Derek mds
Derek Stewart

Derek Stewart is used to being looked at with incredulity and asked if he’s mad. He’s used to being referred to as a nutcase, and every other synonym there is to insanity. In fact I have a feeling he quite enjoys it. But why would people look and think of him in this way? An otherwise perfectly normal, respectable and successful businessman, based in West Central Scotland, Derek likes to set himself challenges.

Not just normal challenges, like 5k or 10k runs, bike rides between Glasgow and Edinburgh or even white collar boxing or triathlon. No, he’s done all that….obviously. In fact that’s how it all started. About 6 years ago, Derek started setting himself challenges, and every year the challenges get greater, and crazier and harder to achieve…until this year when its the beast of all challenges – the Marathon des Sables. 251 km (156 miles) in six days across the Sahara Desert. That’s around 5.5 marathons.

Marathon des Sables
Marathon des Sables

Ranked by the Discovery Channel as the toughest footrace on earth, this challenge is not one to be undertaken by the faint hearted. The preparation itself is arduous, and that’s before the training begins. Organising your kit (carried by yourself all the way) to include all hygiene and sleeping materials, food and drink, clothes and ointments – everything to equip you for 6 days in the desert, booking your place – with only 800 places it’s fully subscribed immediately and you will need to book at least 2 years ahead (it may well take you that long to train, so probably not such a bad thing..!) – and organising your life around the considerable training required…well, definitely not one for the average human being.

And Derek is anything but average.

I first met Derek when he was training for the Lanzarote Iron man, around a year ago. Another incredibly tough challenge, it was Derek’s mindset around the whole thing that really captured my fascination. As a successful business leader – Derek runs wealth management consultancy Strategic Asset Managers – a professional speaker and highly sought after corporate trainer and consultant, Derek has a wide array of talents.  And I’m not surprised he’s successful – he uses the same strategies, tools and techniques for running his various businesses as he does to meet all his physical challenges. A great insight into his mindset can be found in his Mission Iron Man blog where he updates on his incredible dedication and extreme mental and physical preparation.

MDS sole runner 2

Its rare to find someone so committed, and so selfless in his objectives. From the start Derek has been fundraising for Maggies Centres, the Scottish cancer care centres now across the UK and abroad which make a huge difference to the lives of cancer patients and their families and friends. Hosting his fundraising event last week at the centre at Gartnavel Hospital, Derek and the team at Maggies gave us a rare insight into the wonderful work the centres do, offering support, advice, warmth and care at the most difficult times of people’s lives.

Maggies Centres, Edinburgh
Maggies Centres, Edinburgh

Fundraising for such a worthwhile charity is what spurs Derek on and is what will maintain his focus and determination throughout his darkest hours in the desert, when his physical energy has all but left him. Its Derek’s strength of character and sheer will to succeed, not just for himself but for everyone who has ever or will ever need to enter the doors of Maggies. Surrounded by all his friends and family last week at his fundraiser, I have no doubt that Derek will finish and finish in triumph. For that man has one thing that will stand him in good stead over those interminable hours and days in the desert, when the 100 degree heat the sand and the flies might combine to cause many participants to fail to finish. Derek Stewart has “True Grit” in real John Wayne style, and I for one can’t wait to congratulate him and drink to his health upon his return.

And of course ask him – what on earth (or beyond) could be next?????

If you would like to support Derek in his fundraising for Maggie’s please donate here.