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Graham takes on desert race

LAUREN PRIESTLEY
Last updated 05:00 21/03/2014
Extreme

EXTREME EVENT: About 1000 athletes register every year for the gruelling 250km race through the world’s hottest desert.

Extreme
NOT DAUNTED: Graham Morton is gearing up to run the toughest race on earth.

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Scrambling across 250 kilometres of desert sand in blistering heat is not something most people would sign up for.

But Glendowie man Graham Morton is not your average endurance athlete.

The 46-year-old doctor has signed up for the world-renowned Marathon des Sables next month and is the first to admit it is a crazy challenge.

"One of my patients once said to me, ‘if you're going to have a bucket list then you better start early'. So here I go. People talk about a mid-life crisis - maybe this is it. It ought to be a great adventure."

He will carry a 12kg pack with all of his supplies including food, clothing and a sleeping bag on his back during the six-day race through the Sahara desert.

The event is the equivalent of six regular marathons and the longest stage is a hefty 80km.

It's all done in more than 40-degrees heat and will be the absolute peak of his endurance career so far, he says.

The father-of-two started training in 2007 because of a health scare just after his 40th birthday.

"I thought I was having a heart attack. I was overweight, overworked and over-stressed.

"Thankfully it wasn't but it was enough to scare me."

Dr Morton is taking on the sandy slopes as a personal challenge but has decided to fundraise for the Cystic Fibrosis Association of New Zealand. He has already raised more than $3000.

Dr Morton has met many children with cystic fibrosis and has raised money for the organisation before (East & Bays Courier March 4, 2011).

"To see young people with shortness of breath not being able to participate in things we all take for granted is just heart-wrenching. It hard to believe it's with them 24/7.

"When I'm tired and feeling sorry for myself I can start thinking of those kids. It's helps me to stop being so pathetic."

Dr Morton will also be watching the way medics assemble the hospital tent during the event.

The athletes get their blisters tended to by medics every day before hobbling off to sleep in communal open-sided tents.

"I think one of the biggest problems in life is that we always believe that the person that does these things are all the athletes. If you've got a strong mind, you can accomplish anything."

Cystic Fibrosis Association chief executive Kate Russell says Dr Morton's challenge means a lot to CF sufferers.

The organisation undertakes research and provides support for the 450 people living with the debilitating disease in New Zealand and their families.

About 20 babies are diagnosed with cystic fibrosis each year.

"Obviously money helps us so much but to see that someone is willing to put their body on the line to that extent - it's just gold for us, literally and metaphorically.

"The thing about Graham that makes him quite unique is his attitude. It's very inspiring, especially to people with CF."

Go to fundraiseonline.co.nz/grahammortonsMDS to donate or sponsor Graham Morton during the Marathon des Sables in April.

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- East And Bays Courier

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