THE desert is nothing new to Alan Pepper, who spent six months living in Iraq while a soldier during the Gulf War.

But the 46-year-old ‘ultra runner’ is back in the heat and sand for a different kind of challenge.

Mr Pepper, from Blackburn, is four days into the Marathon Des Sables, widely regarded as the world’s toughest foot race.

The 151-mile race starts near Ouarzazate in Morocco and competitors run the course over six days carrying everything they need, minus water, on their backs.

Mr Pepper, who is married to Liz, is raising money for Pancreatic Cancer Research and Rossendale and Pendle Mountain Rescue.

Before setting off last week, he said: “I’m not the fastest of runners but I do always give it 100 per cent and finish, which in some of the events I compete in is more than quite a few of the other runners.

“Ultra running is my real passion and whenever I get the chance I find a race to enter or I will be out in the hills practising.

“I was called up for the last Gulf War as I have a military background and spent six months living in desert conditions in Iraq, so the Sahara will be a similar environment, but hopefully without the shooting!”