My name is Ben White. I’m a father of one and not the greatest runner but on the 21st of February I'm embarking on a week in a refugee camp during which I will be running a full marathon between three little known refugee camps in the Sahara desert.
I will be accompanied by my friend and team mate John Morgan and together we will be tackling one of the toughest and most life changing experiences of our lives.Toughest Marathon
Beyond being one of the most difficult marathons in the world (high humid heat + miles of sand dunes and gravel) the race itself poses other challenges.
Rather than simply train to run the marathon, I have made the already tough challenge even tougher by completely re-training to run the marathon barefoot-style. This mean “minimalist” shoes with just enough sole to provide protection and grip but that’s it. No padding, no heel-toe drop to make it easier on the calves.
Making this change has meant having to start running again from scratch (0 miles). It has involved receiving specialist coaching and equipment and it has probably tripled the amount of training I need to do to be able to finish the race.
All this before I’ve even stepped foot in Algerian Sahara Desert…The Marathon Week
I will arrive in Algeria via a privately chartered flight, landing at a military base in Tindouf. From there I will be under military escort for an entire week while living with the refugees as well as during the actual race.
I'll be sleeping in a refugee tent with a Saharawi family, sharing their food and resources (which are very limited) and learning about their lives and being involved in camp life.
There will be no running water, limited power and hardly any access to other western comforts like the Internet, news and communications.Illegal occupation and the danger of kidnapping
There are groups who do not want you or I to know about the Saharawi people. In fact last year, two international aid workers were even kidnapped from one of the camps by a terrorist group (though they were later returned unharmed).
The nearly forgotten Saharawi people have been denied access to their country, the Western Sahara, since 1975 after it was invaded by Morocco! If you buy strawberries or tomatoes from the supermarket with an origin of "Morocco" they probably came from this area.
The occupation is actually stated as illegal by the UN and the people there are denied the right to self-determination by our 'ally' in North Africa (which may be why we know so little about this conflict and these refugees).
Currently, the Saharawi survive totally on donations and support from outside agencies so I'm raising money for the human rights and cultural arts charity Sandblast who work in the camps to equip them with skills and equipment to make and record their traditional music and song which in turn will allow them to make money, express and share their cultural heritage and above all, enable them to take some element of control and direction of their lives.Please support me and the Saharawi
Please support me in my craziness doing this Sahara Marathon and support the Saharawi refugees to an empowered life by donating here through Just Giving or contact me to discuss other ways you can help.
You can also read more about the adventure, the charity and the plight of the Western Sahara and this forgotten conflict on my blog at http://saharamarathon2013.blogspot.co.uk/ (I’d recommend filling in your email so that the page automatically sends you updates when I post something new).
Thank you for your time and support and do feel free to forward this email and share the web addresses with your friends and people who might be interested in the adventure.
I won't be the same person when I come back.