At age 73, William MITCHELL is the oldest Briton to have finished the MARATHON DES SABLES. In fact, he's finished it twice — in 2015 and in 2017. There's a very good chance that he'll be keeping up this streak, since he's registered for the very first MARATHON DES SABLES PERU, which will be taking place from 26 November to 6 December 2017. 'I'm hoping to be among the first to finish the MDS MAROC and the MDS PERU in the same year. If I'm feeling good after the MDS PERU, I'll sign up for the MDS MAROC 2018.' His goal: '10 MDS in a row!'
William lives in the village of Turnditch, where he manages a marquee hire company. Until age 63, sports weren't his cup of tea at all. Then, one fine day, something clicked: 'I started to walk a bit in the afternoon to keep fit on a three-mile circuit with quite a few bumps and some flat areas. Then I started running on the flat ground, and finally I decided that I could try to run the whole way. That's how it started.'
Since then, William has been crossing one milestone after another at lightning speed. Two years later (at age 65), he ran his first marathon; since then, he has finished 140 of them. He ran his fastest marathon in three hours, 54 minutes and 33 seconds, in Blackpool (England). With so many marathons under his belt, William has even made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the first man to run 100 marathons after starting so late. 'I'm very pleased with that. When I started these walks I'd never have thought that I'd get there. It just goes to show that you're never too old.'
'Never too old' — that's William's credo. He has repeatedly said that age isn't a handicap. 'I don't use the phrase "too old." It's forbidden. Actions speak louder than words — so, if you fancy doing something, no matter what your age may be, get out there and try it.' Trying is certainly something that this dashing Briton knows how to do. At age 71, he undertook his first MARATHON DES SABLES, which he finished after hitting a few snags, like all his fellow competitors. 'I got blisters, of course. But the medical team is great. The MARATHON DES SABLES is 90% about your mentality. It's about how you cope with adversity. If you say "this is too tough" then you won't make it. My philosophy is "if you hit a brick wall, go round it, over it or through it — don't stop in front of it and cry!"'
William says that what he likes best about the MARATHON DES SABLES is its unique desert environment, since marathons typically take place on the edge or in the heart of highly industrialised areas. He nonchalantly adds that the event's reputation for difficulty meets with his approval: 'the harder it is, the more I seem to like it.'
To rise to the challenges that he sets for himself, William knows how to dig deep: 'when I have a goal, I train hard to achieve it.' His daily training consists of running (26-50 miles, or 42-80 km, per week), working out in a gym and rowing or home training when the weather is bad. He'd like this to go on for a long time to come: 'I hope to keep on running no matter how old I get. I'm hoping to succeed in running 10 MDS in a row, and with a bit of luck, who knows, maybe I'll take part in the 10th MDS PERU!'