It’s the toughest foot race on earth – a gruelling, six-day slog through the searing heat of the Sahara Desert and covering more than 150 miles.
But now one Morningside dad is set to take on the infamous Marathon Des Sable challenge after using the snow, sleet and rain of an east coast winter to stand in for the desert’s treacherous sands.
James Mace has spent nine months preparing for the renowned ultramarathon, training his body to the peak of physical fitness on the Capital’s steep slopes and rugged parkland.
And this weekend the dad-of-one will travel to southern Morocco to take his position on the starting line, with the gruelling event set to kick off on Sunday.
James, who runs fruit and vegetable crisps company Snapz, revealed his intensive training regime in the run-up to the event – overseen by Moroccan-born coach Abdel from Bruntsfield shop Footworks – had forced him to get up at 5am every morning and pound the streets for up to four hours.
The 34-year-old said: “I’ve done nothing like this before.
“When I was younger I was OK at running, but recently I’ve never done anything resembling this.
“I was relatively healthy before, but this is taking it to a different level. When I started training for the race, I realised how unfit I was.
“It’s considered the toughest race in the world – it’s incredibly gruelling.
“It’s back-to-back marathons for the first three days, and then two-and-a-half marathons on the fourth day.
“The next day is another marathon, and then the final day is approximately a marathon again.
“The key is building the strength in your legs, so a lot of hill training is crucial. The back of the Omni Centre is one of the best places for training in the whole of Edinburgh.
“Edinburgh doesn’t have the heat, it can’t give the nice weather. But things like the ice and snow can substitute.”
Competitors in the Marathon Des Sables must carry everything they need to survive on their backs, with temperatures in the Sahara regularly soaring above 40C.
But James insisted he was “confident” he could complete the challenge – and is hoping to raise £5000 for the Sick Kids Hospital.
Rachel McKenzie, head of voluntary fundraising at the Sick Kids Friends Foundation (SKFF), said: “We would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to James for taking on such a gruelling challenge on behalf of the SKFF. Our selfless fundraisers take on all sorts of inspiring challenges to help ensure patients and their families benefit from the very best facilities, support and extra comforts at the RHSC in Edinburgh.
“We wish James the best of luck in the Sahara – his efforts will go a long way in helping us gather the funds we need to continue to make a difference to the lives of the 100,000 sick children who pass through the hospital doors each year.”