SAND storms, hail and searing heat did not stop a running enthusiast from completing a 151-mile race across the Sahara Desert.

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Tom Wornham, from Barkway, spent a week in the Moroccan desert to raise funds for the Barkway Sports Pavilion project and The Fire Fighters Charity after his brother died tackling a flat fire.

The 37-year-old finished the Sahara Marathon in 41 hours, clocking 20, 24, 23 and 51 miles over the first four days, with a marathon distance completed on day five and a further 10 miles on the final day.

The Royston Runner also had to be completely self-sufficient as he ran in the day and slept in the desert at night, carrying supplies weighing 15kg when he started.

Asked why he decided to sign up for the Marathon des Sables event over Easter, Tom said: “I’ve always done sport and I’ve run all the distances and thought it was about time I did something a little bit different. There’s a wealth of crazy competition that you can do and this one was meant to be the toughest foot race in the world.”

Tom admitted although he had prepared himself by doing a lot of endurance training, there was a lot more to it.

“I would say about 40 per cent is about the running, 40 per cent is dealing with the psychological effects of coping with the desert conditions and 20 per cent is about the anxiety surrounding actually doing the event,” he said.

“It was zero degrees in the morning and then one day it was 51 degrees Celsius during the day. There wasn’t much running as I ended up shuffling because the terrain is so varied. There’s sand dunes and some are really steep and others are really soft so you sink.

“At one point there was a full on sand storm and then it hailed and I thought ‘I’m in the Sahara Desert, what’s all this about?’ But then after that the sun came out. It was unbelievable. The scenery was just fantastic.

“You either give up and go back to the UK or you get on and do it. It’s good fun though.”

Tom held a social evening at the Woodman Inn in Barkway to raise funds for his two causes and has so far received donations totalling almost £3,000.

Some of the money will go towards refurbishing Barkway Sports Pavilion, which Tom said he wanted to support because of his involvement in sport.

The remainder will go to The Fire Fighters Charity in memory of his brother, firefighter Jeff Wornham. The Royston resident died at the age of 28 as he tried to rescue a mother of two from a Stevenage flat fire in 2005.

To sponsor Tom visit www.justgiving.com/Thomas-Wornham

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