A former soldier has told of taking on the world’s toughest footrace, after he completes the Marathon Des Sables – a 250 kilometre run through the Sahara over seven days.
Army veteran Chris Vasper of Forest Town ran a marathon each day in some of the hardest conditions you can face on the planet, on rocky and sandy terrain and over mountains in the scorching Sahara heat.
Chris, 53, married with two sons, Mansfield policeman Dan, 25, and Alex, 20, also in the Army, set off for Morocco on April 8 packed with survival kit including sleeping bag, cooking equipment, medical supplies and enough food to last him the journey.
The former Corporal in the Royal Signals who now owns a printing business said: “You arrive and 15 minutes into the first stage is the Mergouza dunes - some of the biggest sand dunes in the world.
“The wind was blowing in our faces in the middle of a sandstorm almost, it was a night mare.
“On day two the main challenge was the heat – we ran just under a marathon in 45 degrees.
“The longest stage was 52 miles and they take you up the Jebel Al Otfal which is a 750 feet high sand dune stacked on to the side of a cliff face.
“You’re running through dunes, running up jebels. You’re going over rocky terrain, salt flats, sleeping in tents with fellow runners and sometimes you’re running at night under a head torch.
“There was a beautiful moment of calm when I was alone on the flats and the stars were absolutely amazing. I as staring at the Milky Way and then the Interstellar theme came on my iPod.”
Chris, who has multiple sclerosis, added: “It’s a hugely emotional event, it took a year of my life in the planning and the fundraising.”
The Marathon Des Sables is a formidable feat and hundreds of volunteers and medics on hand at checkpoints to keep people safe.
Chris’s group represented the British military contingent, with all members wither former or serving armed forces personnel.
They included Walking with the Wounded founder, Ed Parker, and a double leg amputee, Duncan Slater who was caught in a landmine explosion in Afghanistan.
Challenge took him on amazing highs and deep lows
Chris told: “I’ll never forget one night there was a moment of calm – I was by myself in the middle of the Sahara, in the middle of a dried up lake bed and the stars were absolutely amazing, with the milky way over me and the theme to interstellar came on my iPod. It was amazing.”
“There was a point where I was getting a blister so bad I had to stop and perform a minor surgery to cut it, treat it and bandage myself up.
“I also have multiple sclerosis and if I et an attack without my meds I can lose all control of my movement, and I was worried it would put me out but I took hold of it.
“It’s an incredible distance people have to cover over unbelievable terrain,” he added.
The 10kg of essential equipment Chris had to carry 161 miles:
- Sleeping bag,
- ground matt
- emergency space blanket,
- 2,000 calories of food per day,
- venom extractors,
- cooking equipment
- signalling mirrors.
- tracking beacon