- Video report by ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers
After all the build up and briefing about Prince Harry’s arrival, I wasn’t quite prepared for the relaxed and casually dressed figure that suddenly appeared outside the heat chamber.
He had come here to wish his friend Duncan Slater good luck in his attempt to complete the Marathon des Sables.
It’s a notoriously difficult running race, 150 miles across the Sahara carrying all your food and equipment, taking on sand dunes and rugged hills.
For any athlete, this would stretch them to their limit, but Duncan is aiming to be the first double leg amputee to finish, raising money for the charity Walking with the Wounded.
Prince Harry had agreed to surprise Duncan as he completed an acclimatisation session at the Institute for Naval Medicine in Gosport.
The prince was clearly relishing the chance to make mischief here, as I showed His Royal Highness into the sauna-like heat. My final words were prophetic - I joked to Prince Harry: “I hope he doesn’t swear”; seconds later Duncan nearly fell off the running machine as he uttered a couple of ripe Anglo-Saxon exclamations on spotting the Royal with whom he had shared a tent on a previous expedition to the South Pole.
It was a classic “gotcha” moment.
Harry was beaming as was Duncan. The two clearly enjoy a warm friendship based on shared adversity in Antarctica and mutual respect.
Duncan is not the sort of person to boast of this relationship; he is modest and self-deprecating to the last. Even talking about the Marathon des Sables, he plays down its magnitude. He simply wants to prove it can be done.
Last year he came agonisingly close to finishing the race, but had to pull out on the last days due to severe chaffing on his stumps. This time he is better prepared, equipped with new high-tech prosthetic legs made in Italy and a quiet determination to show the world that nothing need be off limits for a double amputee.
I can see why Prince Harry is so determined to champion the heroism and true grit of former servicemen like Duncan.
At a time when Britain faces so many uncertainties, from Brexit to Scottish independence, Duncan represents the best of British, taking on the Everest of running races with a smile and a joke, describing it as a “good day out”.
We’ll be there for every punishing step, hoping to watch Duncan enter the record books just in time for Easter.
- You can donate to Duncan's chosen charity, Walking with the Wounded, by visiting his fundraising page
- Follow Duncan's progress at he takes on the Marathon des Sables on ITV News from April 10