Essex

Chelmsford man tackles Marathon des Sables desert race

Mark Syred during the 2011 Marathon des Sables
Image caption The race sees runners tackling sand dunes, mountains and flat stretches

A Chelmsford man says running the world's toughest desert race was more challenging than he had ever imagined.

Mark Syred, 33, took part in the 151 mile (243km) Marathon des Sables across the south Saharan desert.

In temperatures of up to 54°C (129°F), he completed the six-day race in 585th position out of more than 800 entrants, in a time of 54 hours and nine minutes.

"People told me I'd fly it and it would be quite easy, but it was much harder than I'd ever anticipated." he said.

"On the first day I realised I couldn't push myself like I would with a normal marathon, because to come back [home] is a massive ask.

"I just wanted to complete it, rather than do really well."

'Mentally challenging'

The race saw competitors race the equivalent of five-and-a-half marathons from Dar Kaoua to Tazzarine in Morocco.

It was won by Moroccan Rachid El Morabity in a time of 20 hours, 56 minutes.

Mr Syred, who has competed in several marathons, explained the physical challenge was only one aspect to the race.

"For me it was far more mentally challenging than I'd imagined," he said.

Image caption Runners have to be self sufficient and carry all their food and water supplies

"When you were walking or jogging rather than running, you could talk to people and that meant you weren't thinking about what you were doing, because it did become very mundane and very tough.

"As soon as we got onto mountains or hills like I had been training on, it was brilliant.

"But on the flat, mentally I just didn't have the propulsion to keep running."

The Essex adventure seeker, who hopes to raise £2,000 for the British Heart Foundation, said he was unsure whether to attempt the race again.

"Possibly, given the right circumstances and if I was doing it with other people that I knew. I don't think I could do it on my own again.

"For those who go out on their own and fly it, like James Cracknell [who competed last year], is a phenomenal achievement."

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