Ex-pat Stewart tackles world’s toughest race

Stewart Bell ran the Marathon Des Stables for MND Scotland
Stewart Bell ran the Marathon Des Stables for MND Scotland

A Scots ex-pat braved the heat of the Sahara Desert to help raise awareness and funds for the charity MND Scotland.

Stewart Bell (35), travelled to southern Morocco to take on the 33rd annual Marathon Des Stables, a 250km (158 miles) ultra-marathon, often described as the world’s toughest race.

The race is the equivalent distance of Edinburgh to Inverness with participants scaling towering sand dunes, traversing baking hot salt flats and withstanding highs of up to 50 degrees Celsius.

Stewart, who now lives in Dubai, challenged himself in memory of his grandfather, Charlie Pirie, and his aunt, Joy Mort, both of whom lived in Cumbernauld.

Stewart said: “We lost my Papa Pirie to MND in 2002, and my Aunty Joy in 2012. My motivation to raise funds for MND Scotland comes not only because of their loss, but in respect of what they meant to us in our lives and how they persevered.

“I was never personally a carer for them, so I could never truly appreciate the daily struggle or the dark days that my Gran Pirie, my parents and immediate family had to go through.

“My most striking memory is of their desire to enjoy the time they had left and to keep a positive outlook. Their first thoughts were to their family and letting us know that it was ok.”

Competitors in the Marathon Des Stables are required to be self-sufficient, carrying everything they require to survive for six days - from their food supply to a venom pump,

Despite all of the risks (and expense) of taking on the Marathon Des Stables, Stewart is confident he’s helped make a difference for people still affected by MND in Scotland.

He said: “It’s so important we make sure the charity can keep funding research and providing a support network to people affected by MND.

“Running the Marathon De Sables requires a less-than-modest budget so I asked myself lots of times during my training why not just give up and hand all this money to charity.

“I had to remind myself I have the ability to raise awareness of MND and hopefully encourage others to take on their own challenges to fight back against this horrible disease.”

Stewart will also make a personal donation to Parkinson’s Foundation UK in his memory of his other grandfather David Bell, equivalent to 20 per cent of what he raises for MND.

To make a donation visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/stewart-bell5.