Runner survives Sahara Desert ordeal for St Andrews charity

Paul Webb competing in the Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert.
Paul Webb competing in the Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert.

‘Marathon man’ Paul Webb, who is running seven marathons across seven continents for charity, has returned from running in the world’s toughest foot race, the Marathon des Sables.

The event has been ranked as the world’s toughest footrace, covering around 156 miles over six days with temperatures soaring higher than 50 degrees centigrade.

Sahara is a truly wonderful place abd the competitors are remarkable people.

Paul Webb

And not only did Paul complete the gruelling ordeal – all for St Andrews-based Worldwide Cancer Research – but he finished 71st out of more 1350 starters and was the 15th placed Brit.

Back in St Andrews this week, Paul had time to reflect on his amazing achievement.

“When you enter the Marathon des Sables the first question other runners will ask you is ‘Are you in it to compete or to complete?’,” he said.

“As a first timer I was very much entering this race just to complete.

“There were too many unknowns to risk competing and the consequences of pushing too hard can mean not finishing at all.”

Around 100 dropped out during the race.

He continued: “It’s an achievement that I’m incredibly proud of - I never risked the temptation to push the boundaries and finish higher, and I crossed the line with a smile on my face!

“Don’t get me wrong, the race is incredibly tough; the terrain is difficult to run on, you’re carrying a heavy bag and it’s very hot.

“The rumours were that temperatures reached the 50s on stage three. There’s also the long stage four to contend with - a massive 92km and equivalent to back-to-back marathons with an extra five miles thrown in for good measure. And just when you think you’ve recovered, stage five presents another marathon and the end of the race, 156 miles in total.

“The longest day was the toughest and was made considerably worse by the sandstorm when I arrived back in camp.

“I was tired, my legs were sore and I just wanted to take off my shoes and lie down. Instead, I sat in the middle of our tent desperately holding onto two central poles to prevent it from collapsing.. 

“There’s a great sense of camaraderie amongst competitors and despite the extreme conditions, the blisters and the sheer exertion, spirits always remain high. The Sahara is a truly wonderful place and Marathon des Sables competitors are remarkable people.”

Next up for Paul, who is a scientist at Sasol Technology, an international energy and chemical company with a research and development lab at the University of St Andrews, is the London Marathon this weekend followed by marathons in Rio de Janeiro, Berlin, Auckland and finally Antarctica.

To support Paul, donate at