FIVE friends are lacing up their walking boots to walk two marathons in the Sahara Desert for a cause close to their hearts.
After flying out to Morocco in October, the team will take on two 26-mile treks through the desert in two days with the UNESCO World Heritage Draa Valley providing the dramatic backdrop for the challenge.
Alistair Gibson organised the challenge to raise funds and awareness for the Rosemary Foundation, a Petersfield-based charity providing a hospice at home service.
He was inspired to fundraise after his wife Becky was cared for by the charity in her last few months after a long battle with cancer.
Alistair, who owns Hermitage Cellars in Emsworth, said: ‘She didn’t want to go into a hospice and we kept her at home. The Rosemary Foundation were amazing, coming in daily.’
A couple of years ago Alistair, along with friends Adrian Faure, Louise Carver and Jeremy Grant, raised £3,000 for the charity after a 66-mile trek around the Isle of Wight.
Despite saying ‘never again’, the team decided to take on another challenge for the Rosemary Foundation, which receives no statutory funding, and will be joined by friend Patrick McCall.
Alistair, 56, said: ‘It’s quite daunting, walking round the island was a real challenge but it’s walking in heat and sand so we have been busy training and getting prepared for it.
‘We’ll be walking, maybe even running across baked rocky trails, through Moroccan villages and palmeries, down to the dunes of the desert.
‘It will be tough, it will be hot and probably more than a little uncomfortable but it really is for a great cause.’
Preparing for the challenge has been quite an undertaking, with group walks on the South Downs, taking up jogging and improving their diets.
‘If I’m going to do something I want to do it properly, people are investing in me so I don’t want to let anyone down,’ Alistair explained.
‘I’m really excited because it’s a challenge, it’s something completely different. I’m slightly apprehensive because no matter how far you walk you can’t replicate the desert.’
To donate to their efforts, go to virginmoneygiving.com/AlistairGibson4.