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Paul storms to marathon success

‘Marathon man’ Paul Webb, who is running seven marathons across seven continents for Worldwide Cancer Research, has finished 71st out of over 1,350 starters in the world’s toughest foot race, the Marathon des Sables.

Paul also finished 15th placed Brit in the race as he ran through the unbelievable conditions of the Sahara Desert all in the name of cancer research.

Back in St Andrew’s and on less testing ground, Paul has 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?’ 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 (there were around 100 retirements from this year’s race).

“Overall I finished 71st out of around 1350 starters, 32th in my category and 15th placed Brit. Its an achievement that I’m incredibly proud of when I consider that 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 its hot, very hot.

“The rumours were that temperatures reached the 50’s on stage three. There’s also the long stage four to contend with; a massive 92 Km 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 from this ordeal 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 on to two central poles to prevent it from collapsing. This created just enough space to accommodate me in a cross-legged position with only the dim light from my head torch to provide some comfort. I sat like this for around two hours but it felt like an eternity.

"When I headed to the Sahara I had visions of endless miles of sand stretching as far as the eye can see. The Sahara is not like this, it’s a place of incredible beauty with a diverse and striking landscape. The race takes you across dry river beds, over jebels and long undulating sand dunes that sap the energy from your legs. There are vast open plains where large herds of camel roam and oases that are home to goat and the occasional Berber family. Lying in the bivouac the night’s sky comes to life, uninterrupted by the absence of a big city glow. One day we were even presented with a spectacular full moonrise.

“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 truly remarkable people. My memories of the 30th race will stay with me forever.”

Next up for Paul is the London marathon next weekend followed by Marathons in Rio de Janeiro, Berlin, Auckland and finally Antarctica on 19th November. Perhaps all that training Paul has done through a Scottish winter will come in handy after all!

If you’d like to support Paul you can donate at www.justgiving.com/Around-the-world-in-585-Days

Director of Marketing and Communications at Worldwide Cancer Research

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