A TEACHER at a Hayes school has described her epic 151-mile trek through the Sahara desert in aid of charity.
Sheila Justin, who teaches physical education at Rosedale College, has been an inspiration to her pupils after taking on what is dubbed as 'the toughest race on Earth'.
The 57-year-old mum of two spent six days in the desert in April, covering about 26 miles each day during the Marathon des Sables.
She told the Observer: "The hottest day it was 54 degrees. It was strange, it was a different type of heat, a dry heat, but you still know it's warm.
"Much of it was across sand dunes, which are firmer than you think but still very tough when you're going uphill and it slides out from under your feet.
"We also ran across gravel and dried river beds. Across the third and fourth day we covered 52 miles in 36 hours, walking through the desert at night. That was quite an experience.
"You don't get much sleep because you are just looking up at the stars and thinking 'this is awesome'. It was really something special.
"The biggest challenge wasn't the 151 miles, it was carrying all your equipment on your back."
Ms Justin, from Pinner Hill, is a seasoned athlete having run along the foothills of Mount Everest in the past, but even she admits this was her biggest challenge.
"After getting married and giving birth to two boys this was the best experience of my life. But it was also the toughest race of my life."
It took 63 hours to complete, a great time as the oldest British female in the competition. Most importantly, though, Ms Justin helped raise £2,500 for two charities.
They were Facing Africa, which funds teams of voluntary surgeons to visit children in Nigeria and Ethiopia ravaged by an infectious gangrenous disease called Noma, and the Aspire Centre in Stanmore which helps rehabilitate people with spinal injuries.
Ms Justin was sponsored by Running World in Eastcote and said she was extremely grateful to everyone who has supported her in both fundraising and training.
Ominously, she added: "I would recommend the race to anybody."