They call it the toughest foot-race on earth…

Call it a fit of madness or simply mad fitness; I am becoming obsessed with a 150 miles, 6-day, cross-Sahara, ultra-marathon called the ‘Marathon des Sables.’

The Marathon des Sables UK website calls it “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 beer.” In case the gravity of what the MdS entails, has yet to sink in, the MdS website converts miles into their bigger number sister.

The distance is about 156 miles. That’s 254 Km.
The longest stage is about 55 miles. That’s 91 Km.

But frankly, the organizers are right when they say:

” You will struggle to explain to people why you would want to do this.”

In theory, 6 days of up to 20 hours a day of running should be nothing after 73 days of 12 hours a day of rowing, but that was the Atlantic and this is the Sahara. Somehow the addition of sand makes it seem less enticing. Which would you choose, (if you had to choose) between running a desert and rowing an ocean? As Eddie Izzard would say, Cake or Death

Alarmingly (for me, anyway) drop-out places have become available for the 2012 race beginning in early April. Fortunately I am safe, for now. I have other commitments. I am doing an MA in Professional Writing at the University of Falmouth and early April isn’t quite the Easter holidays.

Fun facts from the MdS website:

The organisation comprises of:

100 volunteers on the course itself
• 400 support staff overall
• 120 000 liters of mineral water
• 270 Berber and Saharan tents
• 100 all-terrain vehicles
• 2 “Ecureuil” helicopter and 1 “Cessna” plane
• 3 mountain bikes
• 6 “MDS special” commercial planes
• 23 buses
• 4 camels
• 1 incinerator lorry for burning waste
• 4 quads to ensure environment and safety on race
• 52 members of medical team
• 6,5 kms of Elastoplast, 2 700 Compeed, 19 000 compresses
• 6 000 painkillers, 150 liters of disinfectant

• 1 editing bus, 5 cameras, 1 satellite image station
• 6 satellite telephones, 15 computers, fax and internet


30 % Previous MdS competitors
25 % UK & Ireland entrants
30 % French entrants
14 % Women
45 % Veterans
30 % In teams of three or more
10 % Walkers
90 % Alternate walking and running
14 km/hr: average maximum speed
3 km/hr: average minimum speed
Age of youngest competitor: 16
Age of oldest competitor: 78


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5 responses to “They call it the toughest foot-race on earth…”

  1. Graham K says :


    I wobbled across the finish line of the MdS in 2008 – every part of the journey (including all the training) was incredible. Any pain and discomfort is balanced with the most beautiful environment I have had the privledge to run through. The MdS has more to do with managing your head and body than it has to do with running in the purest sense.

    If a wee boy fae Glasgow can do it …you would cruise it. I have heard 2013 will be a classic edition ;-)

    Graham K

    ps – I reckon the hardest part of the race was actually posting the entry form (I crapped out that bit and gave the envelope for a pal to post)

  2. Dale says :

    I dont see you doing the desert race, But I can see you biking the alps.

  3. Billy Amos says :

    You are incredible!

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