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A photo of Richard Elliott

Richard takes on the Marathon des Sables

Richard Elliott has taken part in the Marathon des Sables in order to raise money for Eden Valley Hospice and Jigsaw, Cumbria’s Children’s Hospice.

On Sunday 8 April Richard embarked on the 6 day Marathon Des Sables, often referred to as MdS, running challenge. The challenge will be special for Richard as he runs in memory of Yvonne Lowery and raising money in aid of the local charity.

Richard, from Whitehaven, said:

“I have been running for around 15 years, and have ‘graduated’ from 5k through 10k, half marathons, marathons and ultra marathons and having seen MdS many years ago, and always then thought it was unachievable, decided to tackle this iconic event as the ultimate distance running challenge.

“Having competed in the Half MdS in September in Fuerteventura as a practice, which is a 3-stage version of the race, and managing a creditable 4th place in my age category, I’m up for the challenge, but raising money for charity will provide the additional motivation needed to complete such a daunting event.

“I am completing this event in remembrance of Yvonne Lowery, who passed away peacefully in Eden Valley Hospice on 2nd March 2018 after a lengthy illness. I am raising money for the Hospice, to ensure they can continue to provide their exceptional care for other people with life-limiting conditions”.

The Marathon des Sables is a 250km 6 day self-supported race held in Morocco. Conceived over 30 years ago by Frenchman Patrick Bauer who traversed the Sahara Desert alone on foot in 1984, the ~1000 competitors must provide and carry all their own provisions for the 6 stages, and are only provided with water, rudimentary shelter and safety/medical support for the duration of the race.

With temperatures regularly in the region of 40 to 50 degrees and the terrain often consisting of sand dunes, the race has been described as “the toughest footrace on earth”.

Richard, 51, continued:

“I’m looking forward to the personal challenge and the camaraderie of the event. The desert sky at night and of course the medal at the end!

“I am least looking forward to there being nowhere to escape from the sand! The leap into the unknown; how will I deal with the conditions."

Yvonne’s husband, Ben, shared some words about her, the Hospice and the care they provided:

“Yvonne was a great character - she had many fine qualities. She was beautiful, loving, caring, loyal, generous, strong and quick to smile. She had an amazing spirit; an unquenchable zest for life! Anyone who met Yvonne loved her immediately. It’s testament to what a wonderful person Yvonne was that over 160 people came to celebrate her life at her funeral.

“I feel totally honoured and humbled to have been able to share the last 20 years with Yvonne. There have been so many good times for me with Yvonne over that time - if I tried to list all the good memories, we’d still be here this time next month! And I know everyone who knew Yvonne would be able to share their many memories of good times spent with her. I’ll just pick one comment which I saw repeated in so many of the sympathy cards I received – Yvonne would always brighten up any room she entered and would always leave people smiling.

“Yvonne suffered a great deal of ill-health for the last 15 years. It is all the more remarkable then that she was always so determined not to let her illness define her. She always rose above it, showing fortitude and refusing to give in. She always put others before herself and for me that was one of her greatest qualities.

“With regards to the Hospice, Yvonne was very nervous about being admitted, not really knowing what to expect. And yet, within an hour of arriving, the fantastic team had made her feel fully at home and she was sitting up in bed beaming at all the staff as they came in to introduce themselves. Although she was only with them for four days, it was obvious that all the staff there absolutely adored Yvonne.

“It may seem an odd thing to say, but the Hospice is very different from a hospital. It is a place of warmth, compassion and gentle laughter and is staffed by an amazing team. Yes, they are of course highly skilled professionals, but much more than that they genuinely care for their patients and, importantly, their families. The care given to Yvonne by the Hospice was quite exceptional and when she did pass, it was peacefully in her sleep with me and her beloved Yorkie, Emily, at her side.

“The Hospice is a charity, relying mainly on donations, so I make no apologies for asking all of you to dig deep and give what you can afford so they can care for other people as they cared for Yvonne."

The money raised by Richard will help the local charity to provide care, support and activities to adults and children with life limiting illnesses. This care and compassion is extended to all of the patients’ families, friends and carers. If you would like to sponsor Richard as he undertakes the Marathon des Sables, please visit his JustGiving page.

Richard concluded:

“My wife, Lyn, who has been incredibly supportive and patient whilst I bore her for hours about desert equipment and training schedules, wrote a series of notes for me when I competed in the Half Marathon des Sables, in Fuerteventura last September as a practice event, which she placed in my daily food packs.

“There was one note in particular which has stayed with me more than others, and is something I fall back on when things get difficult, and not just running or training, but in life. Lyn said to remember that 'hard isn’t impossible'. MdS is hard, but not impossible. When things do get tough, I tell myself that I have a tomorrow, and that I am fortunate because many people don’t have a tomorrow due to cancer and other life limiting illnesses. my situation in the desert is only temporary, and is trivial compared to many others, like Yvonne in her position.”