3 Jul

Edinburgh Pensioner Conquers Gobi Desert

Sandy by name, sandy by nature. Donald Sandeman was the first pensioner to finish this year’s Gobi March – part of the 4 Deserts Race Series and one of the world’s most gruelling races.

60-year-old Donald was faced with temperatures over 47°C (118°F) and endured a night in a sand storm that blew his tent away and left him with large amounts of sand in his ears.

The retired police office also lost his toenails during the race, which lasts seven days and sees competitors traverse 155 miles through pastures, river beds, steep sand dunes and rough Gobi terrain. He finished 33rd overall.

After the race, Donald commented: “This was a tough race. Climbing some of the sand dunes was like running up a downward travelling escalator and with a heavy pack you had to be very careful not to fall backwards.

"The heat in the camp was 47°C and hotter in the desert outside. On the longest day I was really worried as I got heat stroke and just couldn't cool down. I was shivering and passing out. I just couldn't get enough water into my body and I became concerned for my safety.

"I found a rock to hide behind but I just could not cool down. By the evening it was still 41°C and getting to the next camp was like a death march.

"When I finally got to the next camp at 01:30 I fell down and slept. I'm a very light sleeper normally but I was just so tired that I didn't wake up even when I was being sand blasted during a sandstorm when my tent blew away."

The race takes place in Hami region in the eastern part of Xinjiang Province in China in the area of the ancient Silk Road and follows the Tian Shan Mountains - one of the largest mountain ranges in Asia.

For more information on the race series, go here.