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The toughest foot race on earth!

Date Posted: 17 February, 2016

By: Anthony Palin

“ The toughest foot race on earth”

It was about June 2015 when I was sitting in my port’a cabin bedroom in the southern region of Iraq. I sent an email to the Marathon Des Sables (MDS) administrators requesting a place on the 2017 MDS… and that was that. Some weeks later MDS got in touch with me and said that a place was available for the 2016 event… “Okay, I’m in…” I said, it was as relaxed as that. I would later learn that with out the help of Mackenzie Jones Middle East my quest to conquer the MDS would most likely of foiled, as they very generously sponsored a sizeable portion of my race entry fees.

MDS has been branded by the Discovery Channel as being the “Toughest Footrace on Earth” It is a 156 mile 0r 254 Km Ultra Marathon over 6 days across the Sahara desert. Gruelling conditions, rolling sand dunes and mountains with temperatures peaking at 50 Degrees Celsius. I will be carrying all of my food, clothing and essential survival equipment throughout my race, sleeping in basic bivouacs and replenishing water supply approx. every 10 miles.

I decided I’d better have a look into this and more importantly start training. I’m no stranger the arduous conditions however, I’m no seasoned marathon runner either. I served on the Army from the young age of 16 for 11 years; during that time, I certainly earned my stripes when it came to challenging situations. Since then, I have been working in Afghanistan and Iraq as a private security contractor, whilst living here in Dubai with my wife, Hannah.

Why.. why..why..?

Most people simply say this when I enlighten them on my coming challenge.. My reasons are of course, charity! The aim is to raise as much money as possible for Scotty’s Little Soldiers. Please visit the link to learn more about this excellent charity.

An organisation, which supports children who have lost parents whilst serving in the British Armed Forces.

Please visit my just giving page to see more and to help me raise money for this great cause.


Of course the MDS does not come cheap, it’s a huge administration challenge alone, mobilising over 1,000 competitors from around the world, medical and ECG assessments, equipment and not forgetting the entire race support elements. This racks up quite an entry fee, to that end Mackenzie Jones Middle East came in with a very generous offer to help me meet the demanding race fees. It was my wife Hannah who is a Consultant with Mackenzie Jones Middle East who put me in touch with her boss David Mackenzie, who was more than happy to get involved and not only support my race fees but also provide some of the mandatory equipment needed to run the MDS.


I started to get some running done around summer 2015, starting off with progressive build up as after all it had been some time since I had been a regular runner. I was in Iraq at the time and the blistering dry heat of 50 degree C was the perfect eye-opener to how hard this event was going to be. I’ll be honest my immediate thoughts where I’m going to die!  I knew from experience that soon enough my running legs would be back in full swing… or maybe not! I was sent back to Dubai for surgery on a hernia that had decided to pop out in perfect timing with my training… Great!!

Out for 2 months before I could realistically get my running back into full swing. This wasn’t going to stop me; I was determined to get back in shape fast. Then good old Christmas arrived, flying off to Thailand to marry Hannah. I always new training was going to come second to the Christmas and wedding feast ahead. That said, I ended up with an injured foot after the stag do antics which halted my running for a further 4 weeks… need I say more!

Now with just 8 weeks to go before the event I have some miles ahead of me, it’s time to get my serious head on and prepare for this mammoth challenge. Stay tuned to see how my intensive training regime pans out over the next 8 weeks.

Get in touch with:

David Mackenzie

Group Managing Director