DAD of steel Ric Hallikeri smashed one of the world’s toughest endurance challenges - despite battling hallucinations, sleep-deprivation and dehydration - to raise £10,000 for a city respite centre.
The 39-year-old has just returned home to Wearside after completing the famous Marathon Des Sables event in the Sahara Desert, Morroco.
Ric, of Silksworth, coped with blistering heat of more than 50 degrees to finish six marathons in just six days.
Speaking about the experience, Ric, who only took up running in preparation for the Sunderland City 10k in 2013 as a way of losing weight, today told the Echo: “It was absolutely fantastic but without doubt the toughest thing I’ve done in my life.
“It isn’t just physical pain you are going through, this was mentally torturous as well.
“From getting there, we had our tents with no sides so you were exposed to sandstorms every night.
It was absolutely fantastic but without doubt the toughest thing I’ve done in my life.Ric Hallikeri
“You’d make your own food, then get up and run a marathon a day in 53 degree heart.
“I was constantly dehydrated. I had nine litres of water on the first day but only went the toilet once, which shows how hot it was.”
Despite the extreme conditions, Ric, who had spent two years in training for the event, managed to get over the finish line on the sixth day, recording a time of 50 hours.
“The real professionals managed to do it in about 28 hours,” said Ric, married to Louise, 39, and dad to Sofia, five, and Blake, three.
“The longer day, when we covered 92 kilometres, I started hallucinating, first thinking I had a pack of dogs attacking me and then a swarm of bees around my head.
“About 100 people dropped out, which shows how hard it is.
“Every night you’d get back, eat, self-medicate, treat your blisters then try and get a couple of hours’ sleep.”
After having an initial target of raising £5,000 for Grace House in Southwick, the figure has been doubled after donations poured in, with more cash set to be handed over.
“I put the appeal on Facebook and it’s just gone from there,” added Ric.
“A lot of friends and family are still to donate so it could be a lot higher.”
Ric also said he has an eye on another challenge, although next time altitude will be the nemesis.
“Now that I’ve done this I’m looking at doing the (Mount) Everest Trail Race, which I’ll do for Grace House too.”
To donate to Ric’s appeal, go to uk.virginmoneygiving.com and search for Ric Hallikeri.
Those wanting to give a personal donation should call or text Ric on 07415 884000.