Marathon des Sables (literally “Marathon of the Sands” or “MdS” as it is affectionately known) is the world’s toughest footrace and is held annually in the Sahara desert, Morocco drawing around 750 competitors from around 30 countries. The first event began in 1986 and is organised by a French adventurer, Patrick Bauer.
The MdS course is approximately 243 km (151 miles) crossing miles of sand and rocky terrain over a period of 6 days, the equivalent of 5 ½ marathons. Some 15% – 20% of the course is in sand dunes. Daytime peak temperatures can reach up to 47 degrees celsius (that’s about 116 degrees Fahrenheit) and no shade!
The course is split into 6 stages:
- Stage 1 – 25km (approx 15.5 miles)
- Stage 2 – 34km (approx 21.1 miles)
- Stage 3 – 58km (approx 36.1 miles)
- Stage 4 – 91km (approx 56.5 miles)
- Stage 5 – 42km (approx 26.1 miles)
- Stage 6 – 22km (approx 13.6 miles)
That’s a speed of between 3 and 14 km per hour for competitors aged between 16 and 78.
In addition, competitors have to carry everything they will need for the duration (apart from a tent) on their backs in a rucksack (food, clothes, medical kit, sleeping bag etc). Water is rationed and handed out at each checkpoint.