Utter the infamous words the “Marathon des Sables” amongst the running community and it’s likely you’ll receive a mix of responses…
a) OMG that race sounds insane. Why would anyone want to do that?!
b) That sounds amazing but I’d never be able to do something like that.
c) What a challenge. Maybe once in a lifetime…cue little glint in eye ;-)
The concept originated from a solo traverse across the Sahara Desert by Patrick Bauer, a French concert promoter in 1984; two years later the Marathon des Sables was born with twenty-three runners. Fast forward thirty-three years nearly a thousand runners and walkers stood on the start line as ACDCs Highway to Hell boomed out across the desert earlier this month. Just for the record; Christian Ginter holds the highest number of completed MDS event - thirty-one!
The Marathon des Sables has gained a notorious reputation, once described as “more hellish than hell” by Sir Ranulph Fiennes who’s tackled a fair range of epic challenges across the globe. The approximately 250km route changes slightly each year with six stages over seven days require participants to be fully sufficient excluding water and Bedouin “tent” (read blanket pegged down with a couple of pegs and held up by sticks) so pack weight can vary from 6.5 to 13.5 kg.
Eighteen years ago, I encountered a collective of hobbling, broken runners at Gatwick Airport and discovered each had completed the equivalent of six marathons; in six days in the Sahara Desert. This physical and mental feat was literally beyond my comprehension, I’d yet to tackle a “normal” marathon in the UK, let alone an ultra or multi-stage event. In the past, my chequered teenage sporting achievements had been particularly minimal and PE lessons were avoided where possible. However, a seed had been planted and I’d wonder if I’d ever be a “good enough” runner to even dare to enter.
Fast forward to 2015, after months of training in Riyadh, getting cosy with the kitchen scales weighing out rehydrated food and cutting the end off my toothbrush amongst other load lightening measures I was ready! Stood on the Marathon des Sable start line alongside over thousand ultra-