Desert run for Royston’s Paul

WHILE many jogging enthusiasts will be preparing for the London Marathon in April, one Royston man will be heading out to the Sahara for “one of the toughest races in the world.”

Paul Haynes is to spend a week running 152 miles across Morocco in the Marathon Des Sables, which, at a distance equalling six regular marathons, has earned a reputation as one of the most physically and mentally testing races there is.

Paul, who has run the London Marathon and the New York Marathon before, said training is going well.

“Things are going really well in training, and I’m really looking forward to the challenge,” said the 33-year-old.

“I have done marathons in the past and have practised by running the North South Downs run and with Royston Runners Club, but this will be more of a mental challenge.”

The course is split into stages of between 20km and 80km runs. Between the stages, Paul will rest with thousands of other competitors from around the world at specially erected camps.

The race has had a controversial past since it was formed 26 years ago. Two people have died whilst competing and an Italian man wandered in the desert for nine days before being found in 1994.

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This has not put Paul off, though he isn’t expecting to win the race.

“I don’t think there is much chance of me winning,” he said. “My first goal is to finish the race and my second is to enjoy myself.

“I saw a documentary on the race a couple of years ago and it captured my imagination. I investigated it and it looked like a challenge I simply had to do.

“The combination of searing heat, rationed water supplies and self sufficiency, makes this an extraordinarily difficult contest.”

The Shaftesbury Way resident is looking for sponsorship for the run which will go towards research into bowel cancer, which his father-in-law Colin Wilkinson, from Melbourn, suffers from.

“My father-in-law has had bowel cancer three times, and when I had this idea I told him I would raise the money for him,” he said.

“Unfortunately he can’t get rid of the illness, and I hope to help by raising money.”

Paul is to fund the trip himself, and donations can be made by visiting