300 tents needed to house everyone and provide shelter. These are put up and taken down every day as the runners carry on with the course. The brothers had to contend with a collapsed tent on the first night following a strong sand storm, having to be dug out that morning and only getting 2 hours sleep.
“Patrick Bauer, the French founder of MdS said he likes to start everyone off gently and as is the tradition at the MdS at each stage he starts the race with AC /DC’s Highway to Hell blasting out the sound system!” said Keith. “The first day was just 30km on a relatively easy course, the next day he told us that was just a warm up! He was right – the second stage distance was 39km and as well as the obligatory sand, there was a fantastic rocky ascent to the top of Jebel el Otfal (as high as Mt Snowdon) up a steep valley and then a spectacular descent to the end of the stage where we lost just 250 metres in just under a quarter of a mile.”
“It was the fourth day that most people, including myself were dreading. A long double marathon stage, actually a bit more at over 86km (53.4 miles). During the night stage you had to wear head torches and cover around 30km of sand dunes, trying to miss the nocturnal scorpions and camel spiders.”
Envisaging the cold Cola-Cola promised at the end of the race the brothers stormed the final stages, “I managed to do a sprint finish and overtook four or five others in the final 400 metres,” said Keith, “As we crossed the line Patrick Bauer greeted us with a kiss and placed the finishers medal around our necks.”
Colin came in 559th and Keith 695th place – raising nearly £3000 and counting. “The pain we suffered from exhaustion, heat and swollen, cracked and bleeding feet didn’t matter because of the importance of the cause,” they explained.
If the Marathon des Sables wasn’t mammoth enough – Colin took to the London streets just a week later to compete in the hottest London Marathon on record. Not only that, he decided to under go a Guiness Record Attempt and do it wearing ski boots! He smashed the record completing the race in 5 hours 52 minutes – and all in aid of Shooting Star Chase!