It's almost time for the Headmaster, Mark Mortimer and Julian Thomas, Master of Wellington College, to take on the Marathon des Sables to raise money for the construction of teachers' houses at St Michael's Girls' Primary School in Uganda.  The 32nd Marathon des Sables will start in the Sahara Desert on 7 April. Competitors run 6 stages over 7 days in temperatures of around 50°C to complete the 250km (156 miles) course.

Endurance challenges are not new to Mark or Julian, between them they have rowed across the Atlantic and walked to the South Pole, but running in the burning, moving sands of the Sahara Desert will be very different from the ocean waves and freezing temperatures they have previously endured and conquered. As well as the demands of being Headmasters, they have committed themselves over many months to the intensive training needed for this gruelling race. 

Fiona Beach-MacGeagh, a trustee of Friends of St Michael's Uganda (www.fsmu.co.uk) and Head of Admissions at Warminster School, remembers the first school assembly address given by Mr Mortimer last September to Warminster pupils. He spoke about the importance of being pushed out of one's comfort zone and not being afraid to try something new, even if it ends in disappointment or failure.  Part of the role of a Headmaster is to inspire and to encourage each pupil and to say ‘yes’ to new challenges, and it is wonderful to see Mr Mortimer and Mr Thomas are leading by example. On their return we are sure they will have stories to tell… and blisters to show.

2017 also marks a milestone for them both, as they will be turning 50.

Both Warminster and Wellington College already have connections with St Michael's Girls Primary School.  A DT scholar at Wellington College designed and built a “play shop” for St. Michael's and 5 years on it is still being used and enjoyed by the girls during maths lessons. There have been fundraising events and collections at Warminster.

The money raised will be used to start the construction of additional teachers' houses at the school. As a small charity, it is difficult for Friends of St Michael's to do big spends on top of their termly commitments. Their priority is to feed the children at lunch time, fund malaria testing and treatment, and buy the essentials for the orphans. Building much needed houses for the teachers is a high priority, but with so many other demands on funds the teachers' village has always slipped down the list. Mr Mortimer and Mr Thomas understand the importance of providing comfortable houses for staff to attract and keep the very best teachers.  Many of the teachers at St Michael's work 7 days a week during term time and with classes starting at 6am and finishing at 9pm they and their families have to live near the school, as the school is 3 miles from tarmac.

Stonewood Design, the award winning architectural practice based in Castle Combe, have kindly offered their services pro bono to design the new teachers' village. They have done several highly acclaimed community builds in Africa and their brief is to incorporate locally sourced materials and to train local men in sustainable building.

For the building of the teachers' village to start the running duo need to raise £10,000 for the main accommodation blocks. As and when funds allow, solar panels, a borehole, a biodigester and a bike store will be added.

To follow the progress of the race and to find out more about the charity, please click here.

We wish them both the very best of luck with their challenge!

Mr Mortimer's running number is 908. If you would like to track his progress during the race – you can do this via the organisers' website. HOWEVER, none of the facilities will go live until Saturday 8 April. Once they are live, the instructions are easy to follow.