The Marathon des Sables

The Marathon des Sables (MDS) is a six stage, seven day 250 kilometre footrace across the Sahara desert in Morocco. Competitors carry all their food and needs with them except for a tent and rationed water.

I competed in the 27th edition of this grueling race, although I was aiming for a top 50 finish, it was not to be. I struggled to run at any pace throughout due to a training injury I took into the race, and horrific blisters which appeared all over my toes from the second day, which got progressively worse!

But I did finish, I ended up in 214th place out of approximately 860 starters, and roughly 750 finishers; still not bad for my first ever endurance race!

This race was extremely tough for numerous reasons, the heat reached 52 degrees on one day, the terrain was unforgiving with many stretches of “rock beds” and gigantic sand dunes to climb over, and to make it all worse, carrying all my food and needs for the week on my back was at times a massive morale breaker, but it’s not called the “toughest footrace race on earth” for no reason!

The Adventure. The Travel. The Challenge.

Luke

 

It’s not a race, it’s a war!

Or to learn more about this amazing event go to http://www.darbaroud.com/index.php?lang=en

Gallery here.

My Marathon des Sables Adventure

I made it back from the desert alive, and want to thank everyone for all your support before and during the race, it’s been overwhelming just how many people followed my progress. I’ve heard stories of people getting addicted to the webcam to get a glimpse of myself or another runner doing something interesting across the finishing line, this has given me a huge appreciation of the immense support I had in the Sahara.

As you all know, my goal was to finish in the top 50, unfortunately I fell short of that with only finishing 214th. For those of you who were following me closely probably realised along the way something was wrong, I had a few little problems, but to understand exactly what happened, here is my MDS story.

Arriving in Morocco, it was a lot colder than I had expected, and in typical airport fashion, it took several hours to clear customs then be shuttled to the hotel. The following morning the entire UK contingent of the race (who all flew in together on a charter flight the day before) were all up early to board a bus for the four hour trip into the middle of the desert. The bus trip took us up and down and around several bends, with my stomach not having the greatest of times at all, but my new friend Jamie who I was seated next to was visually hurting a lot more than I was.

We eventually stopped, but still had another 30 minutes of travelling in what could only be described as cattle trucks to our camp.

We spent the first two nights in the desert getting to know our tents mates, and experiencing what life was going to be like over the following week. I shared a tent with seven other guys, two of whom were from The Royal Navy, two were Royal Marines, Adrian, Jamie, and our random South African friend Rob. We all got on extremely well, and was a great laugh (even though none of the non military guys had any idea what the military guys were talking about when they were using their “military slang”), but in typical Luke fashion I would annoy the hell out of them by simply referring to them all as the army boys, while constantly asking them annoying question like “What’s it like in the army?” And “Do you have this and that in the army?” It made me laugh at the very least!

But as I said we all got on very well, looked out for each other, encouraged those who had tough days, and there were plenty of jokes flying around the tent!

DAY 1

33.8 kilometres

It was finally here, the past five months of my life has been dedicated to this race, I have lived and breathed an elite ultra runner’s life, and now all that hard work and dedication was to be put on the test.

As the field set off, with helicopters hovering overhead I felt an immense source of energy, courage, and spirit within me that this was my race, and I was ready.

I set off at my own comfortable pace, check point one came and I was feeling fine, then we had a couple of climbs, they were fine too. I was feeling fresh, reminding myself it was day one and to not push too hard to early, so I was happy to just cruise along. We then had a technical descent between jaggered edged boulders with sandy passages streaming between them. I managed to get to the bottom (which was about 12 kilometres to the finish of the stage) but as the terrain flattened out my knee (or actually ITB, which was the injury I was carrying into the race and the reason I had a cortisone injection two weeks before the event) flared up badly and forced me to a halt. I couldn’t move for a minute or two, then slowly managed to move forwards gingerly.

After only 20 kilometres of the race completed, I now had to carry this painful, inflamed swollen knee. I continued to walk for less than 10 minutes; afterwards I was reduced to a hobble but pushed myself to run (although much slower than my previous pace.)

Finally I arrived at the finishing line of stage one. My knee felt like it was being jabbed with a hot poker, and absolutely killing me; at this moment I knew my goal of top 50 finish was out the window, with only getting through the week now on my mind.

It was very disappointing to know that I only managed 20 kilometres of the 250 pain free, and that I was going to “run” the rest of the race with sharp, burning pain in my knee. Frustrated didn’t even come close to how felt, even though I finished the stage in 28th position, I felt like my race was over before the start of the second day.

