ACCRINGTON Stanley shareholder Ilyas Khan will step into the unknown tomorrow when he begins a six-day, 250km endurance foot race through Namibian sand dunes.
Hong Kong-based Ilyas, whose family hails from Stanhill, will take the line with over 200 competitors from 38 countries in the RacingThePlanet "ultra marathon’’ across the Namib – the oldest desert in the world.
Competitors will have access to some of the most stunning and untouched areas of the country and will be the first-ever humans to cross parts of the landscape.
In a gruelling schedule, they must jog or walk an average of a daily marathon for four days before enduring a punishing penultimate fifth stage measuring 100km – over 62 miles – in no more than 24 hours.
They will traverse lunar landscapes and cross some of the most demanding and challenging sand dunes in the world to finish at the Skeleton Coast in Lüderitz.
The route includes a steep descent into the second deepest canyon in the world, in terrain populated by wildlife such as mountain zebra, giraffe and oryx.
With temperatures fluctuating wildly between day and night, staff and volunteers will consume 18,000 litres of water during the week.
But other than fluids and a tent, the competitors have to carry everything else they need with them – including sleeping bags, clothes and food.
Mr Khan, who will show his pride in his family’s home town by running with Accrington emblazoned across his back, has set a sponsorship target of £100,000 – which he wants to raise for a combination of The Stanhill Foundation and Hong Kong Juvenile Diabetes Association.
The race will feature 17 former champions and women will make up over a quarter of the starters.
Mr Khan said: "There’s a hardcore of about 20 people who treat it as a race but the majority are doing it for charitable or personal reasons and for me it’s entirely philanthropic.
"The Stanhill Foundation supports children in Lancashire who need money and help to get from one level of proficiency in a sport to another
"I have run six or seven marathons in Hong Kong and I just feel that this is such an intriguing thing to do. I just hope I finish. It’s off piste, across sand and desert, and you have to cross a couple of rivers. You start at dawn and finish at dusk and if you miss your schedule you’re out."
He added: "Overnight the temperature will come right down. In the desert it’s close to freezing and during the day I’m hoping it will be a very nice 25C at its worst. The Namibian outback has got everything from leopards right through to springbok and some of the places you go through I’m not sure what we will come across."
For more information visit www.4deserts.com/beyond/namibia.