Running in the family footsteps – to King Tut

Ultra runner’s amazing quest comes full circle.

Many runners feel a particular connection to a particular race – a blind runner recently married her guide after the pair bonded at Southport’s Hesketh Park Parkrun (congratulations, Kelly and Mike!) while Radio Two’s Vernon Kay is currently ultra-running through the rain to his beloved Bolton Wanderers – but an Oxfordshire company director will soon answer a truly unique calling.

Grant Smith, 44, from Witney, is off to Egypt to compete in the Half Marathon Des Sables (HMDS,) wherein he will run three marathons in four days in the Fayoum Desert.

Before and after, however, he has a day of sightseeing, with an iconic artefact on his itinerary.

Grant’s father’s godfather was cartologist and archaeologist John Baker Penoyre (1870-1954) who went on the first Tutankhamun expedition in 1922.

“I am informed he was responsible for cataloguing the finds,” said Grant. “My father’s stories and interest in Egypt – largely driven by his godfather’s story – have brought me to book this trip, hopefully to discover more about this man and his life. I recall my father, due to this connection, drawing a picture of King Tutankhamun’s death mask.”

While Grant’s family member did not encounter the mask – it was not revealed until October 28 1925 – the first time it had been seen in 3,250 years – Grant is understandably expecting to feel great pride when in the presence of what is undoubtedly humanity’s most-recognised artefact, with its tie to his father.

Grant hopes to take in the Pyramids in his Egypt down-time, on a trip he considers offers the ultimate personal connection to his family.

Running has been a major part of Grant’s life for almost two decades. “I took up running in 2004, to help tackle depression and stress for something I have battled for over 25 years (I was diagnosed with a type of PTSD). I have over the course of time concluded 5km, extending to 10km, half marathons and full marathons (3 London Marathons) before moving into ultra-running. To date I have completed 14 Marathon distance races or greater. I have also completed successful mountain trips summiting Kilimanjaro, Toubkal and Triglav.”

At 120Km, the race, which is self-sufficent (Grant will carry his own food and rationed water,) will be his longest yet, eclipsing the 100Km of the HMDS Morocco he completed last year, when he finished ninth male. “That has given me the most satisfaction thus far – the adventure, people and challenge, up to 47 degrees over dunes with a great group of individuals.”

Grant expects an extended recovery period when arriving back in the UK. “There will be sleep, lots of sleep, the exhaustion takes months to fully come back from.”

While Grant’s quest will resonate with anyone who has ever laced up a pair of running shoes, his link to this race provides almost unrivalled inspiration as he eats up the sand over four gruelling days.

Easy Runner is proud to share his story, and wishes him the very best of luck for easy or, at least, endurable, running in Egypt.

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