DAY 2

38.5 kilometres

I woke to a very warm morning and in a positive frame of mind. I hoped my knee may have settled over night with some rest, and I will be ready to go again, then I stood up and tried to walk!

I hobbled over to the start line with one goal, run as fast as I could for as long as I could. If I needed to walk then I’d walk, but only when the pain became excruciating in my knee and I was unable to cope with the agony. (In hindsight, this was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done!)

My mind was strong even if my body didn’t mirror its feeling. I thought if I kept positive in my head, and made my head be the boss rather then my body, I would make it through the rest of the week.

The stage started with a lot of sand, which I found out quickly would be my nemesis in numerous ways. The sand would make my knee pain worse due to having to push harder as I’m running through it, so the six kilometres of dunes shortly after the beginning of stage two were a constant pain land mine. I walked a lot, falling down several times to receive a mouthful of warm desert sand.

Coming into the penultimate check point of the day, hobbling like an old man who needs a hip replacement, the doctor was called to attend to me. I laid impatiently on the sandy floor of the doctors tent as he asked me all sorts of questions. I told him, “all you can do for me mate is give me a massage to try and release some tension in my ITB, a few pain killers, and high 5; and that’s about it!” He laughed and agreed after I gave him my reasons for this outburst.

After a quick 20 minute massage, and several pain killers, I was out of the tent and heading across a dried up lake to the next check point, it was 10 kilometres dead straight ahead, through what I later found out was 46 degree heat. The first two kilometres were horrible, I remember filming a few more tears at this low point, but I didn’t want to stop/walk/or slow down, so I kept moving on.

I told myself, “Luke you have eight kilometres to the next check point, get there as quickly as possible, just deal with the pain!”

I worked hard and made the checkpoint in a decent amount of time, and surprisingly with manageable pain. I now had 11 kilometres to the day’s end, but with multiple different types of terrain to be overcome; this wasn’t going to be an easy task.

There was three kilometres of dunes where I gritted my teeth and dealt with the searing pain shooting through my knee. I was less then 10 kilometres from the finishing line of the stage, so I wasn’t going to let my knee or anything else stop me from getting to the end quickly.

Fist sized rocks scattered across the dirt floor had to be awkwardly covered, before I negotiated my way through hilly sandy passages that weaved their way around the large boulders lodged into the earth.

Hobbling across the second day’s finishing line was literally a relief, as it was a tough day on my body, which was constantly in pain from the very first step.

Back at the tent as I was waiting for the others to arrive, I took my shoes and socks off to find mountains of blisters EVERYWHERE! The blisters were all over my toes, under, and between them as well. I was so focused on my knee pain I hadn’t felt my feet at all, and lets just say it was tough to eat my food after seeing them.

I went to go and have them looked at, with the food doctors or “Doc Trotters” as they were known simply said “wow” I bet they hurt, before slicing and dicing through my blisters and wrapping up my toes to try to stop any infections, they were truly mummified.

DAY 3

35 kilometres

With very little sleep on the desert floor due to having an upset stomach, my knee and feet pulsated with every heartbeat, and several of my tent mates (who will remain anonymous) snoring like grizzly bears throughout the night. In the morning when I struggled to stand up, I knew it was going to be a tough day.

My feet felt like they were stepping on razor blades, my knee (to my knowledge) had a hot sharp poker inside it, stabbing me with each step, and I had just short of a marathon to complete today. My moral was quite low today due to the amount of pain I was in, and the complete realisation that a top 50 finish was beyond my reach (even though I started the day in 44th position overall).

All the boys in the tent got behind me and encouraged my efforts to keep working hard and push myself. I had a great sense of support from each and everyone of them, this literally helped me to stay focused throughout the day. (Thanks tent 70)

I think by now you all get the picture of the pain I was in, it simply got progressively worse with each step, everyday. I also realised that on sand I was unable to walk up or down hill, (due to my knee) unless I hopped down on my left leg. Any flat sandy passages, well I could hobble through some, but most I needed to walk across (bodies choice not mine).

Setting off as fast as I could for the third stage of my Marathon des Sables adventure, and with many runners passing me, I simply kept my head down and worked as hard as I possibly could while being solely focused on the task at hand, one foot in front of the other.

It was HOT, the organisor’s decided to give everyone an extra bottle of water at a certain check point due to the temperature potentially reaching over 50 degrees centigrade (it ended up reaching 52).

