The Marathon Des Sables Race, 2009

In response to our offer to help promote outdoor charitable events, raise the profile of up-and-coming outdoor sports professionals via media sponsorship, offers to share your news and advice, and our eagerness to encourage outdoor sports participation we’ve had some interest from people who wish to feature in our blog…and I have to say they are quite some feats!

Marathon Des Sables Race 2009Marathon Des Sables

First up is Andrew McMaster, a medical student from Manchester University who wrote a piece on his preparations for the toughest foot race on Earth: the Marathon Des Sables to raise money for Manchester’s St Anne’s Hospice.  This will be published shortly…here though, is a little bit of background on the race.

The Toughest Foot Race on Earth

The Marathon des Sables (Marathon of the Sands) is a six-day, 254 km (156 mile) ultramarathon, which is the equivalent to five and 1/2 regular marathons. The longest single stage is 84 km (52 miles) long…not for the feint hearted.

The Marathon Des Sables is held every year in the southern Moroccan desert. It is considered the toughest foot race on Earth, with just 600-700 particpants taking part from around the world.

Facts about the Marathon Des Sables

  • The first event of the Marathon Des Sables started in 1986.
  • During the 1994 race, Italian police officer Mauro Prosperi lost his way during a sand storm and wandered lost for more than 9 days, losing over 13 kg (30 lb) of body weight.
  • As of 2008, Lahcen Ahansal from Morocco has won 10 titles, and his brother Mohammed Ahansal has won 2 titles.

Taking Part in the Marathon des Sables

  • Competitors must carry all personal belongings and food for the entire event in their backpack. Water and tents are supplied by the organisers.
  • A typical backpack can weigh up to 110kg.
  • For the 2008 Marathon des Sables, the registration fee was $3500 and excludes flights.
  • As of 2008, two competitors have died during the race.
  • Hydration and strictly managed nutrition as key to endurance
  • Managing the sand too, is quite a challenge.  People often seal off their feet to stop / reduce sand from creeping in but, from what I hear, it’s quite a challenge!
Marathon des Sables: Sandstorm. Source:

From Runners World:

The Marathon Des Sables is far more than just a race.  It is a long and sometimes painful dissection of the human spirit.  Wrestling with nerves, discomfort, exhaustion and self-doubt, competitors push themselves to their physical and mental limits in the process, pull off feats which, under normal circumstances, seem impossible.  Then there are the fleeting friendships made en route, the feisty camaraderie exchanged in the bivouacs, and the hostile yet haunting beauty of the desert – barren, desolate and humbling.

Mike Gillet

As you can see, Marathon Des Sables is a phenomenal opportunity for ultramarathon runners to test themselves their most extreme limits, but if you want to see what they go through, take a look at this video…

A Marathon Des Sables video:

More information on the Marathon Des Sables can be found here:

If you’re interested in adventure running in the desert but think that you are not ready to take on the wrath of Marathon Des Sables, then the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge might be of interest to you. It is a 6 day, desert based, triathlon event involving trekking, mountain biking and sea kayaking. Overnight camping is in bivouacs, arranged by the event organisers. It is a truly global adventure challenge event, with teams taking part from around the world.


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