Rob Duncombe

Rob Duncombe

On Easter Sunday my mum leaned across the table towards me and told me I was stupid… about five minutes later she told me again how stupid she thought I was.

What had led to mum coming to this conclusion was that I had told my family about my intention to run the Marathon des Sables in April 2019.

For those who don’t know (and this initially included my parents and brother) the MdS as it is known is one of the hardest, most gruelling and challenging foot races on the planet. It takes place each year in the Sahara desert,over six days, and covers about 150 miles.

The terrain is sand and rock and part of the essential kit includes signalling mirrors and an anti-venom kit. If this was not hard enough, you have to carry your own kit (with the exception of a tent) and sufficient food for the six days, and water is limited.

During the lunch two questions emerged: Who are you going to run the MdS for? And why are you doing it? The first question was very easy to answer, the second almost impossible.

Who am I going to run for? I am going to run for The Christie – and hope to raise about £10,000 in sponsorship/donations. It is my intention to fund all my costs of entry and kit (about £5,000) so that every penny I raise will go to The Christie.

For those who don’t know me I am the director of pharmacy at The Christie. I feel extremely honoured and proud to have this role, and I believe I am fortunate enough to work at one of the best hospitals in the world. On a day to day basis I see the amazing work we do here, and the huge difference we make to patient lives – not just through the research we do, but also through the care and attention everyone gives to supporting our patients through what has to be one of the most challenging periods of their lives.

During the course of the year through blogs I’m planning to write I will share some more about the work of the pharmacy team at The Christie and my vision for a department devoted to improving how we use medicines in cancer patients.

Why am I doing this? In all honesty I’m really not sure. It is certainly not for reasons of fitness. It is quite possible to be reasonably fit without the need to run across the Sahara. I’m not doing it to prove anything to myself. In the past two years - having come to marathon running late in life - I’ve run five marathons, and if I wanted to I could run a marathon every couple of months for the next five to 10 years. So it has to be something deeper – a desire to do something slightly extraordinary, and to push myself to my absolute mental and physical limits.

People tell me that running the MdS is a life-changing experience and that after the MdS you have a different outlook on life. At the moment I am at the very start of this adventure, and everything I do over the coming year will hopefully get me in the very best physical and mental shape I can be to take on this challenge.

May 2018