- The Marathon Des Sables, a 160 mile race through the Sahara desert, started April 7.
- I finished the race in 2016. It was brutally tough.
The Marathon des Sables, a six-day race through the Sahara desert, has a hard-won reputation as "The Toughest Footrace on Earth."
The 34rd edition of the race started April 7, and will cover around 250km.
The race is not for the faint-hearted.
The route takes in towering sand dunes, airless oueds (dried-up riverbeds), and scrambled jebel (rocky hill) ascents.
The distance comes in at almost a marathon a day, with the longest stage a punishing double marathon.
Competitors run or walk through 104-degree plus temperatures, carrying their food for the week. Water is rationed. Salt tablets are essential.
Competitors sleep in bivouac tents, which do little to retain warmth when the temperature drops overnight and offer limited resistance to sandstorms.
It is no surprise then that a lot of competitors don't make it to the finish. The desert is relentless, and there is a large slice of luck involved in surviving what it has to throw at you.
I finished the 31st edition of the race in 2016. This is what "The Toughest Footrace on Earth" is like:
The event required quite a bit of kit. We had to carry at least 2,000 calories a day for seven days, with the bulk of this made up by caloric freeze-dried meals. We also had to pack survival kit with items ranging from a venom pump to a signaling mirror.
We flew in to Ouarzazate in Morocco on Friday, April 8, before boarding coaches for the six-hour drive to the first bivoauc.
The bivouac camp has around 170 tents, each sleeping a maximum of eight competitors. The tents are organized by nationality, with large British and French contingents dominating camp. I stayed with three friends and a British runner named Dave who we met on the bus.
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