Marathon Des Sables man Paul returns from Morocco

MANY amateur athletes have been winding down from the London Marathon since Sunday, but one Royston man has been recovering from a race with very different characteristics.

Paul Hayes returned from the Sahara Desert last week after competing in the Marathon De Sables, the 156 mile jaunt across Morocco dubbed the “death race.”

“This was the hardest thing I had ever done,” said the 33-year-old. “It was extremely difficult but also very enjoyable and it undoubtedly lived up to the billing as the toughest footrace on earth.

“The creator of the race hugs and handshakes every competitor that finishes, a moment I had thought about for years building up to the race.

“When it finally happened it was greeted with a mix of relief, happiness and a pride and a few tears.”

Mr Hayes battled through sandstorms and sizzling temperatures to finish the six day race in 495th place out of around 900 competitors, an achievement he is proud of.

The Shaftesbury Way resident said: “I’m quite competitive and noticed that my position was improving day after day. I was pleased with that as it meant I was always making up ground.

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“We climbed the Chebbi sand dunes which are the highest in Morocco, had sand blasted in our faces all day and all night and had to keep going when the temperature reached 54 degrees.

“The toughest stage of the week is the long day of 50 miles, which has six check points. I completed this stage in just over 17 hours but must have looked like an extra from the Michael Jackson Thriller video by the end of it!”

The camaraderie created within his eight-man team kept Mr Hayes’ spirits up throughout the race, along with some dubious selections on his iPod.

He said: “All the people in my team got on absolutely brilliantly, and it was the banter that kept us going.

“We were all running at various paces so we would always start together and end up talking to random people. Every competitor has their name and where they are from on their vest, so it’s easy to meet people and build up spirit.

“Kings of Leon and Foo Fighters got me through but there is another band that reminds me of my wife that I’m too embarrassed to mention!”

Mr Hayes was running the race for Bowel Cancer Research. His father-in-law Colin Wilkinson, from Melbourn, suffers from the disease.

Donations can still be made at