A South London fundraiser is hoping to conquer the Sahara when he takes on the legendary Marathon des Sables in a bid to raise money and awareness for Cancer Research UK.

Gower Tan, 51, from Herne Hill, will be attempting to complete the gruelling ultra endurance event, labelled by the Discovery Channel as the ‘toughest footrace on earth’.

The challenge will see him running for six days, for more than 250 km (156 miles) in one of the world’s most inhospitable environments, the Sahara Desert.

Covering the equivalent of six marathons, the race crosses endless sand dunes, rocky jebels and white-hot salt plains and requires competitors to carry everything needed to survive day and night, from food to an anti-venom kit to a sleeping bag, in temperatures that will reach over 50 degrees Celsius. Mentally and physically, this is a challenge like no other in the world.

As a long-term supporter of Cancer Research UK, Gower has run numerous half marathons, marathons and ultra marathons all over the world, and completed challenges including an abseil off the Francis Crick Institute and a skydive.

For this years challenges, Gower completed a 100 mile non-stop ultra marathon across the South Downs from Winchester to Eastbourne in June, and recently finished his 8th Great North Run narrowly missing out on his attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the ‘Fastest half marathon dressed as a scientist’.

Gower said: “Research is a bit like running: sometimes you get a breakthrough, and very often you don’t. But you carry on trying until you do.”

As part of his final preparation for Marathon des Sables, Gower shaved off 14 months of lockdown hair, live-streaming this and donating his locks to the Little Princess Trust.

The Marathon des Sables ( takes place from 2nd to 11th October, and Gower is hoping to raise around £10,000 to help fund research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Anyone wishing to sponsor his efforts can do so at

Lynn Daly, spokesperson for Cancer Research UK in London said: “We never cease to be amazed by Gower’s constant and incredible challenges to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

“He’d done a huge amount of preparation and we’re sure he’s having an amazing run. We can’t thank him enough for the part he plays in helping to beat cancer and wish him all the very best on his extraordinary challenge in the Sahara.”

“Cancer Research UK has made enormous progress in the fight against the disease. However, we have only been able to do this thanks to the dedication and commitment of volunteers and supporters like Gower without whom we would not be able to fund our life-saving work. One in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime*. All of us can support the research that will beat it.”