The time is nigh! The 29th edition of Marathon Des Sables will kick off in the Sahara desert on Sunday 6th April, with me and hubby, Dion taking part and aiming to have the race and time of our lives. Joining 1077 other participants, we will be undertaking an epic adventure to ‘run’ 160 odd miles through the desert, being fully self sufficient for 7 days, with the race taking place over 6 stages ranging in distances from 30km (18 miles) to the long day of 80km (50 miles). Not forgetting that we will be running in temperatures ranging from 40 to 50 degrees celsius and going over challenging terrain from desert sands, massive sand dunes, jebels (mountains), rocky paths and goodness knows what else which will push even the toughest to their limits. This is our chance to experience the beauty of the Moroccan desert in a unique way that only a precious few will ever have the opportunity to do so in what is also dubbed “The Toughest Footrace on Earth”.
‘Pain is temporary. It may last for a minute, or an hour or a day, or even a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit however, it will last forever.’ If you’re struggling, listen or watch this to get you going http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgmVOuLgFB0
Want to follow my progress and that of the other 1077 participants? Go to http://www.marathondessables.com here you will be able to track me by looking up my full name – Leonard, Lucja ID number 961, or for Leonard, Dion number 972. You will also be able to send us any motivational messages, there is a section ‘write to competitors’ ensuring you put my name and ID details in the subject line. Don’t include any attachments or it won’t get through. I won’t be able to respond but I will have a friend updating my twitter account, @runningdutchie and my facebook account as I should (fingers crossed) be able to get out one message a day all being well. There will also be a live webcam at each stage finish so if you are interested you will be able to watch the reactions of the runners as they complete each stage. I followed it last year and I constantly had it on in the corner of my computer, I was hooked!
My pack (Raidlight ultralight Olmo 20L, no front pack from Likeys) has weighed in at a ‘light’ 6.8kg without water, which I am pretty impressed with. The race regulations are that it must weigh 6.5kg, have at least 14,000 calories (2,000 a day for 7 days) and a list of mandatory kit items. Still to the last day I have been tossing up whether to take out my stove, camera and sleeping mat to save an entire 400g, but I just can’t see myself going without, so it stays. If you are wondering how I managed this, see the spreadsheet (LL MdS Weight for exact items by weight and what food I am taking by item, weight and calorie content. I have tried to stick to tried and tested food, shying away from sweet items, focused on savoury and ensuring a good mix of different items to help prevent menu fatigue. I know from my experience in the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon what worked for me and what didn’t, such as swapping out dried fruit & nuts for just nuts as the fruit was too sweet last time. Your body really craves salt, which is hard to imagine before you take on a massive multi day challenge like this when you are used to running half or full marathons and the focus is more on jelly babies & gels, all sugars which are great for relatively short to medium distances to give you a sugar high, but then you get the dreaded sugar crash which can leave you in a worse position! So you need to think more about slower burning energy, yet still something you can (and possibly even want to) consume on the run. Obviously I have stripped out any luxuries, my only ‘luxury’ item would be my camera. No deodorant or hairbrush; when you’re not showering for a week in those conditions these items really won’t make any difference, plus we will all smell as bad as each other!

Ready to go - full kit rehearsal
Ready to go – full kit rehearsal

I’ve had my bag packed for over a week now, which is great to alleviate any concerns in my head. I have heard of others still buying kit 7 days out to race day which would drive me crazy, and is would certainly be using up some valuable energy. I’ve actually been sorted on my kit for a good couple of months, preparation is key!

Packing!
Packing!

It’s hard to know when to taper, and by accident I think I have started to taper too soon in my eyes, see my training plan for my actual mileage, but perhaps this will be good in the long run with fresh legs to run on. I had planned on another 20 miler on the weekend of the 16th March, followed by a couple of 13-15 milers on the weekend just gone, 22nd/23rd March, but to be completely honest I just didn’t feel like it, so I didn’t! I have been spending a fair bit of time doing Bikram yoga, and have even managed to get Dion along, and surprisingly he seems to also be enjoying the experience, and hopefully the heat will work in some form of acclimatisation, if not it’s been a good form of forced stretching & relaxation which can only be good for us.
I’ve finished my taper with a great sports massage at FASIC in Edinburgh, had my nails done (it is my holiday after all) and I’m ready to rock and roll. It will be a great experience and I am looking forward to meeting some fantastic people taking part that will all have their own unique inspirational stories of why & how they are taking part. I am also looking forward to disconnecting from my day to day world and fully immerse myself in the beauty and tranquility of the desert, to dig deeper than I have ever done and find what I am capable of, and again be amazed at what the human body is capable of.

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