Mark swaps Sahara slog for Scottish Ultra test

Marathon des Sables 2011
Marathon des Sables 2011
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HIS blisters have only just healed from tackling a 158-mile race across the Sahara Desert, but Mark Lyons is ready to do it all again – this time on home soil.

The searing heat and sand dunes experienced during the gruelling Marathon Des Sables (MDS) will be swapped for beautiful Borders countryside, rolling hills and forest tracks as the Teri adventurer takes on the Scottish Ultra next week.

And the former High Street businessman told the Hawick News he can’t wait to get started. He said: “It’s a five-day 150-mile race across the Scottish hills and will consist of five stages between 28 and 36 miles long.

“It won’t be hot and gruelling like the MDS. There will be lots of tough miles though, beautiful ones, and it’s my home turf, it’s what I’m used to, long days running over hills in good conditions.

“I can’t wait. It’s not as adventurous as a desert maybe, but because of the beauty and tranquility, it will be pure soul running.”

Quite a challenge con-sidering it is only just over five weeks since he completed the MDS – known as the “toughest foot race in the world”.

Mark explained: “On the first day we were treated to 22 miles of desolate, baking hot desert plain with no shade and 55 degree temperatures, followed by eight miles of huge sand dunes – no man’s land! Every day brought with it fresh problems. A 28-mile mountain stage on day three was particularly tiring, but so beautiful. Then day four, a 50-mile stage through the harshest environment known to man.

‘‘This was a massive task and I had a hard time staying awake once the sun went down, even going through a stage of serious hallucination trying to keep going with no sleep.”

To make matters worse, water was rationed to nine litres a day for racing and three litres at night for cooking and washing.

Still, Mark admitted to a rollercoaster of emotions as his epic challenge came to an end. “The sight of the finish line on the last day left me with a mix of sadness that I was finished my adventure and jubilation that I had completed such a huge task as the Marathon Des Sables,” he said. “I guess I proved to myself I could do it.”

But his body had to adjust to life back in Blighty. He said: “I had to take a lot of pain killers for my feet just to keep me moving over the last few days and I also had a large antibiotic shot of 1000mg of Amoxicillin. This burnt my stomach lining.

“So on top of being blistered, burnt, exhausted and dehydrated, I also had this to deal with.

“It took me a full week after returning home just to get my energy levels back to normal and I had to use a gallon of Gaviscon just to eat until my stomach lining healed. My blisters, however, are taking longer but they are slowly healing and hopefully they’ll be ready for next week’s Scottish Ultra.”

And it doesn’t stop there for Mark, who has completed the Edinburgh Half Marathon, Great North Run, Glasgow Half Marathon, Scottish Kilomathon, Amsterdam and Barcelona Marathons in the past 12 months.

After the Scottish he has a five-week ‘break’ before facing the Gobi race, another 160-mile desert stage race in Outer Mongolia. And to top the year off he has just added the one-stage 104-mile Ultimate Frontera 160 race across the Andalucian mountain region of Spain.

He added: “It really is one crazy journey I’m on and I’m enjoying it no end.”

Mark is raising money for the MS Society Borders. To sponsor him go to www.justgiving.com/Marko3006

n Mark would like to thank Teviotdale Leisure Centre for the free use of its facilities during his fund-raising.