April 3rd-13th saw the 30th edition of the Marathon Des Sables (MDS). Setup to be the toughest to date, the Race Director Patrick Bauer threw in an epic 91km stage on day 4. MDS is a Staged 250k self sufficient run across the Sahara Desert in Temperatures as high as 51 degree centigrade. The event is becoming ever popular with 1360 starters this year.
After months of preparation and planning I headed off to the Maroccan Sahara. We are not told the route until we are issued with our Route Book on the coach journey to the first camp. On arrival we form ourselves into tent groups, 8 person teams that we would share the restful evenings with and share stories of the days action. I was lucky enough to share a tent with ‘Walking with the wounded’ fundraisers.
This years event saw a stage structure of:
Stage 1, 36.2k
Stage 2, 31.1k
Stage 3, 36.7k
Stage 4, 91.7k
Stage 5, 42.2k
Stage 6, 11.5k
Ranaulf Feinnes embarked on this years challenge as well as 50 countries being represented on the Start line
The conditions were tough going once the heat of the day came round. The Strategy was to run as fast as I could to get to the end of each stage. The first 3 stages were taking me about 4 hours which saw me finishing just as it was getting ridiculously hot.
Stage 4 was different, my placing was in the top 50 which meant that I was to start in the Elite Chasing Start some 3 hours after the masses. This meant an 11am start to the 91k stage, straight into the hottest part of the day. I struggled in the heat, mainly not being able to eat to get the all important calories in.
It was a welcome sight to see the finish line each day. It meant time to relax and recover from the day. This involved eating and drinking to restock salt levels, raise the feet to reduce the swelling and keep out of the sun.
Some of the kit required for this event is Venom pump in case of snake bites, Sand-gaiters, used to stop sand getting into our trainers and food, we were required to carry at least 2000 calories of food per day, 14,000 calories in total. This was a truly amazing event, one that has been in the back of my mind for a while and can’t believe that I am standing here having done it.
It was a pleasure to see Sir Ranulf Fiennes, one of the oldest to complete the course at 71. I was really pleased to have finished 82nd overall in what is called ‘the toughest footrace in the world’. I learnt a lot from my experience in the desert and would like to think one day that I can have another crack at this challenge.
The British Contingent did a great job at getting booked in to a lovely hotel at the end to rest and recouporate and take full advantage of the Eat all you can buffet.
If you would like to know more information about the MDS, the link to their website is here: http://www.marathondessables.co.uk/