After this stage everyone was talking about how beautiful it was with all the mountains, valleys, rock cliffs, and dunes; I saw none of this. I was in my little pain box trying to push forward as hard as I could and as fast as my pain threshold could manage.

The last 10 kilometres of the stage went something like this, hobble hobble ARGH, stop for 30 seconds, walk for a minute, hobble hobble ARGH, and repeat.

I wasn’t even bothered that I finished; I just wanted to get off my feet, and stop limping.

Unfortunately, this evening my upset stomach got worse, my guts were not in my control (you can imagine the rest). My feet were notably worse, and I needed to see the Doc Trotters again due to the blood coming through some of my bandaged toes, and the throbbing pain pulsating through my feet. The doc wrapped me up again, but several of my toes had become infected, so I received a box of penicillin and told to go and put my feet up for the rest of the day.

But the relaxed atmosphere of the camp soon became a panic when it was hit by a massive sand storm throughout the afternoon and evening. This forced most of us to sleep inside our sleeping bags with sand goggles on, an interesting experience to say the least.

DAY 4

81.5 kilometres

With the elite top 50 men, and top five woman setting off three hours later than the rest of the field, I was preparing for what was going to be on of the toughest, and most emotional days of my life!

I was in a good mood even though I knew I had an epic battle to get around the days stage. My game plan was to run hard when I could, walk when my body wouldn’t let me run, but always keep moving forward at all costs. Implementing this strategy meant I should get back to camp (after leaving at 8:30am) around 11pm (at a guess) then have a good nights rest, before enjoying a day off tomorrow.

WELL, as the daily messages were read out to our tent the words “congratulations, you have someone starting at the later time of 11:30am” made my heart drop into my stomach, and head shake profusely with disbelief. “Number 540 well done, you’re starting at the later time.” I was gutted, but also quite confused as I believed there was no way I could still be in the top 50 after yesterday’s long, tough day.

As the main pack of runners set off, I watched and cheered them on truly wishing I were amongst them. After the last runner started their epic day, the rest of the top 50 men and top five woman made their way back to the few tents which were left standing to lay down and relax. As I spoke with numerous competitors I knew I was clearly the odd one out, these guys completed several top 50 finishes in the MDS, ran some of the most grueling ultra marathon races throughout the world, and at least 15-20 of them were sponsored by nutritional, or running equipment companies in some way. The bloke who was resting next to me had won a 24-hour race in Hong Kong six months earlier (yes he ran as far as he could in 24 hours). Six months ago I was an injured football player, and he was running for 24 hours, all I could do was laugh when that inevitable question came to me by these ultra runners.

“What other races have you done, have you won any?” After a large smile came across my face, I simply replied “mate, this is my first EVER race, I’ve never had a race number before!” With a puzzled look and several more questions, they all thought I was absolutely insane, crazy, but gutsy too for choosing the MDS for my first ever race.

As the elite runners all lined up side by side in the middle of the desert for the start of the 81.5 kilometre day, I thought to myself, just keep moving, deal with your knee, block out the razor blades in your shoes which are stabbing into every single one of your toes and finish this thing, JUST FINISH!

We set off and immediately I went to the back of the field with a few other stragglers who were also visibly hurting.

We hit some small dunes, followed by flat sandy stretches after five kilometres; this pulled me to a grinding halt. The pain intensified crossing each dune; all the late starters overtook me, this didn’t bother me in the slightest though.

Sitting at the back of the entire field was an interesting experience, there was no pressure, I was running my own race, I had no one around, it was almost like I was in the desert alone, a very surreal feeling at times.

After a huge rocky climb followed by a 20 % gradient decent down a sandy passage for a couple of hundred metres, I reached checkpoint one. I was feeling ok, dealing with my pain.

Leaving the checkpoint with only refilling my bottles and hobbling over some more small dunes I started to feel quite ill, light headed, and with little energy. My stomach became painful with sharp stabbing pains and an uncomfortable tight twisted feeling; I was forced into a bent over staggering walk.

At times I was unable to move anymore than a slow painful shuffle, then with approximately six kilometres until check point two (which was another 57 kilometres from the finish) I took a turn for the worse.

I was swaying side to side, I wanted to throw up and go to the toilet but couldn’t, I ate, I drank but it just made me feel worse. I couldn’t control my head it was all over the place; I was alone, in the heat, and not in a good way at all. My mind kept saying “one foot in front of the other, aim for that mountain” (which I thought the direction of the checkpoint was in).

After a while a car drove by and asked if I was ok and do I need medical attention? I managed to mumble a no, and how far to next checkpoint?

