TEMPERATURES soared to a gruelling 45 degrees Celsius as the five Hong Kong runners battled through the 42-kilometre fifth stage of the Marathon des Sables (Marathon of the Sands) in the Sahara desert. Inspector Mark Sharp had another strong day, finishing 50th in four hours and 28 minutes, about 90 minutes behind the astonishing Ahansal brothers from Morocco who have left some 500 competitors for dust right from the start. Inspector Justin Shave and former chief inspector Chris Hanselman completed the section together in under eight hours, having crossed sand dunes and scaled the steep ascent to Amessoul Mount in the desert of southern Morocco. Mabel Au-Yeung Wai-man and Senior Inspector Carol Cheng Mei-lin - the first Chinese competitors and the first Asian women in the race - are also ready for the final 20 km, their grim determination keeping them in the 240 km event. The team, which plans to carry the SAR flag across the finish line to mark Hong Kong's first foray into the race, hopes to raise $2 million for the Society for the Promotion of Hospice Care. Anyone wanting to contribute should make cheques payable to SPHC Ltd, marked Sahara Race for Hospice on the back and send them to: 1832 Swire House, 11 Chater Road, Central.