This was the text I sent a few days ago to my mate Barry Griffin.
“What’s that then?” was his reply.
So in a sentence, this is the Marathon des Sables:
“The Marathon des Sables (MdS, Marathon of the Sands, or Sahara Marathon) is a six-day, 156 mile ultramarathon, which is the equivalent of six regular marathons across the Sahara Desert.
And why not? It’s the ultimate endurance test. The toughest footrace on earth.
It was while out running the other day I got thinking what I could do in 2013,14,15,16… once 2012’s challenges are complete. Then I remembered reading about this event in an amazing book, which by the way, I highly recommend. The book is called “Survival of the fittest. Understanding health and peak physical performance” – even writing the title makes me laugh with that title! I agree, it’s quite a claim for the front cover of a book and most people I tell about it laugh too, but trust me, if you’re interested in anything at all to do with fitness, sport, sports science, evolution, survival, working at the extremes, nutrition… so on and so forth, dont be put off by the title. It genuinly is a brilliant read and at less than £7 with free delivery on amazon (click here), what’s to lose! I’m going off on abit of tangent here so i’ll just quickly say it’s written by a man called Dr Mike Stroud who accompanied Sir Ranulph Fiennes in the crossing of Antarctica unaided and on their 7 Marathon in 7 Days on 7 Continents challenge. It’s a brilliant read for anyone who thinks they’re too old to exercise as well. Cannot recommend it enough along with Fiennes autobiography where I first read about Dr Stroud… two amazing people.
Getting back to the Marathon des Sables…
So what does it involve then?
Well, as mentioned above, the MdS is a multi-day, ‘ultramarathon’. Run in six days over a course of between about 150 and 156 (254km) miles long. (That’s the equivalent of running from London to Dover, deciding not to go to France after all and running back again. In 120 degree heat. With a back pack on. And voices in your head, talking about ice cold beers and jumping into a cold pool)!!!!
As examples of what lies beyond the starting line the longest single stage in 2009 was 55 miles (91km) but typical distances are 151 miles (243km) broken down as:
Day 1, 25 km; Day 2, 34 km; Day 3, 38 km; Day 4, 82 km; Day 5, 42 km; Day 6, 22 km, although routes and formats change every year as the Race Director and his team spend a month during the previous year meticulously planning the new routes that are held secret until the day before the even starts.
There is a rest day after the longest stage but it’s worth remembering that it may well take competitors into that day before they get to the finish!
Competitors stay overnight in a tented villages, comprised of bivouacs that sleep about 8 competitors. Once you get your “bivvy” your bivvy team become your family, your support team, your nursing team and invariably they become long-term friends. “The most memorable sound of an evening is the rumble of weary laughter that echoes around the tented village.”
Sold? I am. Maybe not for 2013 but 2014…? Possible. Either way, i’m 26 and want to complete this before I turn 30. Not long then really and after last nights 9 mile training run, the thought of this seems crazy or stupid? Mad even… but there’s a great saying that I always remember: “I can accept failure, but I can’t accept not trying”. I want to “try” this and succeed.
6 Marathons in 6 days, across the Sahara V’s my one 9 mile training run and zero marathons under my belt… possible? Anything is possible.