No? What was I thinking, of course I needed help, I could barely raise my head in order to see what direction I was shuffling in.

I had two kilometres until the next checkpoint, just two kilometres…

Due to starting late, I was at the back of the entire field, and one of the final few stragglers making their way into the second checkpoint of the day. I received my rationed water, and then ushered to the medical tent where a doctor laid me down, elevated my feet and asked me several questions. I was told to drink a whole bottle of water with some sort of electrolyte solution, swallow some salt tablets with another tablet to help settle my stomach.

If I could drink the bottle of water, keep it down, and pee then I could carry on, if not; then I would be forced to have an Intravenous drip, and incur a two hour time penalty.

I started drinking the murky mix that I was handed by a nurse, and just like a rubber ball hitting hard concrete, the entire contents of my stomach shot straight up, and out my mouth and nose.

Six litres of water I had already consumed that day ended up on the sand next to my feet in less than 10 seconds!

* We all thought I was dehydrated, but the next day after speaking with the same doctor we realised that I had a stomach infection, which was related to the virus I had the day before, dehydration was simply a result of the virus emptying my body of all its fluids.

I laid back down on my sandy bed in the medical tent, with the doctor putting it to me like this “You have 57 kilometres to the end of today, you cannot make it in this condition, you have two options. One, I withdraw you from the race now (you can imagine I was shaking my head profusely as he was saying this) or two; I give you an IV drip and if you can pee afterwards and you feel/look ok you can continue.”

I simply lifted my right arm up towards the doctor and said, “lets get started!”

After three litres of IV, and being horizontal in the medical tent for two hours, the last couple of medics left at the checkpoint were as I made my way off into the desert.

There were 14 kilometres until checkpoint three, and it had a cut off time to continue in the race; it was in three hours.

I felt this next stretch of he race would define my entire MDS experience. If I struggled badly I would be forced out of the race, if I stayed steady I would make it with enough time to spare, but also this next stretch was not about making the next check point as fast as possible, it was more than that. It was a race, a race to stay in the race, I HAD to make it, there was no two ways about it!

With this analysis taking the first two kilometres until I hit a sandy passage, which was also my first experience of a sand storm while running. The raging winds pushed me around as I struggled with ach step against this invisible force. With sand goggles securely strapped around my head I let out a huge roar and simply said to the desert “bring it on” as I continued my mission for survival in the MDS!

With my watch not working anymore due to the battery going dead and my solar charger not working as it was full of sand, I had no idea how I was doing for time, or what pace I was “moving” at, I just kept pushing as hard as I could hoping it was fast enough.

I eventually made check point three in enough time; just at it got dark. I had something to eat, refilled my bottles, and then put on my head torch on to set off into the night, I knew it would be a mammoth evening.

The next two check points involved a combined distance of 24 kilometres, with 22 of those being huge sand dunes. It was a strange experience being in the desert at night, out in the open air with only the luminous stars to keep me company.

As I hobbled, walked, strolled, yelled, screamed, and cried throughout the night, I continued my crawling pace up the steep dunes, while trying not to fall down their descents. I made this entire stage a war, with each check point a battle. In order to win the war I had to win each battle, knowing each battle would be different, some more difficult than others, and some I would feel I couldn’t win at times, but I would never ever give up; some how I would overcome each battle and be the victor of my MDS stage four war!

Finishing this long stretch of dunes, I passed through checkpoints fours and five; I had one checkpoint to go until a nine kilometre stretch of sand to the finish this near double marathon stage.

Between checkpoint five and six, I was able to get a bit of a hobble on and eat up some kilometres with only a few arghs and colourful uses of the English, Polish, and French languages!

I reached the final checkpoint of the stage, I was hungry and thirsty, but had no food left for this stage, but enjoyed the bottle of water I was handed by one of the volunteers. I filled my bottles and set off back into the darkness of the night.

I hit sand immediately, which was agonising for both for my feet and my knee, I was reduced to walking with a hobble once more.

To make matters worse I was in need of food, my glucose levels were very low, and I had nothing left to eat. I tried to remain focused, but at times I was wondering off course and staggering until I would catch myself heading in the wrong direction, fatigue and sleep deprivation was kicking in and I still had close to seven kilometres to go.

It was roughly 2am; I was reduced to a slow walk, and was now getting cold. With no long sleeve jacket to put on (a decision I made to keep the weight down in my backpack.) I needed to push a little faster in order to keep my blood pumping to keep me warm, this came at a price though, increased pain to knee and feet, and a stronger feeling of fatigue.

