Rob Stuzer- taking on the Marathon Des Sables
Running a 250km ultra marathon across the Sahara Desert
31 January 2022
In April, long-time supporter and patient of Moorfields, Rob Stuzer, took on the Marathon Des Sables, an epic race through the Sahara Desert, to fundraise for Moorfields Eye Charity. He raised an incredible £10,000 to support patient care, eye research and training.
The Marathon des Sables (MDS) is a gruelling race in one of the world’s most inhospitable environments. It is indisputably the toughest footrace on earth.
Rob spent 6 days running over 250km across endless sand dunes and white-hot salt plains, carrying what he needed to survive on his back.
Rob’s Moorfields journey
10 years ago, Rob was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa and has been a patient at Moorfields ever since.
His eye condition has caused loss of night vision and much of his peripheral vision, as well as blind spots and cataracts.
What is retinitis pigmentosa (RP)?
Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is the name for a group of conditions called‘retinal dystrophies’ which affect the area at the back of your eye (the retina), causing the tissue to waste away.
Eventually, these conditions can stop the retina from working completely, causing permanent changes to your eye that reduce vision. The speed, severity and age of onset of vision loss all depend on the type of RP that you have, but early signs usually appear in childhood.
Symptoms may include
- poor ability to see in dim light, often called‘night blindness’
- problems seeing things in your peripheral vision (the outer limits of your vision)
- difficulty adjusting to different light conditions, for example moving between a light and a dark room
RP is a hereditary condition, which means you inherit it from a family member. Genetic testing can be carried out to see if you have a faulty gene that causes RP.
There is currently no cure for RP and no treatment that can stop the condition from getting worse. Researchers are looking into a number of potential treatment areas, such as gene therapy, stem cell therapy and nutritional therapy.
Since becoming a patient at Moorfields, he has run the London Marathon and held concerts and discos with his wife to fundraise for Moorfields Eye Charity.
Moorfields has been a pillar of support throughout my journey and allowed me to manage my challenges linked to sight loss. I’ve seen the charity’s critical impact on those with visual impairments and their world-leading work to combat eye disorders.
Taking on the MDS
After listening to a talk by a work colleague who took on the MDS in 2015, Rob felt inspired and he decided to sign up himself to support Moorfields.
If I can do something good for myself by undertaking this challenge and in doing so, help such a great charity assist in bettering the lives of so many others in such life-changing ways, it seems to me like a win-win!
Frustratingly, Rob acquired a hamstring injury during his Brighton Marathon but he managed this well as he trained in advance of the event.
He mixed yoga with cardio sessions, and had a running coach who previously won the MDS so he was in good hands.
The big race
Unfortunately, in the run-up to the event, Rob’s friend became injured, leaving him to go ahead alone. He said this caused him to think about the challenge in ‘a whole new way’.
The first few days consisted of running between 32km and 87km over sand dunes, through sand storms and over mountains (jebels).
We were collectively able to laugh our way through the pain and the reality of our feet disintegrating on a daily basis whilst feeding ourselves various freeze dried foods to give us the strength to get up and do it all again the next day.
Day 4 was Rob’s toughest stage. He was required to run 87km through the night. Unable to see and disorientated from heat exhaustion, he recalls the desire to quit being ‘overwhelming’.
But he was able to push through. The last day of the race was marathon-distance and finally, Rob finished the epic race, receiving a medal, a shower and some much-deserved food.
Rob, we think you are a superstar- we’re so impressed that you completed this challenge of a lifetime. Thank you for choosing to support Moorfields.