Nottingham lecturer Graham Pitcher's ultra marathon challenge

Graham Pitcher on Skegness beach Graham Pitcher trained on Skegness beach to prepare for the Marathon des Sables

A 57-year-old university lecturer who is running 14 ultra marathons within a year has begun a 156-mile (251 km) race across the Sahara desert.

Graham Pitcher, a senior lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, has been raising money for a mental health charity for young people.

He said running long distances was a "significant mental challenge".

The Marathon des Sables, often described as the 'toughest footrace on Earth', takes place over six days.

Mr Pitcher trained for the Morocco-based endurance event by running on Skegness beach.

The Rutland-based runner said he hopes to have covered 854 miles (1,374 km) by the end of 2014.

He said: "It all started off by entering races that I wanted to attempt this year and I finished up at 14.

"At 57 years of age running long distances is not just a physical challenge but presents a significant mental challenge as well."

Mr Pitcher, who has so far completed three of the 14 ultra-marathons, has raised about £3,000 for the YoungMinds charity.

His 14th ultra marathon is due to take place in December, in Dorset.

Graham Pitcher Mr Pitcher at the start line of his first ultra marathon in Wendover, Buckinghamshire, in January

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