A WEST LINTON man has conquered ‘the toughest footrace on earth’ in North Africa – all for his childhood hero Doddie Weir.

Murdo Anderson returned home on Monday night after taking on the 156-mile Marathon of the Sands, a six-day event running across the Sahara desert in Morocco.

The 24-year-old took on the challenge to raise money for Doddie’s Trust (DW5) after hearing about the rugby legend’s diagnosis with motor neuron disease in June last year.

Murdo told us: “I finished the race in 317th place.

“Seeing as I had never run a marathon before this, my main goal was to complete the race, and my secondary goal was to finish in the top 50 per cent – so with over 1,000 entrants I was so pleased to finish where I did, considering most competitors are regular marathon or ultra marathon runners.

“On the final marathon I actually finished in 105th place and for a brief period was leading the race, in front of professional runners which was just incredible.

“The whole experience was life changing, the Sahara desert is a wonderful place.

“Learning that when you really push yourself physically and your brain is telling your body its tired, you can ignore that and you have access to a whole reservoir of energy and endurance.”

But the race wasn’t all plain sailing, the former Peebles High pupil had to endure scorching temperatures throughout.

“The toughest part was probably about 30 miles into the long stage, the early afternoon got up to 50 degrees and there was absolutely no wind to cool you.

“At that point I was crossing a vast salt basin so it was totally exposed and the heat was reflecting onto me at all angles.

“I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other and taking on water and electrolytes.

“My feet were so swollen and my joints ached by the end but you just have to ignore it and get on with the next day.

“As cliche as it sounds, I had to keep thinking to myself – the pain I’m feeling is only temporary, it’ll be away by next week.

“The people I’m raising money to help don’t have that luxury, their days are limited so I should just be thankful.

“I ran a lot with my tent mate Toby, a super fit GP from Wales who regularly does ultra marathons and Iron Man challenges.

“Having someone else there was good to stop any negative thoughts.”

To top off an incredibly tough week, Murdo has raised over £8,000 for Doddie’s charity.

He added: “Getting home and finding out how much people were behind me was a heartwarming feeling. Thanks so much to everyone for the support and messages throughout the race.”