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The Marathon des Sables – the toughest footrace on earth
This is an annual event and 2012 will be the 27th year - which is held in a remote and parched area of the Sahara Desert in Southern Morocco. The course of the event varies each year, but the distance covered is generally about 153 miles (245 Km) run or walked over 6 stages in 6 days. Each competitor has to carry everything they will need during the race (food, clothing, medical supplies etc) on their backs. Water is distributed every 10 Km and tents are erected by the MdS organisers each night. In addition to this, competitors will have to cover the distance at times in temperatures of over 100°F. But don't let this put you off... We have had people aged from 16-79, people with disabilities (blind, semi-paralysed on crutches).
Until 1994 no British competitors had ever taken part in the Marathon des Sables. However, Chris Lawrence with his intimate knowledge and experience in the Sahara was appointed the UK Representative of the event by Patrick Bauer, the founder and race director of this amazing event . In 1994 Chris accompanied the first ever British team of 6 intrepid runners; the following year 16 British runners took part and in the following years the event has been dominated by the British contingent with about 250 entrants every year.
In 1998, Chris founded and registered a UK charity called “Facing Africa” and encouraged entrants for the MdS to compete in the annual event as fund-raisers for his charity. This source of revenue has now become one of Facing Africa’s main source of revenue and is strongly supported by Lawrence of Morocco Ltd who organize the travel arrangements on behalf of Facing Africa.
What is Facing Africa? – www.facingafrica.org
Facing Africa is a registered UK charity that funds and organises teams of volunteer surgeons, anaesthetists, doctors and nurses who visit Ethiopia 2 - 3 times each year on two-week surgical missions to operate on children who have survived the ravages of noma. Each team achieves 50-55 facial reconstructions, thus giving 50-55 of the poorest people on earth a chance of a new face and a new life.
The victims of noma are usually under the age of 6 and the WHO estimates that 140,000 new cases of noma occur every year. Although noma can be cured in its very early stages with a mild anti-biotic, the children who get this terrible disease live in remote areas (mostly sub-Sahara) where they have no access to healthcare. Tragically, 90% of the victims will die within 3 – 4 weeks. Those who survive the bacterial infection will spend the rest of their lives in unimaginable pain, discomfort and social exclusion.
Each mission costs around £ 70,000 to fund. This is to cover the costs of flights, accommodation and meals for the volunteers as well as large quantities of drugs and medications, surgical instruments and equipment. Also a small local staff who spend the whole year locating noma patients in remote rural areas.