An extreme marathon runner has told how at almost 50 years old he lost more than 6st and completed the toughest foot race on earth across the Sahara Desert – and it all started with the Kingston Breakfast Run.

Surrey Comet:

In 2006 when Michiel Hoefsmit, 52, moved to Kingston from the Netherlands he was an overweight communications worker.

It was a 2008 article in KCM in-flight magazine about the Marathon des Sables, the week-long, 251km race across the Sahara Desert, that convinced him to start running.

At his heaviest Mr Hoefsmit weighed 19st but he has now completed several ultra marathons and triathlons as well as the Marathon des Sables twice.

The former BT worker said: “My job involved a lot of travel and I was constantly on planes, sitting down and eating.

When I saw the article about the Sahara marathon I was really intrigued and thought that would be something I would like to do.

“I started running in 2008 and signed up for the Kingston Breakfast Run the next year.”

Mr Hoefsmit worked near Blackfriars station and took advantage of Kingston’s slow commuter trains to get in his running practice.

Surrey Comet:

He said: “On the way to work I would run to New Malden, hop on a train then get off at Vauxhall maybe and start running again.

"I would do that on the way back too and by the end of the day I’d have built up 20km quite easily.

“At weekends I train in Richmond Park. But I can only do a couple of laps before I have seen all the deer and hills and I’m a bit bored.”

In 2011 Mr Hoefsmit signed up for the world’s toughest foot race and two years later, at 48 years old, he completed the gruelling marathon in six days.

The father-of-three said: “I’m still alive so from that point of view I think it went well. It was very hard.

"You still have to carry all your equipment and cover 35km a day.

“My family were very supportive I think.

"I guess they thought it was a bit mad. Not a lot of people know about the desert so maybe they were a bit worried but they got used to it.”

Surrey Comet:

Michiel Hoefsmit before he started running 

About 1,000 people finished the Sahara marathon that year with and, when he got home, Mr Hoefsmit immediately signed up for the next one.

In 2015 he again completed the desert ultra-marathon.

He is now planning his next extreme race in Iceland.

Mr Hoefsmit is taking part in the Kingston TEDx talks on November 5. Visit