After a while I could see the finish line, and without a thought I broke into a hop hop hobble, but only to immediately come crashing down in the sand with my knee giving way. Hunched over on all fours in the sand, starving, and with only approximately two kilometres until the end of this very long day, I simply had to keep going. I picked myself up and pushed as hard as I could until the finish line, yelling and screaming at myself to urge me on.

I had run into every checkpoint, or stage end of the race so far, this finishing line was to be no different. I picked up the pace as much as I could until I eventually crossed the finish line.

The webcam (that was set up at the finishing line of each stage) caught my eye for the first time in the race, I walked straight up to it and pointed to my heart, as this is what got me through the 81.5 kilometres in just over 15 hours, finishing at 3am local time.

Dragging my wounded body to my tent, I managed to eat some of my designated recovery food, and get ready for bed. My feet were quite swollen, and it took 30 minutes to get each sock off. With my bloodied bandages still wrapped around my toes and feet, a knee that felt like it was on fire, I laid in my sleeping bag knowing I won that war, but unsure at what price…

Day 5

Rest day!

After eventually getting to sleep at around 4am, I was able to get about four hours sleep before I needed to eat, and pee. After sorting myself out I had a few more hours of dosing throughout the morning.

Although I was resting, I knew I wasn’t in a good way as my knee didn’t want to bend, and my feet were throbbing while I was simply lying down. After several hours, I made the tough decision to head over to the doctors tent to have my feet looked at.

My feet barely resembled well, feet. After the second stage I had blisters everywhere, very little skin on my little toes, and bits of raw flesh here and there. Now after another two days of running, I had literally no skin on my little toes (thanks to the doctor’s scalpel), my nail beds were all puffed up with blisters, and the blisters I had previously were now bleeding wounds. Although I had been in the doctor’s tent each day for treatment, and running with my feet taped up, they continued to get progressively worse each stage.

Several doctors, nurses, and other runners looked and took pictures of my toes, some of their faces were priceless, and they all said the same thing “how are you still running, you are crazy!”

My toes were MDS celebrities for five minutes.

Afterwards my poor knee had several more doses of painkillers pumped into it to try and relieve some of the pain.

That afternoon something miraculous happened, it not only poured down with rain, but we had a hailstorm! That’s right, in the middle of the Saharan desert it was hailing down, none of us could believe it, what a way to finish our rest day, soaked with water, battered and bruised from icy balls being thrown down from above..

Day 6

42.2 kilometres

Marathon day!

As I gingerly got out of my sleeping bag this morning to go to the bathroom, I was met with immediate laughter from my tent mates. They all found it hilarious how I was moving, and more so; that I had to run a full marathon starting in two hours time. I laughed too, but knew it was going to be an emotional day.

Having ran the entire race so far alone, with only brief encounters of small chit chat with other runners on course, one of my tent mates said let’s run together. This came at a great relief knowing I had someone else to share the pain of running a marathon on this day. Jamie, or Croc as I named him, as one night while everyone was heading off to sleep, out of nowhere, not even closely related to the conversation topic rambled over that night he asked, “Luke, is Crocodile Dundee still alive??” I laughed so hard and said from now on you’re known as Croc!

We headed off together quite slowly, me hobbling as usual but a lot slower than previous days, and Croc urging me to run faster as I was slowing him down. I wanted him to run his own race, but insisted he wanted to stay with me, which helped me to stay strong. But, after 8 kilometres he headed off and I was alone again. I arrived at checkpoint one relieved, I covered quite rocky terrain and my feet and knee were struggling a lot.

Two kilometres after this checkpoint I tore a hole in my running shorts, so my skin was rubbing on the lycra of my other leg. With eight kilometres until my next checkpoint to go, although my skin was getting quite red, I just brushed it off and thought I will have the docs tape it up once I arrived.

I headed straight to the medical tent to see the state of my inside leg, to simply have the doc tape it up. To my amazement the rubbing had removed the skin and some flesh, creating a steady stream of blood flowing down half of my leg. The doc applied some antiseptic, which felt how you could imagine, taped it up, and I was off.

I had another six kilometres of dunes in this next stretch, I hobbled when I could, walked when I had no other option, but always pushed forward. I just wanted to finish each stage as fast as possible so the pain would stop. With tomorrow only consisting of roughly 16 kilometres, if I could just get through this marathon day, I would be so close to finishing The Marathon des Sables.

