Co Down man gets ready to run ‘world's toughest race' through Sahara Desert for charity

Co Down man Mark Smyth is getting ready to run a six day marathon across the Sahara Desert in aid of charity.
John Monaghan

A CO Down man, who has never run a marathon before, is in training to run one of the most gruelling endurance runs in the world across the Sahara Desert.

Mark Smyth, who is originally from Ballykinler and now lives in Hilltown, will participate in the 270km Marathon Des Sables in Morocco from April 10 to April 16.

The race, regarded as "the toughest in the world", is so risky that runners have to sign a form stating where their body should be sent in the event of death.

The event attracts around 1,200 runners from 50 countries, involves five marathons in six days with participants carrying all toiletries and food supplies, and failure to complete each stage results in immediate expulsion.

Mr Smyth, who is running for charity, said: "This is regarded as the world's toughest race and people have died, with a 30 per cent drop-out in the first few days."

On Saturday April 2, a children's fun day will be held at Newry Rugby Club - for which Mr Smyth is keen to enlist Gaelic clubs for a tug of war - followed by a raffle and auction later that night in the Downshire Arms in Hilltown.

The businessman, who has run in the Mournes as preparation, is aiming to raise £10,000 for the Southern Area Hospice and Huntington’s Disease Association.

Mr Smyth said: "My granny Kitty Smyth died from Huntingdon's, my mum Rosaleen has it and there is a chance of more than 50 per cent that I will get it."

He added: "If I can raise awareness, even just a tiny amount, I will feel I have done a good job. I want people to know there is support out there."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access