The Marathon des Sables 2007 - SSAFA Sands of Time Appeal

RAF Police Conquer the Marathon Des Sables for Charity


Held each year in March, the Marathon Des Sables is internationally recognised as being the most gruelling footrace in the entire world. It takes place in the Sahara Desert over a seven-day period during which participants are required to cover a distance of one hundred and fifty-one miles on foot in temperatures reaching 50° Celsius. In addition, all participants are required to be totally self-reliant, carrying all their food, water, medical needs and a sleeping bag for the duration of the race. The event is broken into various stages, the most extreme of which is completing a distance of fifty miles in a twenty-four hour period. In March 2007, six RAF Police NCOs and a British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) presenter, who became an honorary member of the branch for the event, successfully completed the gruelling race and in doing so, raised in excess of £50,000 for the following charities; SSAFA; the British Wireless for the Blind Appeal; St Luke’s Hospice Kenton Grange; the Haematology Unit at Sandwell Hospital West Bromwich; and the Provost Marshal’s Benevolent Fund. The whole marathon was carried out as a team and as such, they made every effort to start and finish each stage of the race together. Indeed, the very presence of the RAF Police team made quite an impression on the other competitors as they collectively progressed through the desert proudly flying the RAF Ensign above them. The idea of running in the marathon had come to life the previous year after Corporal D Heartford, a dog handler serving with the Cyprus Joint Police Unit (CJPU) at RAF Akrotiri, had watched a documentary about the race. He quickly realised that it would be an ideal challenge to raise a considerable amount of money for charity and after discussing his thoughts with colleagues, the idea began to grow and the project became known as the SSAFA Sands of Time Appeal. The competitors were; Sergeant M Tate, Corporal Heartford, Corporal M Moscrop, Corporal D Adams, Corporal C Taylor, Corporal M Robson and Mr D Carington. Well done chaps!

Update - 18 February

Cpl Damo Heartford has been part of the 'Sahara Seven' team for the last 18 months. The Sahara seven is made up of 6 RAF Policeman and a BFBS Radio Presenter. They are training to run the Marathon des Sables in Morocco next month. They have selflessly dedicated much of their personal time to training and raising money for SSAFA Forces Help. (To date they have raised over £27,000). see
Recently Cpl Heartford and his wife welcomed Baby Brida Elizabeth into the world and with it came the complications. (Please read attached article) - Lion.html

The story so far, in May 05 Cpl Damo Heartford, RAF Police Dog Section, RAF Akrotiri, an watched a documentary on BFBS about Ben Fogle ‘the blonde haired Hugh Grant from the Outer Hebridian programme’ in which Mr Fogle was traversing the Sahara desert a as participant in the Marathon Des Sables. To the uninitiated this arduous event is held once a year between Mar/Apr and is internationally recognised as being “the toughest footrace in the world”. It takes place in the Sahara desert over a seven day period during which participants cover a distance of 151 miles on foot in temperatures reaching 50 C (120F). In addition all entrants must be totally self reliant, carrying all their food, water, medical needs and sleeping bag for the duration of the race. The race itself; which is equivalent to a marathon a day, is in fact broken into various stages, the most extreme of which is a distance of 50 miles in a 24 hrs period. Whilst watching Mr Fogle suffering the abject misery of the event, Cpl Heartford, who for no specific reason; apart from him being a RAF Police Dog Handler and therefore having too much time on his hands to contemplate such things, thought ‘that looks painful I think I’ll have a go at that’. No sooner was the thought in motion then the semi professional lounge lizard that is Cpl Mark Moscrop, was on board, Mark is also a RAF Police Dog handler who prides himself on his athletic prowess, he can often be seen wearing fashionable sports gear in the bar. The idea grew, formulating into the submission of applications for the 2007 event. From these meagre beginnings, like moths to a flame, came the other 5 participants. Cpl Daz Adams, Episkopi, Community Police NCO, a huge hulking individual with the analytical mind of Sherlock Holmes and the body of a Bedford lorry, Cpl Chris Taylor, RAF Police RAF Akrotiri ATSy Section, built like a Norse god, yet hailing from Birmingham, a strange yet enticing combination. Cpl Mark Robson CJPU Drugs Dog handler, a chiselled jawed behemoth, not dissimilar to a young Kirk Douglas, and Mr Darren Carington, who, although he is a programme director for BFBS, which is not a slander in any sense of the word, does rather resemble lantern jawed, silver haired comic book hero type, more at home rescuing small felines from the bows of mighty oaks than pampering the likes of you or I, by bringing us the next instalment of Dr Who before Christmas. The final member of the group is Sgt Max Tate, CJPU, BFE, who could depict himself as a glistening Adonis, all sinew and coiled enthusiasm, however this would be accurate and therefore completely out of keeping with the rest of this piece. The ball by this stage had truly started rolling, the designated charities were set as SSAFA, Wireless for the Blind, St Luke's Hospice, Sandwell Hospital, and the Provost Marshal's Benevolent fund. The Major benefactor will be SSAFA, this worthy charity is at the forefront of activities in all units and is long overdue for the receipt of accolades and financial assistance. To this end the entire enterprise was named the ‘SSAFA Sands of Time Appeal’. We have to date received stupendous patronage from Mrs Francesca Pearson m/t Major General Peter Pearson Commander British Forces Cyprus and from Mrs Claire Bairsto m/t Group Captain Clive Bairsto Commander WSBA, both of whom have been more than generous with their time and commitment. So you can imagine that between now and Mar /Apr 2007 we have a great deal of training to do. This is in fact only the half of it, in addition to having entered this event we have in fact dedicated our lives (and the lives of our suffering families, some of whom have actually filled committee positions just to see more of us!) to this endeavour. We are constantly engaged in charity schemes, such as a Sports auction, Film memorabilia Auction, sponsorship of every upcoming sporting event Paphos Marathon, London Marathon, and numerous events in and around a garrison near you. However we are continually looking for more ideas or assistance. Mrs Sharon Tate has even started a sponsored slim in aid of this! (If any others are willing to do the same then please contact us, if you can wear a bikini next summer, we'll wear one too!) We are trying to bring on board as many agencies as possible, whether through corporate sponsorship, merchandise promotion, activity sponsorship or just plain hard graft car washing. So you will be hearing a lot more from us, whether in the pages of this illustrious journal or through one of the many charity events, I can only implore you, that if you are able, please support us, we have a dedicated web site which will be updated on a regular basis and if you would like to make a much appreciated donation you can go to or if you are able to provide equipment or even advice you can contact us at .