Essex County Fire and Rescue Service


Gary Takes on the Toughest Race on Earth

Senior Divisonal Officer Gary Fleming took on the toughest race in the world and not only finished but also managed to come in the top half of the table.

Between April 7 and April 13 Gary ran at least a marathon everyday in the blistering heat of the Sahara desert as he took part in the Marathon Des Sables, known as the toughest footrace on earth.

The race sees around a thousand competitors lining up to complete the equivalent of six marathons in five days while carrying all their food and equipment in a rucksack. In all competitors run 156 miles across one of the most inhospitable environments on the planet.

Gary said: “I had seen the race on television when Jamie Cracknell did it and it had nearly broken him on three different occasions and it looked like a challenge I would like to take on.

“The hardest thing to cope with was the heat, it was more than 50 degrees centigrade in the day, and you had to make sure that you kept your body hydrated all the time.

“We had to be self-sufficient which meant that we carried all of our sleeping gear, food and cooking equipment in a rucksack which we ran with all the time, they supplied a tent and water but everything else was up to us and we had to carry it all.”

To prepare for the race Gary undertook a rigorous year long training programme which saw him running between 50 and 100 miles a week and spending hours sitting in a sauna to get used to the heat.

“The race was tough, especially the sections on sand dunes,” said Gary. “You would just sink into the sand and it was impossible to run or even jog, you just had to work through it and it could go on for miles.

“The hardest day was the double marathon, it was a huge run and a really long day but once I had done that I knew I was going to finish it.

“It is the hardest thing I have ever done but it is something I am extremely proud of. I have learned how determined I can be.

“The thing I will always remember is how positive everyone was all the time. You would see people you know were in real pain and struggling and when you asked how they were doing they would always say ‘fine’ even people that didn’t think they had a chance of finishing would always say ‘I’m just going to keep on to that marker’ and then when they got there set a new goal and carry on, no one ever complaining.

“I had no illusions about winning it but I wanted to come in the middle of the table and I did, I was 490th which put me in the top half and even beat the team of paratroopers taking part.”

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