Neil Featherby: Why Norfolk man plans to tackle 'world's toughest footrace'

Craig Bowen Jones MDS

Craig Bowen Jones training on Holkham Beach for the MDS. - Credit: Rock Solid Graphics

The Toughest Footrace on Earth is how the Marathon De Sables (MDS) is described. 

A race run over seven days consisting of six stages with the distances ranging from 21km to 82km for a total of 250km (156 miles). 

Whilst I am sure most runners will already know this, for those who don’t, this ultra-race takes place in southern Morocco in the Sahara Desert in extreme temperatures which will range from 32c to 43c (90F to 110F) where all entrants have to carry their own food, supplements and equipment in a backpack whilst sleeping under the stars at night, albeit with a shelter over their heads. 

Craig Bowen Jones MDS

Craig Bowen Jones all set to go in the MDS on October 3. - Credit: Rock Solid Graphics

You can understand why it is considered the world’s toughest footrace. 

An extraordinary race, for extraordinary people, in an extraordinary place, or words to that affect according to the race literature. 

Whilst thousands of runners here in the UK will be lining up for the start of the London Marathon on October 3, Craig Bowen Jones from Twyford in Norfolk, will be standing on the start line in the Sahara Desert with 1,000 other hardy runners. 

Craig certainly epitomises that word extraordinary, that I can confirm having coached him for several years prior to him telling me at the start of 2020 that he wanted to train for the MDS. 

Most Read

When I say coached him, Craig himself is well schooled when it comes to understanding how to apply specific training demands to an event, be it for a 5k race to that of this latest challenge for which I take no credit whatsoever. 

When he told me what he wanted to do, I was a little surprised because as far I was concerned our target for 2020 prior to Covid and lockdown was to train for a sub 2hrs 50mins marathon (PB 2hrs 55mins). 

MORE: Love running? Join the Run Anglia Facebook group here

Nevertheless, what with at the time being into his 50th year, the Marathon De Sables was a challenge very much on his bucket list and what with having had a few setbacks through injury he felt that it was now the time to go for it. 

Now whilst I have just said that Craig has a good understanding to training specifics, he is also one of those people who when he decides to do something, it really is full on focus for which of course he went straight into running long distances with a backpack filled with weights. 

“What the heck are you doing, you all of people should know better?” I said. 

Needless to say, there have been some setbacks and not just the initial cancellation of the race back in April and then the uncertainty of whether it will it be rescheduled after coming out of lockdown. 

Firstly, he had a rupture to his popliteal tendon and then went down with flu (not covid) whereby it led to an ECG where an irregularity was found. Thankfully and following two more tests he was given the all clear, because without it, there is no way the organisers would have allowed him to take part in their event. 

“I know the MDS is on your bucket list, but what else is it that drives you on to do such a challenge?” I asked. 

“Well, and in no particular order, the three great charities which I am running for, to make my family proud of me and very much so for the memory of my late dad who we lost to cancer particularly as he would also be supporting the same charity causes,” he replied with what was clearly a tear or two in his eyes. 

Craig really will be running for three amazing causes, that is for sure. The Feed who are a non-profit social enterprise with a purpose to prevent poverty, hunger and homelessness in Norwich – The Holt Youth Project who have won awards for their youth schemes and The Hallswood Animal Sanctuary who of course are also very close to my own heart. 

In Craig’s words: “Running the MDS really is so very important to me for which I really would be incredibly grateful for any amount donated towards these amazing charities.” 

If you would like to find out more, Craig can be contacted at his business Rock Solid Graphics in Drayton on 01603 262471.

If you would like to make a donation, click here.