Why I’m running 156 miles across the Sahara for Nottingham Hospitals

Lee with his wife and daughters

This March, Lee Wroblewski is taking on the gruelling Marathon des Sables – dubbed the toughest footrace on earth – to raise money for the Child Bereavement team at Nottingham’s NHS hospitals.

In his blog, Lee explains why he chose to take on this immense challenge in memory of his baby daughter, Beau.

We lost our daughter, Beau, during labour nearly six years ago. It was devastating and really hard to deal with, but the support we had of the midwife bereavement team at QMC helped us get through it. 

In such a crushing time, you feel utterly lost but our bereavement midwife, Mandy, just stepped in and guided us through everything. It’s the small things I remember, like meeting us at the side entrance so we didn’t have to walk past the labour ward and taking the time to walk back out with us after our meetings. It felt like she was truly there for us, not just ticking a box and moving on.

She listened to us, asked the right questions, held our hands, gave us hugs and gently navigated us through all the official processes and paperwork for which we had absolutely no headspace at that time. 

She understood that we needed to be in a quiet space away from the celebrations of the maternity ward, introducing us to the purpose built ‘serenity suite’ which we didn’t even realise existed and which we could use as much as we needed in the first week following the loss of Beau.

In the suite was a cool cot kindly donated by other parents and this too was amazing as it allowed us to spend time with Beau and not feel rushed to say goodbye. It also gave us the opportunity to bring our other two daughters to the suite to meet their sister. We felt it was very important for them as part of their healing process and so that Beau will always feel like part of our family, despite not being here, and that our daughters can talk about Beau whenever they want to without feeling an awkwardness or taboo.

Without this quiet place and our bereavement midwife, I can’t imagine how much more difficult our journey would have been.

We hope that any money raised will help to sustain and develop the invaluable support and services this team provide, for other parents who will sadly follow the same path we did but will have a helping hand to lead them through it thanks to the bereavement midwives.

Lee lies next to Beau on a bed. He has his head against her and is holding her close

Lee with baby Beau

About the fundraising challenge

I’m taking on the Marathon des Sables (MDS), which translated from French means ‘marathon in the sands’. It’s six days in the Sahara desert – the first three days you run or walk 23-25 miles, the fourth day is called the long day which is 55 miles, day five is 26 miles and the final day is six miles. You have to carry all your own kit, food and sleeping bag.

The main reason for taking on the challenge is to push myself and do something I never thought I would or could and that not many people would ever think about doing. To have the chance to go to the Sahara and take time to absorb the surroundings and realise what you’re actually hoping to achieve is amazing, and I hope it will inspire my daughters to know that they can achieve anything they set their minds to.

I haven’t done a staged race before but have done a few ultra-marathons, including the Lakeland50 which was a 50 mile race around the peaks of the Lake District. The terrain and climbs in that event were good preparation for the MDS. It was tough!

Lee stands at the top of a mountain. He is wearing a walkers backpack and a head scarf. He is smiling at the camera and appears to be holding on to something off site.
I am taking on the MDS with a friend I have been running with for a few years now and she has friends that are also doing the race. From the reading I’ve done, most say that by the end of the experience, you’re all in it together, helping each other and have a special bond, which is another reason I think it will be such a great experience.

From previous experience in ultras, the support of the people around you who are also running the race is really special thing and they really help when it gets tough. It’s not about your time or beating anyone, it’s about mutual support and respect for one another and being in it together.

We can read emails from family and friends each night and I think this will play a really large part of getting me through, knowing that everyone at home is rooting for me and sending me encouragement.

And lastly, the thought of getting back to my tent at the end of the stage to prepare yet another freeze-dried meal will hopefully help get me through!

To sponsor Lee as he takes on this gruelling challenge in aid of the Child Bereavement team, please click here.

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