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From Sea to Sand - 250km, 6 days, Sahara Desert

At the end of April 2023, I will be taking on a rather large challenge called the Marathon des Sables. Pitted as "The Toughest Footrace on Earth", physically it involves 6 days running over 250 km across the endless sand dunes, rocky jebels and white-hot salt plains of the Sahara Desert in Southern Morocco, carrying everything I need to survive on my back (bar a tent, they throw us that little bone). Mentally, it is the ultimate challenge – an experience like no other in the world. I firmly believe it will simultaneously be the absolute worst and unequivocal best experience of my life.

I have only been running for 1.5 years, it will be a grand total of 2 years when I set foot on the start line of the 2023 MdS, so this is no inconsiderable challenge for me. Those of you who know me know I'm not a natural runner; I do not have what may be called a 'classic' runners physique, in fact I'm far more at home in/on the sea and find running a real challenge in itself. So why MdS? Well it would appear that, in addition to a huge base of stubborn pig-headedness, I seem to be able to keep going steadily for a fair distance (maximum so far in one go is 37 miles, and over 3 days 80 miles). I won't be breaking any land speed records, but after completing the Atlantic Coast Challenge last October (3 marathons, 3 days, on the North Cornwall coast path) I was looking for a slightly bigger challenge. Once I could get shoes back on again (the blisters were fiendish) and the entries opened, I leapt straight into the very deepest of deep ends, not a single floatation aid in sight, and signed up for the Marathon des Sables in 2023.

I was on the fence about asking for sponsorship, primarily as I didn't want the extra pressure that comes with it. After attending the MdS Expo 2023 recently, however, I have been told in no uncertain terms that, at some point in the wilds of the Sahara, I will need every ounce of pressure I can get to keep me moving forward and mentally push on through.

I've chosen to support the The Coastguard Association. While people are often familiar with HM Coastguard, they don't usually realise that the teams of people who undertake the rescues are all volunteers, and not paid employees of the government. I didn't realise this until I volunteered myself a couple of years ago, joined the local team and am now part of a busy crew regularly heading out to undertake cliff, mud and water rescues in the area. The Coastguard Association helps Coastguard personnel (serving and retired) and their dependents, from all over the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man, in times of genuine hardship, poverty or distress.

You never know when you'll need to call 999 and ask for the Coastguard, be it for yourself or someone you can see in trouble, but I think most of us will spend some time at the coast at some point in our lives. So for all those volunteers who drop everything when the pager goes and run out to the rescue, please consider sponsoring me to drag my sorry self through 250 km of scorching desert sand, carrying everything I need to survive for a week. Every penny will help.

I am documenting the journey leading up to the MdS on my Instagram account @faliforniadreaming please feel free to come along and follow for the ride!


  • Paul Wickes
    • £100 
    • 1 yr
  • Caroline Lewin
    • £25 
    • 1 yr
  • Graham Leigh
    • £50 
    • 1 yr
  • Judy Morse
    • £65 
    • 1 yr
  • Sue Hazel
    • £5 
    • 1 yr


Rachel Nicholls-Lee
The Coastguard Association

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