It’s known as ‘The Toughest Footrace on Earth’. 

This week 51-year-old Dorset businessman Andrew Findley will be standing at the start line of an epic 156-mile desert adventure. Joining him will be 1,500 other competitors from around the globe including the legendary explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

Ahead lies six days of running in extreme heat, up to 50 degrees, across the barren Sahara desert landscape including mountains and, unsurprisingly, miles upon miles of huge sand dunes. One of the days is a 55-mile run.

Runners are self sufficient, meaning that apart from water and a tent, they must carry everything they need for the entire race.

“Comforts and calories are great but the more you have, the heavier your pack and the slower you run,” says Andrew who lives with his wife and two children in Poole.

Race rules have a mandatory list of equipment including, slightly worryingly, an anti-venom pump, in case of snake or scorpion bites. However, crazy luxuries such as a change of clothes, a sleeping mat and a pillow are often sacrificed for the sake of speed.

Andrew is no stranger to ultra running having finished highly in many races including the famous single stage 100-mile races Ultra Trail Mont Blanc in France and Western States 100 in California.

Good preparation is essential. In the last 3 months Andrew has run more than 600 miles in training with half of those miles being on the soft sand of Bournemouth beach and always carrying a heavy backpack.

“Once you get to the desert, the secret to success in this race is to find your body’s tolerance limit of pain, heat and exhaustion and then to sail as close to that line as possible for six days.

“The danger, of course, is that when you cross that line the consequences are very serious. Runners have died and many are airlifted to hospital.”

“My three race aims increase in difficulty: 1. To finish 2. Not to get beaten by a 71-year-old explorer.

3. Win my age category.”

He added: “It is an inspiring race and I’m so grateful to the local business owners who have helped me get to the start line with financial sponsorship from Robert Heffer at LLK Properties, kit sponsorship (Ron Hill clothing) organised by Mike Edwards of Burton McCall and nutrition sponsorship (Complete Balance and Precision Hydration) from Barbara Cox and Andy Blow.”

Andrew is running for Lionsraw, a charity that mobilises football fans to make a difference.

Andrew has already raised £8,000 for the charity through previous events.

“In 2010, when I first started running for Lionsraw, we built an orphanage and two classrooms to start a school in South Africa for 80 children.”

Andrew is hoping to raise £2,500 to build a further classroom for their school in South Africa in a region that is the most AIDS affected area in the world.

So why does he have such a passion for ultra running?

“I love adventures, whether it’s camping in hammocks in the New Forest with the kids or mountaineering in the Alps – and the more difficult the challenge the greater the sense of achievement. Having a major adventure in the diary gives an extra sense of purpose to everyday life.”

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