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Evans completes challenge of a lifetime

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Gary Evans, recently completed the Marathon des Sables running over 250km across the Sahara Desert within six days and raising around £15,000 for charity.

Gary completed the race - labelled as ‘the toughest footrace on earth’ by organisers – in 27th place out of 1,200 runners. He trained for 10 months in the lead up to the marathon which at over 250km is the equivalent of running six marathons in six days.

Through this he has raised funds for Cancer Relief Gibraltar and the Gibraltar Alzheimer’s and Dementia Society, after the deaths of his grandmother and stepfather.

When asked whether he found the marathon difficult, Gary said he found it ok, but it was after the races which proved more difficult.

“It was not comfy just lying on the desert floor, and you did not have that much food because you had to ration you food for the whole six days,” he said. “You had to carry everything you needed for the whole six days so you were really hungry but you knew you could not eat your food because you needed it for the next day and the day after.”

He added that this was also the biggest year of ‘drop outs’ and organisers had to extend finishing deadlines, with over 200 people dropping out of the race.

Prior to the race Gary lost 15kg to improve his running performance, and due to the added weight of the backpack which weighed around eight to 10kg.

During the race Gary was exposed to hot temperatures during the day followed by cold nights.

“38 degrees was the coolest day and 45 [degrees] was the hottest day,” he said. “It was hot but it did not really affect me. I think I have been living here [in Gibraltar] for so long now I have been used to training in the heat. I have done a lot of training in the saunas before going to try and get used to the training in the heat.”

“It did not bother me when I was running. It was after the race it bothered me, when I was trying to cool down and get my body temperature down. Sandstorms were kicking up and lack of food and I just found that really hard. I did better than I thought I would do so I was getting to camp earlier than hundreds of others so I had a lot of time on my hands to try and kill.”

According to Gary the sandstorms were fine to run in and sunglasses would provide a buffer for the eyes, but after the day’s race was over and during the night the sandstorms would be nuisance.

Gary enjoyed the experience and due to his competitive nature he finished each day ahead of the pack within the top hundred.

“Before I went my aim was to finish it but I am really competitive and I can’t help myself so I went for it and on day one I came in 54th place. I was shocked, really shocked I didn’t think I would get anywhere near that.”

He suffered a tumble on day two and as a result came in 75th place, for the rest of the days he continued to push through and improve his speed. The top 50 runners in the marathon are considered to be the ‘elite’ and Gary is pleased to be amongst this group of runners.

Although he said that he would run the marathon again, but due to his competitive nature he would want to make sure he could beat his current record.

“If somebody said I could go back tomorrow I would go back,” he said. “I don’t know if I could better 27 and I am so competitive that if I even crossed the line at 28th I would class it as a fail.”

The marathon also costs around £4,000 to join and with added travel expenses it proves a costly endeavour, which Gary has paid out of his pocket. He added that if he decides to do another athletic challenge he would rather do something else.

Gary chose the Alzheimers and Dementia Society because his grandmother died from Alzheimers and he had promised her he would do something to raise awareness. A few months after Gary’s stepfather died suddenly from cancer and this was when he decided to join the two charities together.

He decided to raise funds for local charities instead of UK charities where his family members are from was because he felt those donating which would undoubtedly be Gibraltarian should have their donations benefit the local community.

“One day maybe one of the people who has given me the money may need those charities,” he said. Adding he is a big believer in giving the local donations he received to Gibraltar charities.

When he is not running marathons Gary - who travelled to Gibraltar years ago from Wales - enjoys any outdoor activities, especially with his family.

Donations can still be made via Gary’s JustGiving page: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/garyevans7

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