Desert mission

A LITTLEPORT-based Portuguese accountant is to race camels across more than 160 miles of the Sahara Desert. Thirty-year-old Ivo Silva has never run a marathon but he will run the equivalent of five and a half over the course of between six and seven days

A LITTLEPORT-based Portuguese accountant is to race camels across more than 160 miles of the Sahara Desert.

Thirty-year-old Ivo Silva has never run a marathon but he will run the equivalent of five and a half over the course of between six and seven days in some of the world's most extreme conditions.

Mr Silva, who has lived in Littleport for the last year, has just starting training for the 16th Marathon des Sables, widely regarded as the toughest foot race on Earth, to raise as much money as possible for Children With Aids.

He said: "All my friends and family think that I'm completely crazy, but 'failure' is not a word that is in my vocabulary and I'm confident that I can do it. It's a very worthwhile cause and a UK-based charity, so it's important that I raise as much money for them as I possibly can."


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The race consists of seven stages, with runners having to complete the first stage of approximately 60 miles in 24 hours. For the rest of the race, competitors have to beat camels at each stage. The stages range between approximately 22 miles per day, to one overnight leg of 48 miles.

Mr Silva said: "The camels might not be very fast but they can easily cope with the conditions and don't tire very easily."

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Competitors will be running over miles of deep sand, 200-foot dunes, small mountains and rocky plateaus, with temperatures going up to 125dF, and some previous entrants have died from dehydration.

There can also be strong winds and runners have to be completely self-sufficient, carrying a backpack with food, drink and other essentials.

Mr Silva said: "I'm expecting to have to carry between 15 and 18kg on my back, so I will be training by running around the streets with a backpack on and I will be running about 80 miles per week. I may also come across snakes and scorpions but there's not much I can do to prepare for that."

Mr Silva will be joined by two friends, Tracey Barsby, from Peterborough, and Michael Vasey from London, and they have a minimum target of £16,000 between them.

Mr Silva said: "It's going to be very tough, not just physically, but psychologically as well, and we're going to be relying on each other to get through. I'm sure there will be many points where I am thinking, 'what have I got myself into.'"

The race takes place in March next year.

n To sponsor Mr Silva go to www.justgiving/des-sables2008 or telephone him on 0781 7085656.

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