In 2015, I was one of the 1,300 and something runners who travelled to the Moroccan Sahara in April for a little sandy jog called the Marathon des Sables.
A few weeks before we flew out, while we were all still obsessively weighing out food, vacuum packing biltong and wondering if we’d put enough dog paw protection gunk on our feet, we got an email. The course route had been ‘revealed’. The long day of the Marathon des Sables 2015, so the email said, would be the longest long day in the long history of this iconic ultra race. This year we’d be running 91km.
At that point my heart sank a bit, my bum squeaked a lot. The furthest I’d run before was 100km, all along the nice flat Thames Path, or up the manageable hills of the Race to the Stones. Never in sand. Never climbing enormous jebels, never in searing heat and never on top of three days of running close-to-marathon distances.
That day, as I sat in the sauna trying to improve my sweat response in time for the desert heat, I wondered what it would be like. How would I cope? What would be running through my mind when we got into the second half of this beastly day? At this point what you don’t know is just as daunting as what you do. I knew the Marathon des Sables long day would be the toughest day’s running I had to date but I didn’t know quite how tough.
One year later, I now know what it feels like. So for all of you who are about to embark on this mission, I thought I’d show you. Because about 60km and 9 hours into the Marathon des Sables long day in 2015, after hours in the rolling dunes, I made a video.
But you know what, it was bloody marvellous. Because two days later this moment in the photo below happened. And that sums up what it feels like to finish the whole thing.
And so to all the people who are about to head out on this crazy adventure, I wish you all best of luck. You’re in for the best of times and the worst of times, but good and bad they’re all bloody brilliant memories.
(Images courtesy of Ian Corless Photography)