As with most great adventures, it started with a conversation over a drink in the pub. Or rather over a meal in the Ivy, where Steve happened to mention to his friends that he was good at running long distances.
After an ill-considered exchange of boasts, they agreed to run six marathons in each of five of the hottest, coldest, driest and windiest parts of the planet.
“If he could do it, we said we could do it too,” says Gavin, pointing at Steve. “He didn’t look like a marathon runner to us.”
In fact, Steve had run 157 of them. And when Gavin, Colin and Paul woke up the next day, the seriousness of their position was obvious. But of course, nobody would chicken out first.
So far, they’ve run one of the races – the Gobi Desert – which leaves the Sahara, the Atacama, the White Desert in Egypt and, of course, Antarctica.
So, while the rest of the country is preparing for a season of drinking and merriment, you’d expect the Sandblasters would be following a strict training regime. But it seems there’s no stopping the fearless four.
“You’ve got to enjoy Christmas,” says Colin, “although every glass of wine comes at a price and means you have to work harder.”
It seems none of group really considered their physical condition when signing up. Gavin had recently broken his leg and only Steve had any experience of this extreme sport.
In fact, Gavin thought it would be a bit like a holiday. “He took along a bunch of men’s magazines in his backpack,” laughs Steve.
“I thought I’d have time to read in the evenings,” Gavin explains.
“We really had no idea what we’d let ourself in for,” says Colin.
The reality was, Steve says, “on par with marriage or your father dying”.
Although they won’t admit if anyone cried – “We were too tired to cry,” says Colin evasively – Gavin describes it as “soul destroying, with nothing to look forward to except food that tastes of wallpaper paste and the odd jelly bean”.
“The landscape becomes your prison,” he adds, poetically.
Then, there were the blisters.
So, why do it?
“We were all conscious of getting older,” says Colin, 44. “There’s a sense of the clock ticking. This proves we’re still capable of pushing ourselves.”
And of course there’s the money – they want to raise £1m for children with cerebral palsy.
“To raise money for charity you have to half kill yourself,” says Steve, cheerfully. “And that’s what we’re doing.”
So, why the “Sandblasters”?
“Its construction-related,” says Colin. “Plus, other website names were taken – we could only get sandblasters.org.uk!”
Chosen watering hole: Fino’s Wine Bar and Restaurant, Mayfair
Ambience: Labyrinthine underground drinking den
Topic: Extreme marathons
Drinks drunk: 5 glasses of red wine, 2 glasses of white wine
Colin Lyall MTT Consulting
Steve Partridge Litchfield Consultants
Gavin Pilcher Woolworths
Debika Ray Building