A DETERMINED Alva man battled wind and sandstorms to cross the finish line of an ultramarathon in the Sahara Desert – just a year after he took up running.

Stewart Bell covered a mammoth 254km during the 33rd Marathon Des Stables, mooted as "one of the toughest footraces in the world" by the Discovery Channel.

Carrying his entire food supply, bedding and other necessities, he covered the equivalent distance of Edinburgh to Inverness over the course of six days.

Stewart, who now lives in Dubai, took on the mammoth feat for his grandfather Charlie Pirie and his Aunty Joy, who both passed away due to Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

His memories of them and the backing from loved ones tracking his progress and writing messages of support got him through.

The added measure of humour and camaraderie on his campsite, where he shared a Berber tent with five others, also kept him going.

He said: "You have got all these ideas in your head before you start these things about what you’re doing it for and what you think you’re going to feel.

"You read some of the things about athletes that are hitting a wall and then having to dig really deep down to find something to keep them going.

"[But] it was because it’s obviously MND Scotland, and memories of my grandad and my aunt. That’s the reason why I was doing it.”

The real test for Stewart came during the double marathon section of the race, which he completed overnight in less than 30 hours.

The task was made even more difficult as his foot was beginning to tear up, as a result of travelling over the shifting sand dunes.

He said: "I think I got to the third checkpoint, about 30km into it, and was really struggling with it.

"But it was at the sort of turning point of like, you just have to kind of keep going.

"I actually met two other UK runners when I left that checkpoint, they were struggling a bit as well.

"And we just sort of looked at each other and said right, we just need to get through.

"We’ve got another 50km to go at this point and we just set a kind of fast speed march."

For Stewart, who is keen to raise awareness of MND, the ultramarathon was also a huge personal achievement.

When he started out on his running journey last year, he would get out of breath after a few kilometres.

But he gradually built up his stamina and even took up other ultramarathon events in preparation for the big race.

He said: "It’s a once in a lifetime thing to do. I think it’s incredible to just actually find that in yourself; I think that’s why people do it."

Stewart has managed to raise more than £3000 for MND Scotland so far and has given a massive thanks to everyone who has donated and helped so far.

To donate to his fund, visit justgiving.com/fundraising/stewart-bell5