Lying in a tent in the middle of the Sahara desert and hooked up to an intravenous drip, Tom Challener thought his dream was over.
The first few days of the Marathon Des Sables – a 150-mile footrace across the desert in Morocco – had gone well for the 26-year-old, before illness struck.
“The first two days went superbly and I was about 150th overall and looking strong,” said Tom, from Plough Lane in Sudbury.
“I seemed to be getting the balance between running and walking just about perfect and was doing as well as I could ever have hoped.
“Then, on the third night, I was plagued with diarrhoea and vomiting and felt very weak.”
Somehow, he managed to find the energy to get through another 37.5km of the event, but thoughts that his race would be cut short and he could soon be on the plane home were never far away.
“I am not sure whether the problems were down to heat stroke or a bug but it resulted in dehydration and a complete lack of energy,” said Tom, who lives with girlfriend Charlotte Beard.
“It was a great relief to finish day three but I knew I had a big 50-mile day after that.”
Tom walked all through the day and most of the night to get through this section, which included several rocky stages and hills.
It was only in the final stage, with temperatures touching 40 degrees, that he felt back to his best.
“The last stage was an opportunity to complete a relatively short run with my tent mates,” said Tom. “I did not know any of them at the start of the week but, by the end, we were all best of friends.”
So far, Tom has raised £7,000 for Yorkshire Cancer Research. He chose the charity after Charlotte’s father died from the disease.