WHEN Sam Heward suffered a shoulder injury a few years ago, he was forced to reduce his participation in team sports.
The 23-year-old decided to take up running instead, but could never have imagined just a short time later that he would be competing in “the toughest foot race on earth”.
My feet were in tatters from running across the sand, up and down the dunes, and I got really dehydrated, but I had an amazing time.Sam Heward
Sam returned from Morocco last week after winning the under 25s category at the Marathon Des Sables – a gruelling 160-mile race across the Sahara Desert.
Participants have just six days to complete the journey and, as they run, they must carry all of their own sleeping gear and food.
Sam, a trainee accountant, who was brought up in Murrayfield, finished 60th overall out of nearly 1000 people who completed the race. He was the 11th Briton to cross the finish line.
He said: “It was amazing, I really surprised myself. I was on such a high when I finished I quickly forgot about all the lows.”
Sam revealed that he had watched various documentaries on the ultra-marathon before he decided to take part as a personal challenge.
But when his grandmother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year, he decided to use the experience to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.
Sam, who was a pupil at Edinburgh Academy, said: “In November, my grandmother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and is currently undergoing chemotherapy.
“The Macmillan Cancer Support team have been wonderful to her, as they are to so many others, so I decided to use the experience to raise money for them too.
“The Marathon Des Sables has completely changed me as a person. My family and friends will tell anyone that.”
Sam has now moved to London to pursue his career as an accountant but said that the Capital would always be his home.
Despite his recent desert experience tearing his feet to “tatters”, Sam is continuing his fundraising efforts by participating in the Milton Keynes Marathon which takes place next month.
He has already raised £6000 for the charity.
Sam said: “The race was really tough and the only things that went wrong was the stuff I expected to – so I was really lucky.
“Some people had to pull out halfway through.
“My feet were in tatters from running across the sand, up and down the dunes, and I got really dehydrated, but I had an amazing time.
“I would just like to thank everyone who supported me, the last few months have been crazy.
“One of the things we were given at the end of each day was a message from our families – that really helped me get through the challenge.”