TV star Robert Rinder has said he cried for the first time in “probably a decade” while taking part in the Sport Relief challenge in the Namib Desert.
Rinder, also known as Judge Rinder from his popular TV series, joined BBC DJ Nick Grimshaw, singer Frankie Bridge, Karim Zeroual, Louise Minchin, Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Samantha Womack to take part in a gruelling 100-mile expedition in Namibia.
The challenge, which saw them attempt to cover the harsh terrain on foot and bikes, also involved scaling 19 of the highest sand dunes in the world in temperatures exceeding 40C.
Rinder told the PA news agency: “It was incredibly hard but also breathtakingly beautiful. I had my music and I disappeared into myself. I spend so much of my time sort of worrying and so rarely in the moment.
“So many of the gifts or experiences I’ve had from Strictly, to the endless range of disproportionate sometimes obscene privileges you get by the dubious virtue of being ‘famous’, of being a ‘celebrity’, this was mile after mile, I wasn’t thinking about finishing, I was just delighting in the colours and the shape of landscape…
“I had the Out Of Africa theme tune and I can’t explain why but for about 30 minutes walking on my own, I cried, and it was the most incredible release – I haven’t cried for probably a decade I’d say, and it was the most joyous gift.”
The challenge aims to “help break down the stigma of mental health and raise money for mental health services”, according to Sport Relief.
Rinder, who competed in Strictly Come Dancing in 2016, said he agreed to participate in this year’s challenge “without hesitation”.
He explained: “Because Sport Relief were focusing on mental health and it being a physical challenge, it really was the most articulate expression, the kind of authentic reality of the things that I talk about a lot and care deeply about, which is really trying to share with people that getting physically healthy and doing exercise isn’t just about physical health, above all else it’s what it gifts you mentally.
“I’ve written about the fact that six years ago before I started Judge Rinder, I was at a real, profound low, that when I was in my late 20s, I put on weight, I felt really physically down, and that exercise really did kind of gift me an entirely new approach and it’s become completely integrated in the way I approach my mental health as much as my physical health.
“It’s really important to me and I wanted to share that with other people, it’s a complete gift.”
Radio 1 DJ Grimshaw was forced to pull out of the challenge temporarily due to heat exhaustion, but re-joined the team on the penultimate day of the expedition.
The hour-long Sport Relief documentary airs on Wednesday March 11 at 8pm on BBC One.