A NORTHWICH dad-of-two completed 'the toughest footrace on earth’ during a 55°C African heatwave.

Simon Keenan, from Delamere, said nights in the Moroccan desert camps 'were like war scenes’, with competitors stumbling around on drips, covered in iodine to minimise infections.

The 43-year-old finished the five-day, 251km Marathon des Sables despite a huge drop-out rate of 40 per cent, down to a heatwave sweeping North Africa pushing temperatures to 55 degrees in the sun, and more than 40 degrees in the shade.

Northwich Guardian: The terrain varies between rock and sand along the routeThe terrain varies between rock and sand along the route (Image: Simon Keenan)

Simon described how he felt when he crossed the finish line on Tuesday, April 25.

He said: “Fantastic! People keep asking me whether it was fun, and I tell them ‘fun’ is completely the wrong word to use. But it was satisfying.

“It was absolutely harder than anticipated, but the skin’s slowly growing back on my feet, which is all good.

“I felt confident when I landed there, but hindsight’s a wonderful thing. There was a heatwave, and I don’t think anybody was prepared for it. People were just collapsing around me.

Northwich Guardian: Simon said the camps were like 'war scenes' at the end of each daySimon said the camps were like 'war scenes' at the end of each day (Image: Simon Keenan)

“On the hottest day, it was more than 55 degrees in the sun and more than 40 in the shade. It’s just impossible to cool down in those temperatures.

“There was also up to 1,500 metres of ascent each day. That’s like climbing Ben Nevis, on sand, in 50-degree heat, with 11 kilograms on your back.

“The low point was when the sun went down on the longest (90km) day. I was in the middle of the desert in the dark, and I hadn’t seen another person for two or three hours.

“You start hallucinating, thinking the bushes are talking to you. You really start to question everything.

“Then the next day, you’re just running on blisters across rock and sand because you damaged your feet so much the day before. It was awful - pure agony.”

Northwich Guardian: If you want to know what 'putting on a brave face' looks like...If you want to know what 'putting on a brave face' looks like... (Image: Simon Keenan)

Simon ran the race in memory of his dad, John Keenan, who fell ill with heart failure while Simon was away climbing Kilimanjaro last October, but sadly died three days after he returned.

He said the generous donations people made to the British Heart Foundation helped him to stay focused when times got really tough, along with the support of the people he was sharing a tent with.

He added: “I had a fantastic tent – or bivouac. With eight people in each one, you become quite close because of the conditions. 

“Camp were like a war scene. There are people walking around with drips in their arms, iodine splashed everywhere to try and reduce infection. Horrendous!

“Sadly, one of the ladies in my tent left on the first day, and another guy got pulled out on the long stage. He was found passed out in a ditch, actually.”