Marathon des Sables

All this talk about the human body has got me thinking about those who choose to test its limits.  Julie Moss in the 1982 Ironman was a great example in class.  Her entire body basically stopped working, but she still fought on to finish the race, crawling across the finish line.

When we were learning about this, I was reminded of another race I had heard about before that involves six days, 156 miles, and the Sahara desert.  Marathon des Sables, or Marathon of the Sands, is a multiday ultramarathon race held every year in the Sahara desert.  Its participants are pushed to the absolute outer limits of what the human body is capable of.

To help you understand this more, let me just give you some background.  In the Sahara desert, daytime temperatures along the route average between 85-120 °F.  At night, temperatures can dip as low as the upper 30s.  But not only is there the likelihood of extreme heat and chill along the way, but also the potential for gusty winds, sand storms and flash flooding.  On top of that, participants have to haul around all their supplies on their backs, including food, water, snake anti-venom, and ID.  PLUS they leave the cell phones at home—there’s no electricity at the overnight camps.

What would you be putting in your backpack for a six-day trek across the desert?  Do you think there’s enough room for my mom in there, so that she can make me some lemonade at the overnight camp?

Last year’s race was set to cover about 155 miles over sand dunes, oases, dry river beds and part of Africa’s Atlas Mountains.  Most runners alternate between walking and running, while some choose to simply walk.  My advice to the participants (that I’m sure they already know): drink lots of water, eat lots of oatmeal (complex carbs!), and replace those electrolytes during the hot desert days!!  This race is absolutely insane.

Just your average participant in Marathon des Sables

Specific race information taken from

Picture cred:

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