Warwick and Gaydon men complete ‘world’s toughest foot race’

Carey O'Neill completed the gruelling Marathon des Sables race in Morocco,
Carey O'Neill completed the gruelling Marathon des Sables race in Morocco,

Two men who completed the toughest foot race on earth have between them raised thousands for good causes after battling the ferocious heat and chilling nightime temperatures of the Sahara desert.

Warwick man Carey O’Neill completed the gruelling Marathon des Sables race in Morocco, despite on the fourth day having badly infected feet.

He raised at least £4,400 for the heart unit at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

While Gaydon man Lakhbir Jaspal managed to escape injury with just “a few blisters here and there” to raise around £5,000 for the charity Action for Children.

Carey, an electrician, aged 48, of Farzens Avenue, Chase Meadow, clocked up 160 miles of jogging and walking over rugged terrain for the hospital as thanks for the care given to his teenage daughter Lily, who had her first heart operation at the age of one.

He said: “At times I didn’t think I would make it because of my badly infected feet.

“But I kept on seeing my daughter’s face and the other brave children at Birmingham Children’s Hospital who have major operations completed to save their precious lives.

“My pain was nothing in comparison to theirs – and that’s what kept me going, those brave children.”

Carey has vowed to take exercise a bit easier now and thanked his wife Mandy, family and friends for their support.

During his seven-day stint in the desert, including a rest day, the ex-RAF man met Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the explorer and author, who was among those who took part. Carey and Lakhbir had to carry their tents and food rations during the adventure, and Carey got a medal for the heaviest bag of the 1,300 runners. Carey said most carried 9kg, but his was 13.5kg.

Lakhbir, who is the deputy chief executive of the Accord Group, a not-for-
profit organisation which is one of the largest housing and social care organisations in the Midlands, ran the challenge over six days.

The 46-year-old completed the five-stage race in just under 65 hours and chose to support Action for Children because it is Accord’s charity of the year.

Lakhbir said: “My time in the desert was challenging, exhilarating and immensely rewarding. It was a daily battle against both the terrain and the elements.

“We went from very cold nights, just above freezing, to scorching daytime temperatures of over 50 degrees.

“At one stage, I started at 7am on Wednesday morning and finished at 1.30pm on Thursday, and I quickly found out that running through the night is a very lonely and disorienting experience.”

Donations can still be made at both their justgiving sites.