Harbury runner fulfills 20-year dream by completing gruelling desert race

Duncan Nealon after crossing the finish line of the Marathon des Sables
Duncan Nealon after crossing the finish line of the Marathon des Sables

A Harbury runner has finally achieved his 20-year-long dream of completing a gruelling seven-day run through the Sahara desert.

Duncan Nealon, 40, completed the 156-mile Marathon des Sables in Morocco on Saturday April 14, raising more than £7,000 for the Ettington Community First Responders, who helped his late father Brian when he suffered a fatal heart attack eight years ago.

The race involves multiple marathons through the Sahara Desert

The race involves multiple marathons through the Sahara Desert

Duncan, who lives in Deppers Bridge, first heard about the run in 1998 as a student, and immediately thought it was something he had to complete before he died.

He said: "It was known as the toughest foot race on Earth - giving it that name was giving me a question I thought needed answering. Twenty years later I finally did it.

"My dad was a very keen runner and got me into it. I wasn't quite doing it in his memory, but the local first responders were the first to come out so I wanted to raise money for them."

The race involves running the equivalent of six marathons through the Sahara desert over seven days. And the fourth day is a 52-mile stage - the equivalent of two marathons.

Duncan had to carry his own kit along the way

Duncan had to carry his own kit along the way

Competitors must also carry full kit, including their tent and food, with them all the way along the route.

Duncan said the race was 'very intense'.

He said: "If you're not careful you can let it overwhelm you. As cliched as it sounds, it almost wasn't that bad if you just put one foot in front of the other.

"But the long day (the back-to-back marathons) would mess with you a little bit. It took me 18 hours and 55 minutes, and I was running in pitch black at times.

"At one point I ran for one hour and nine minutes without seeing another human. But at no point did I think 'I'm not going to finish this'."

When Duncan finally completed the race, he did not get overly emotional unlike some of his fellow competitors.

He added: "I wasn't emotional - I just felt a sense of total calm. There were people in floods of tears, but inside I was just pretty satisfied.

"I had wanted to tick this off the bucket list for 20 years - in fact it was the only thing I wanted to do."

Now that Duncan has ticked off the Marathon des Sables off his bucket list, he is thinking about completing an Iron Man triathlon.

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