St Albans dad’s Sahara challenge for Mercy Ships charity

Mark Spitzer with daughters Isabel, 11, and Clara, nine.

Mark Spitzer with daughters Isabel, 11, and Clara, nine. - Credit: Archant

A dad from St Albans is taking on the epic challenge of running through 156 miles of the Sahara Desert.

Mark Spritzer, 50, who is a full-time dad and lives in Flora Grove, is taking part in the Marathon des Sables, a six-day run across the Sahara in searing temperatures. He is aiming to raise £500 for the charity Mercy Ships, which provides a floating hospital to some of the poorest countries in the world.

The run, which starts on Sunday, April 9, will involve running through sand dunes in temperatures of up to 50 degrees C. Water will be rationed, and anyone who exceeds the ration will incur a time penalty.

Mark, who lives with his wife and three daughters, Isabel, Clara and Rosa, decided to take part in the race after having a knee operation.

He said: “It has been a thought for a long time and it seemed the right time to do it.

“I have been training on and off since November 2015. It’s like marathon training really but there are more days when you don’t run so fast but you run the following day again so you get used to running day after day.”

Mark has also cut sugar, alcohol and carbohydrates out of his diet, and is having Greek yoghurt for breakfast, soup for lunch and meat and vegetables for dinner to prepare for the run. While in the Sahara, Mark will sleep in a communal goat’s-hair tent and will have to carry all his food and equipment on his back.

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He has also been preparing for the extreme heat by spending £400 to run in heat chambers, so he can get his body used to the desert conditions.

Mark said: “I’ve had the privilege of having plenty of time to train for this and I’m going to be uninjured, rested and sorted out, so that lets me feel ready for the challenge, as I know I will be pushing my body to the absolute limit.

“It’s taken considerable cost and effort to get to this stage of readiness, and I’m both excited and nervous.

“I wanted to lend my support to Mercy Ships and help raise money for this incredible charity. Taking part in this race will be an unforgettable experience and an incredible way to mark my 50th year.”

Mercy Ships’ floating hospital is staffed almost entirely by volunteers, and is currently docked in Benin, West Africa.

To donate to Mark, go to