At the end of the dunes I saw Croc, he was hurting, the week had caught up to him. As he had helped me to get through the first few kilometres of this stage, it was now time for me to return the favour by encouraging him through this dark patch of his race. Together we shuffled and urged each other on, we stayed together for the rest of the stage, and picked each other up when we both literally fell flat on our faces. Crossing the finish line today I felt I used a lot of my strength and power in order to get through the 42.2 kilometres, this is why I gave everyone who was watching a close up of the guns and my tattoo FORTIS who was watching the live webcam!

The biggest disappointment for me was as soon as I finished the stage and stopped running I wasn’t tired, even though I had just completed a marathon. I headed back to the tent and all the other runners were flat out exhausted but I was fine, so I began my post run routine as per usual; stretching, cooking food, self massage, and eating. I was not fatigued, tired, or even in the slightest need of a sleep, my injuries were inhibiting me from running fast enough to get tired. Everyone in our tent just relaxed for the remainder of the afternoon watching runners cross the finishing line of the desert this desert marathon.

With running over for the day, the entire camp were treated with a surprise concert; a 12 piece orchestra with an accompanying soprano stepping in for several pieces. It was a surreal experience sitting in the middle of the desert, under the stars while listening to a live orchestra, simply amazing, and a highlight of my trip!

Day 7

15.5 kilometres

Everyone was excited about today, it was the final day of the event. But with nine kilometres to cover of the biggest sand dunes in Morocco, it wasn’t all smiles.

As I set off with Croc again a little past 9am, I was moving very very slowly, I soon realised how slow  when people who were casually walking started overtaking me, and then I heard Croc yelling at me “C’MON, what are you doing?” I yelled back, “I’m running as fast as I can!”

He soon left me to fend for myself; I don’t blame him at the pace I was moving. I continued to hobble and strain with the feeling of a thousand razor blades cutting into my feet with each step, and a scorching hot, sharp poker be jammed into my knee. I was so close to the end, I just needed my mind to stay strong for a little while longer, I knew I had it in me. Making the first and only checkpoint of this last stage signaled the final leg of the 2012 Marathon des Sables, I had less than 10 kilometres to finish the race. At the checkpoint I sucked down some water, and headed off into the mountainous golden peaked sand formations.

The dunes went something like this for me, hobble hobble, walk, walk, up, down, argh, up, down, argh walk, hobble etc.

I caught up with my mate Croc about four kilometres from the end, we decided to work together, as both of us were hurting pretty bad. In the final 500 metres I really struggled, so I urged him to stay strong and I would meet him at the finishing line. Dragging myself over the last dune and down into the finishing lane with hundreds of people out to cheer all the competitors across the line really lifted my spirits, and made me realise the great feat in which I was about to achieve. Finally I crossed the finish line, I had done it, I finished the 27th Marathon des Sables. I did it on one knee, and with bloodied, blistered, infected toes from day two; but none of this mattered now as I’d finished!

With all the elation and joy which was being spread around as people finished their own race, I couldn’t help but feel dissatisfied that I wasn’t able to work as hard as I wanted and to my level of fitness throughout the race and attempt my goal of a top 50 finish, but that’s sport, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

Although I was battered, I had completed what many deem the toughest footrace on earth. I had a great feeling of relief that the race was over and that I would not have to run anymore in excruciating pain.

Crossing the line I was given a medal from the race organiser Patrick Bauer, a bag full of food, and ticket for a bus which left in 45 minutes for our 5 ½ hour journey back to the hotel.

Sitting with some of my tent mates who finished before me, and being harassed from the desert children for any sort of kit they could get their hands on (eventually I gave in and two lucky kids were the owners of my hat, and buff) we all laughed and chatted about the week that was, and were all adamant we would never do it again!

Post Race

I spent two nights in Quazarate before flying back to London, as my feet were bloodied infected stumps, walking was an intense task. After my first shower in nine days, and having my feet taped up again, it was time to eat. I the food never had a chance, as soon I had my plate in front of me filled with cous cous, salads, chicken, rice, and other colourful dishes which I have no idea what they were, it had all been inhaled and I was ready for bed! I only ate 14,000 calories in 7 days during the evnt, the boy was hungry!!

The next day we all went to the awards presentation to see the winners be given their trophies, and the rest of us were given our bright yellow finishers t-shirts. My tent mates and I walked around a local market haggling for bargains, until it was time for an afternoon nap, followed by our final meal together as tent 70 of the 27th Marathon des Sables. After dinner, a few well earned beers were in order before retiring to our rooms for the last nights sleep in Morocco.

This was my MDS Adventure!


The Adventure. The Travel. The Challenge.


Luke


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