My (Hesitant) Running Bucket List: The Marathon des Sables
It’s cool, overcast, and drizzly today, and has been for about the last week. Last year, the temperatures were 20 degrees warmer, and the sun had already assumed its permanent position in the sky for the next 4 months. As I was running, I found myself thinking about and talking with friends about future race aspirations, training, and our plans for the coming year. I’ve been lamenting the fact that I don’t have much on my schedule until July, and the reality is that races in June and most of July really aren’t of any interest to me anyway. It’s no secret that the sun and I do not have a pleasant relationship, and just as with a black bear mother guarding her cubs, I find it best to just steer clear. Thus, I am hesitant to publicly admit my fascination with this race, which has begrudgingly made its way onto my bucket list, simply because it stands in contradiction to most of what I know about my running preferences. Yet, I’ve been following the coverage of the race on www.irunfar.com and have been reading more about the challenge, and it has sucked me in. So, you can add the Marathon des Sables to my running bucket list.
Now, I should start off by letting you know, in case you aren’t familiar with this particular race, that it takes place in the Moroccan Sahara. I complain when the temperatures rise above 90 degrees around here, and this race, even in early April, still makes those temperatures feel downright comfortable. The 28th running of the race has just completed, and the reports from the participants are downright inspiring. Over 1000 racers begin this 7-day, 6 stage, fully self-supported race through the desert. Runners are responsible for carrying everything with them, with the exception of water (which they receive at checkpoints) and shelter, which they receive in the form of a tent to sleep in each night. Over the course of those 6 stages, racers will cover 250 km, which works out to at least a marathon each day. You can read a full preview of this year’s race here.
The preparation for this race will no doubt be extreme, and I’m certainly well aware of the work involved. Well, I’m aware in as much as I can be with having never actually attempted it. With most races I’ve done, the focus has been on training (mileage, speed, terrain), nutrition, and gear (minimally). With this race, not only will I need to be aware of those aspects, but I’ll need to prepare for the heat, the desert climate itself, and the fact that I’ll have a 25L pack on my back at all times during the run. Oh, and I’d be running as many miles in a week as I typically run in 3 weeks. All of this is to say that this is not a bucket list item I can quickly cross off my list without a great deal of consideration, planning, budgeting, and training. However, the amazing and unique experience promises to make all of that hard work worth it in ways I haven’t even begun to imagine!