Gobi Desert charity runner finishes 10th, raises £10k

Mike Hancock during his Gobi Desert challenge. Picture: Contributed
Mike Hancock during his Gobi Desert challenge. Picture: Contributed
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An amateur runner has braved a punishing footrace through the Gobi Desert to finish tenth and raise £10,000 for the charity that helped his deaf niece.

Mike Hancock from Tranent only started running under two years ago but has defied the odds by beating seasoned ultra runners in the gruelling 
challenge.

The big-hearted 43-year-old was among 160 competitors running the gauntlet through the formidable terrain of the world’s fifth largest desert, crossing mountain ranges and battling through snow storms and unforgiving heat.

But the director at city-based Cornhill Building Services was inspired to keep going by the courage shown by nine-year-old Emily, of Gilberstoun in the Capital, who has been deaf since she was two-and-a-half.

He said: “I was up against hardened ultra-runners and I was pleasantly surprised to be able to keep up with them.

“I had run a couple of marathons but hadn’t done anything like this where you get up and have to run every single day.

“I had to keep going for Emily’s sake and I was conscious that there was a lot more pressure because so many people had sponsored me.”

The epic seven-day endurance test began high in the mountains on May 31 and for the first two days competitors were forced to contend with driving snow and rain.

But temperatures later soared to a punishing 50C as Mike and his fellow runners pushed themselves to the limits of human endurance.

The challenge included a marathon for each of the first four days, followed by a double marathon on the fifth day, with competitors also carrying all their belongings.

On the final stage, an exhausted Mike managed to run for the first 30 miles but was later forced to adopt a “fast walk” as the heat and the terrain took their toll.

He added: “I was starting to hallucinate with the dehydration and I was talking to myself to try to keep things going.

“I would see the checkpoint and imagine it was quite close but actually it was a fair bit away.”

As he struggled through the desert, he saw creatures more accustomed to the barren and unforgiving landscape including lizards, wild horses and camels.

There were also farmers on horseback herding sheep and cattle and runners were given a warm reception in some of the sparse villages they encountered on route.

“We got the sense this was a huge occasion for them and that things like this didn’t happen every day,”,added Mike.

Meanwhile, a previously shy Emily has been giving talks in front of pupils and teachers at St John’s Primary School about her amazing uncle.

“She is sometimes a bit apprehensive about talking because of her condition but she got up in front of the whole school and told them all about it,” said Mike.

Mike has raised more than £9000 and is “confident” of smashing the £10,000 barrier.

The proceeds will go to the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) which provided a lifeline to nine-year-old Emily when she started to lose her hearing.

The NDCS is the UK’s ­leading charity dedicated to helping deaf children and their families. There are more than 45,000 deaf children in the UK and the society aims to helps them by providing practical and emotional support to them and their families, and by challenging governments and society to meet their needs.

john.connell@edinburghnews.com