Phil Payne is a postmaster in the Ardingly Post Office and describing him as a ‘tough guy’ is something of an understatement.
Phil played football at a professional level for six years before he changed direction.
In 2010, a friend offered him a last minute place as a contender in the Brighton marathon on the 18th April.
Most competitors had started their training months in advance, but Phil didn’t have the time. He blundered in at the deep end, competed and absolutely loved it! With the crowd cheering him on, Phil managed to run a respectable time of 3hrs and 47 minutes.
Six years on and Phil owns nineteen scrapbooks filled to the brim with mementoes of his achievements which remind him that he can succeed if he puts his mind to it.
When Phil is not working at the Post Office, he is either training or competing in races all over the world.
His favourite race was the ‘Maratona di Roma, 2013’ running through the old city and passing incredible sights like the Vatican and finishing by the Colosseum.
Another memorable event glued into his scrapbook was the Athens Authentic marathon in Greece with an ancient course established after the Battle of Marathon in 490BC.
Phil decided to use this event as a training exercise and with a bag that weighed 8 kilos Phil ran to success and proudly crossed the finish line.
In 2015, Phil undertook his greatest challenge yet. Along with 1,400 other runners he ran a staggering 156 miles across the Sahara desert in searing 54-degree heat (129ºF!) ‘The temperature was off the scale, we were just trying to survive!’ Phil said.
He kept on running despite suffering from severe blisters and relentless weather conditions including sandstorms.
At 3am, a colossal sandstorm hit their camp and after blindly rescuing his kit from the thick clouds of sand, he confessed that he nearly gave up, ‘It takes a lot to break me, but I found it incredibly tough. I always listen to my body and it will tell me if I need to stop, but I will keep running as long as I physically can.’
Phil managed to defy his mental barriers and he kept running through the barren desert alongside his idol, Sir Ranulph Fiennes OBE, who, at age 72, is recognised as the greatest living explorer, and holds many awards including climbing Mount Everest and The Artic Solo Exhibition.
Forty-eight hours later, a battered and bruised Phil crossed the finish line and stood as a symbol of tireless effort, stamina and the breaking of physical and mental barriers. ‘It was pure grit and determination that got me through it. I felt incredible as I hobbled across the finish line. I had survived the hardest race in the world.’
Phil runs to raise money for the NSPCC and St Peter and James Hospice and has raised around £20,000 overall. ‘I can’t express how much I appreciate all of the support I have had in the past six years’ he says.
At the end of November 2016, Phil will be cycling thirty hours on a bike at the Dolphin Leisure Centre in Haywards Heath to help fundraise for the NSPCC.
If you would like to sponsor Phil you can do so in the Ardingly post office or please find his JustGiving page below.
By Georgia Lambert