Runner Charlotte to take on legendary Marathon des Sables for charity close to her heart

Ordinary people can do extraordinary things. That is what Charlotte Hurst is determined to prove when she takes on the legendary Marathon des Sables.

Charlotte Hurst will take part in the Marathon des Sables in April next year
Charlotte Hurst will take part in the Marathon des Sables in April next year

Known as the toughest foot race on Earth, it's described as a truly gruelling multi-stage adventure in one of the world’s most inhospitable environments, the Sahara Desert.

Charlotte, who lives near Hartlebury, is currently in training for this six-day, 250km course and will travel to Morocco to take her place at the starting line in April next year.

"I have been obsessed with the Marathon des Sables for the last 15 years and have simply been in awe of the athletes that complete it. I never thought I would do it," says Charlotte, who had previously competed in triathlons.

Her journey to Morocco began when she got a ballot place for the London Marathon in 2021, which was the postponed event from April 2020.

"I got to the start line in London and it was amazing. The atmosphere was incredible. I had a whale of a time," Charlotte, who works as a chiropractor, tells Weekend.

She followed her marathon experience with a three-day, 88-mile adventure running across the length of Hadrian’s Wall, from east to west, with a friend.

"The company we used moved our bags from B&B to B&B and we ran to meet out bags. We did this in November and we were lucky with the weather because a week later it snowed.

"It was just amazing and I thought what good way to see a country and the scenery, parts of the world you don't normally see," recalls Charlotte.

She took a break from running in December 2021 and in January 2022 I went to the Running Expo at the NEC for work and to look for inspiration.

Charlotte crossing Tower Bridge at London Marathon

"I got chatting to this lovely guy, who was a bit of a celebrity but I had no idea. His name was Kevin Webber, and he's an incredible, inspirational man.

"He asked me what I was doing and I said I was thinking of signing up for the Half Marathon Des Sables in Peru. He told me to do the full marathon. He has run the Marathon Des Sables five times, whilst on chemo for terminal prostate cancer.

"I entered as soon as I got home for April next year. The next day I thought 'what have I done?'. It was a non-refundable £600 deposit.

"Now I've got over the shock, I'm looking forward to it. I'm hugely competitive. I'm learning more about myself every day. I've got a coach, who coached Kevin Webber and has completed the Marathon Des Sables 15 times," Charlotte tells Weekend.

In June, she competed in the Race to the Stones, a two-day ultra race, covering 50km each day. Charlotte was first female runner home and finished in fifth place overall.

Next month, she will be taking part in the Chester Marathon, aiming for a personal best, and in mid-November, she will take on the Ultra-X Druids Challenge, which is a three-day trail race, covering more than a marathon distance each day.

Charlotte is currently running 80-90 miles a week and has also trained in sand dunes in Wales wearing a backpack.

In the Marathon Des Sables, she will be carrying everything she needs, apart from water and a tent, on her back, including food that provides a minimum of 2,000 calories each day.

Competitors will be running in temperatures of up to 50c as they cross the world’s largest hot desert.

Charlotte will be raising money for T1 International

Charlotte will be raising money for T1 International, a charity that helps communities across the globe access vital insulin, diabetes supplies and medical care.

It's a cause close to her heart as she is type 1 diabetic. She was diagnosed at the age of 28, which she said came as a complete shock.

"It knocked me sideways. I was the fittest I had ever been, competing in triathlons and I had just entered an Ironman.

"I had lost lots of weight which I thought was probably due to the training. I went for a blood test the day before Christmas Eve in 2008 and that's when I was diagnosed. There was a lot to get my head around," explains Charlotte.

Winner Charlotte crosses the finish line in Race to the Stones in July

She says preparation is key when it comes to the Marathon Des Sables. At the event runners will be supported by an experienced medical team, known as Doc Trotters.

"There are lots of things that can go wrong out there. It's just about getting your head around them and planning. You can't store insulin in high temperatures so I've got to find a way of keeping that cool," explains Charlotte.

As well as raising money for T1 International, she is keen to raise awareness for charity and to also inspire other people living with diabetes.

"I want to prove that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. Type 1 diabetes doesn’t need to stop you from doing anything, providing you have the right education, knowledge and team behind you. We're so lucky that technology is really advanced now and things like this have become easier to do alongside diabetes," explains Charlotte.

She is hoping to attract sponsorship from local businesses to help cover some of the equipment and medical costs as well as donations for the charity.

Anyone who is able to offer help or wants further information can visit charlieschallenges.co.uk, email cechurst@gmail.com or follow @charliedoesthemds on Facebook and Instagram.

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