re-sized marathon des sables

It’s time for the annual Marathon des Sables in the Sahara

One of the toughest races in the world, the Marathon des Sables starts on the 1st April – and I wonder how many of those runners will feel like an April Fool by the end of the day!

There will be 900 participants in the 26th edition of this extreme ultra-marathon. 900 is very impressive. 900 people who have reached the state of preparation to tackle an event of this enormity.

Marathon des Sables, the 250 km self-supported ultra marathon in the Sahara Desert, Morocco

Marathon des Sables

This Marathon des Sables is a 250 km free style event not unlike the RacingThePlanet events that we cover here regularly. It is divided into six steps from 20 to 80 km, including a non-stop all-nighter. For six days, seven for some, the marathon runners will have to be self-sufficient with food, clothes, medical kit, sleeping bag, etc,  but there will be plenty of water en route for re-supplies and tents provided at night. 400 people, including 50 doctors, 30 logistics officers and 28 supervisors will be monitoring the race.

Temperatures are expected to reach 48 degrees, and sandstorms are a possibility. Most of the terrain that will covered will be rocky although between 15 – 20% of the race will be in sand dunes. It is in races such as these that mental stamina is what gets you to the finish line at the end of the day. It’s extremely tough and it is extraordinary to think that for some people who sign up for this will be their first time running a marathon let alone an ultra-marathon!

Alastair Humphreys ran this race in 2008 and left some very sage advice for anyone else contemplating the challenge: “The MdS is entirely about body management. The key is a total awareness of your mind and body and the discipline to take control of any situations that arise. If your feet hurt: stop and tape them up. If you do not you will regret it later. If you are tired, think ‘why’. Deal with it. Drink more. Eat salt. Eat food. Deal with the situation. If you do not you will slow down and lose places.

If your mind is weak and tired, deal with it. Get a grip of yourself. Remember your motivations. Eat painkillers. Stick on the heels of somebody who overtakes you and do not let them escape until you are strong again. Listen to music and escape it all. Quit whingeing and run faster – it’s the best way to get the day over and done with!”

We have him to thank for the following video, snapshots of the grueling challenge and the camaraderie that it builds:

Marathon des Sables from Alastair Humphreys on Vimeo.

The event will be covered by 100 television channels and other media and followed in 200 countries, and with all this publicity the organisers aim to draw attention to some environmentally friendly renovations en route such as photovoltaic pumping stations located in Tinghir and Zagora.

Good luck to you all…

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