Do or Do Not, There is no Try - A 250km Run Through the Sahara Desert

By William Lester


I am a 65 year old retired school principal who has a passion for running. My father was a World War 2 veteran and my grandfather served in World War 1 which is why Soldier On is my chosen charity to support.


My running journey began in 1997 when my weight ballooned to 105kg. With my physical, mental health and well-being in decline, I made the decision to do something about my situation. I took my first steps as a runner and since then have turned what was primarily a health and fitness goal into thousands of kilometres for a sport that has become an intrinsic part of my daily life.

Since those small, tentative steps, my running journey has taken me through different distances from 5km through to one of the world's most challenging marathons - The Great Wall. There was also the sobering and life-saving 142km trek across the Kokoda Trail in 2016. My father served in New Guinea during World War 2 where courage and endurance sat alongside mateship and sacrifice. He was the main reason why I trekked Kokoda, honouring his service and sacrifice and to pay tribute to the service personnel who fought in the jungle hell of the Owen Stanley Range to protect our borders.

It was during one of these events that I 'discovered' Soldier On and its very worthy aim of helping build resilient individuals capable of developing and expanding meaningful connections with family, community and employers. I now support Soldier On whenever I can by choosing them as my preferred charity. I have now committed physically, mentally and financially to do something in a practical way.


I will be challenged to complete the 2020 Marathon des Sables or Marathon of the Sands. This 250km self-sufficient, multi-stage footrace will be held from 5 April-12 April in part of the Sahara Desert in Southern Morocco. Not only will this be a personal challenge but it will be a test of strength of mind and body, of grit, will and determination. In addition, the Marathon des Sables will provide me with the opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges that confront our returned service personnel. The longest journey many of our service personnel face is not the journey home from distant fields of engagement but rather the struggle they face upon returning. I will be challenged running and walking the Marathon des Sables for one week; these wounded Australians will be challenged for much longer - years or for the rest of their lives.

This is where I'm asking you to be grateful for your health and the beautiful country we have the blessing to call home and give thanks to our service personnel who may not be in such a good place and donate any amount you can to Soldier On. It will go some small way in providing some hope, support and a better future for the men and women who have served our country and for them to know that Australians do care.

The Marathon des Sables may be personally challenging but it won't be as challenging as the tasks often given to our service men and women. This is exactly how I am feeling and I am seeking your love, support and generosity to help me complete the challenge for myself and those service personnel who need it most.

Updates about this challenge will be posted on my Facebook Page, Instep54 or I can be found on Facebook at @instep54.

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Hope you survive the conditions in the desert without drama. Best of luck with your mission!
Rennie Macdade 2020-03-08 16:08:22
Have a safe run, Bill.
Frank Freeman 2020-03-06 17:37:52
Go you good thing
Brenda Jarrett 2020-02-25 12:37:52
Will be cheering you on from Australia. Very proud of you love u MARY xx
Mary Munns 2020-02-10 12:51:55
Christine Mohr 2020-01-31 16:46:25
Good on you Bill. A worthy cause. Keep on running.
Mary Lay 2020-01-29 11:51:05
Good luck Bill!
Yvette 2020-01-22 19:34:23
Stay strong and keep the legs rotating. Hope you achieve your goal.
Paul Gamer 2020-01-19 11:19:07
Bill you are an amazing person for doing this. Love you Mum
Dorothy Lester 2020-01-16 09:54:56
Bill, what a worthy cause in raising money for our service men and women. You are an inspiration. I am proud that you are my brother in law. You have run many marathons and half marathons with determination and set goals, you have achieved great personal success. Many of the runs in which you have participated have been for organisations that are helping those in need. You take great pride in being able to contribute to their causes. I am very proud of you and your desire to achieve the goals you have set for yourself. The Marathon des Sables will be your most challenging but what a way to raise awareness that confront our returned service personnel with mental health issues.
Anita Price 2019-12-28 13:15:45
Bill, you are amazing.
Claire Symonds 2019-12-24 10:56:57
Well done Bill. It 's for a worthy cause. Ray and I are proud of you.
Carmel Beutel 2019-12-13 11:25:44
Noela Mcfadden 2019-12-11 16:12:49
All the best Bill for your latest challenge Richard Deb Peterman
Deb Peterman 2019-12-04 19:30:14
Andrew McArthur 2019-11-16 19:58:23
You are an inspiration Bill. This donation is in loving memory of my father, Jack Ralston, who also served in New Guinea is World War 2.
Ann Ralston 2019-11-13 11:04:57
Michelle Moffatt 2019-11-12 19:49:27
An inspiring and no doubt highly challenging journey Bill. So very proud of you.
Heather Reardon 2019-11-12 18:05:59
Robyn Forshaw 2019-11-10 22:44:42
Words escape me but not the enormous amount of admiration for your past achievements and now THIS This latest test looks awesome but in a terrifying way hoping you will arrive at the end of this journey exhausted but alive and well. Never give up.
Nancy Offord 2019-11-01 10:55:46
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