Five men have set themselves the challenge of competing in the toughest foot race on earth.

Father-of-two John MacNamara, of Faversham Avenue in Chingford, and his four friends will run 150 miles across the Sahara desert for the children’s disabled charity, Whizz Kids.

The 47-year-old and Mark Clark, of Charter House Road, Woodford Green, James Turner of Great Woodcote Park in Loughton, George Lloyd, of Theydon Mount in Epping, and Richard Petrie of Sidcup, south London, will race the equivalent of five marathons in temperatures at high as 120 degrees.

Each participant in the gruelling Marathon Des Sables, translated as 'marathon of the sands', will carry their own food and equipment weighing between 7kg and 15kg as they cross the difficult landscape of sand dunes, rocky salt plains and mountain ranges. 

The group will travel to Morocco on April 4 to start the six-day challenge, now in its 28th year, on April 6.

A fundraising target of £50,000 has been set, which will enable the charity to buy vital equipment to help the children lead full and active lives.

Mr MacNamara, a former British Army telecoms operator, said: "I’ve done a few marathons in the past and I use to be in the Army so I am use to running but this is my first ultra-marathon.

"I thought it would hard to get my friends on board when I suggested this as the Discovery Channel bills it as the toughest footrace on earth but they were surprisingly eager to sign up.

"It has been great to meet the children helped by Whizz-Kidz and to hear their motivational stories. We are really inspired by having seen their work."

To acclimatise to the Saharan heat, Mr Macnamara has been exercising in his shed in 40c heat using an industrial heater. So far, the group have raised £31, 102.68.

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