Edinburgh couple to run world’s toughest footrace

Adventuring couple Luke and Hazel Roberston.
Adventuring couple Luke and Hazel Roberston.
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He has conquered a mammoth endurance test in freezing temperatures to become the first Scot to ski solo to the South Pole.

And now he’s turning up the heat – by taking on a gruelling 156-mile running race across the Saharan desert.

Luke Robertson, 31, is training for the Marathon Des Sables (MDS), a six-day run under the scorching Moroccan sun starting on 
April 7.

Luke, who moved to Edinburgh in 2011 and works in Franklin Templeton on Morrison Street, will be joined on the arduous adventure by his wife and fellow challenge chaser, Hazel, 31. Despite the climate differences, they have been warming up for Morocco on their doorstep.

He said: “South Edinburgh has great access to the Pentland Hills and Blackford Hill which are just playgrounds for training.

“Closer to the time we will sit in hot saunas and steamy baths to acclimatise somewhat – it’s the best you can do in winter in Scotland.”

The couple, who relish the rush of a challenge, chose the MDS because of its fearsome reputation.

“It is such a different environment to what we have raced in before. We are both inquisitive and it seems like another great challenge of mind, body and environment.”

The couple, who met at school in Stonehaven when they were 13 and were married in August, already have experience in running huge distances together after completing the Cape Wrath Ultra Marathon – a 250-mile race through Scotland.

But both say this will be the biggest challenge they’ve taken on together.

For Luke, this race is even more impressive given that only a few years ago he was undergoing surgery to remove a suspected brain tumour, which turned out to be an extremely large and rare enterogenous cyst, and also has a pacemaker fitted after suffering complete heart block in his early 20s.

But he admitted that despite the heat and meticulous planning, one of his fears for the trip is the creatures of the dark.

He said: “As much as we have a passion for animals and nature, I don’t really think it will be the time to come face-to-face with any of the 12 species of snakes and ten types of scorpions in Morocco – all of which are venomous.”

During the race – where water is rationed daily – Luke and Hazel must be self-sufficient, carrying all their food, sleeping gear and other equipment they’ll need over the six-stage race.

With backpacks weighing at least 7.5kg, they will be on their feet for up to 18 hours a day.

As well as the searing heat, the couple will also have to battle steep and rocky dunes, as well as sand storms which can create zero visibility in a matter of seconds.

In 1994, a sandstorm disoriented a competitor, who was discovered nine days later more than 100 miles off course.

fiona.pringle@jpress.co.uk