Marathon des sables - Mahmut Hilmi

Please tell us a little about yourself

I am an architect and it being a sedentary occupation, I took up running in my late forties. During my fifties I was running half and full marathons and completed the Comrades Marathon (87km) in South Africa. I also completed several ultra-distance events in my sixties. During this period, I was able to raise money for several charities.

Despite my advancing years (I am aged 72) I am in good shape and my training went well. However, MdS is a multi-stage tough foot race which takes place in the Sahara Desert in Morocco, where the temperatures can reach up to 50C. The participants cover 250km in seven days, carrying all their food and equipment. The word ‘challenge’ is often overused but running the MdS and other similar events can be realistically described as ‘challenging’. 


Why do you support Hope for Children?

Unfortunately, there are children in desperate circumstances in various parts of the world, with very little help available to them. Hope for Children aims to provide support through education and other means so that children can grow up to be self-sufficient adults. People with sound education, good health and the right encouragement can have bright futures and Hope for Children is helping them towards leading fulfilling and independent lives. 


How was your experience running the 2018 Marathon des Sables?

No amount of training in England during the winter months can really prepare you for the MdS. People doing this event will need to push themselves much more than normal, both physically and mentally. 

The first three stages went well, but towards the end of the long stage of 87 km, I developed a severe backache, although I managed to complete that stage. During the third section of the marathon stage, going through the sand dunes, it returned, which meant that I could not complete the last 5 or 6 km, as I ran out of time.  I hadn’t had any problems in training so couldn’t really have anticipated this problem.

The kindness and friendship from everyone, from the camel drivers, the MdS team, the other participants, my tent mates, to the people around the world who saw the video of me coming to the end of the long stage, will always remain with me.  

The desert, whilst being a very harsh environment, has its own unique beauty, with sand dunes, salt plains and mountains, all of which I enjoyed very much even when going through the really difficult times.

I am so pleased to have done the MdS and to have raised a useful amount for charity.   


Want to see Mahmut's epic Adventure?

Click here to watch the video that inspired thousands!










What is your next adventure?

Later this year I am planning to do the Camino de Santiago, the 800km pilgrims’ route from St Jean Pied Port in the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela. I intend to do this at a leisurely pace over 5 or 6 weeks, enjoying the beautiful Spanish countryside with its rich history, architecture and culture.  


What tips do you have for those who would like to organise their own Hope for Children event? 

Define your objective, plan well and listen to advice (which I didn’t really do, to my cost!) allocate enough time and enjoy doing it.