Teacher Charlie crosses Sahara Desert in 157-mile marathon

A TEACHER who ran 157 miles across the Sahara Desert says it was an incredible experience.

Charlie Hickinbotham, 27, of Main Street, Lyddington, completed the Marathon des Sables, crossing the Sahara in six days, raising more than £5,000 for charity.

Charlie, a primary school teacher in Battersea, south London first applied to take part three years ago as the waiting list is so long.

Charlie said: “In 2008 I made the bizarre and, with hindsight, slightly irrational decision to sign up for the 26th Marathon des Sables.

“Fast-forward a few years and all too quickly the time came for me to don my all in one suit, dust off the Duke of Edinburgh hardened gaiters and join the world of ‘lunatics and masochists’.

“I covered 157 miles over six days in temperatures which reached 57C, tripping over rocky terrain and dodging blisters. To add insult to injury I was expected to carry my trusty belongings, anti-venom pump and rations included.”

Charlie, a former Oakham Schoool pupil and Rutland Athletics Club member, came 633rd out of 850 competitors, of which only 130 were women, and has so far raised more than £5,000 which will be split between the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths and Sue Ryder Care.

She said: “My parents had a son before me who died, and my best friend’s mum died of cancer when we were doing our A-levels so I chose those charities because they are both close to my heart.

“I chose the Marathon de Sables because I was looking for a challenge and thought to myself why not?”

During her week in the Sahara, Charlie not only battled the heat and carrying her heavy kit, she also faced sand storms and the threat of wildlife. The competitors camped in tents in groups over night.

Charlie shared a tent with former Oundle School pupil Katie Hatton, and her colleague Jessica Wildgoose, 29.

She said: “It was an incredible experience.

“I did a couple of events last year in preparation for it and had been running with my backpack on before school and after school every day.

“People have asked if I would do the same thing again and I’m honestly not sure, but I would like to do a few events in Austria next.”