MdS Race Diary: Stages 1 and 2

Our intrepid ultra reporter has hit the Moroccan sands running...

The start of today's third stage of the Marathon des Sables (c) Cimbaly/SAULEM-MDS2012

Here at RW Towers we haven't had any emails from Jamie just yet... But the online tracker on the Marathon des Sables website ( shows him as having completed Stages 1 and 2 and sitting in 330th place. Considering there are 849 competitors left in the race this is pretty good going!

Catch up on Jamie's training blog posts, or read on to get a taste of what Jamie will be facing in the desert over the next few days, courtesy of our 2011 MdS blogger Alison Hamlett.

What is the Marathon des Sables?

The Marathon des Sables (MdS or Marathon of the Sands) is a seven-day six-stage race held annually across a section of the Sahara desert in southern Morocco. 2012 sees the 27th running of the event that is often referred to as the toughest footrace on earth on account of the 240K (150 mile) distance, brutal terrain and temperatures that can reach up to 50 degrees Celsius.

The exact route isn't revealed until the day before the start and runners have to remain self-sufficient throughout the event, carrying seven days' worth of food and all their supplies in a backpack, although the organisers do provide water and tents to sleep in overnight at the end of each stage. The longest single stage is around 90K (55 miles) and the shortest, the last, is around 21K (13 miles) with competitors covering the total distance between 3 and 14 km per hour.

At the elite end, the race has been dominated by the Ahansal brothers from Morocco. Lancen has won the race 10 times and Mohammed, who won for the third consecutive year in 2010 completing the total distance in 19:55:08, has won four MdS titles. The winner of last year's race was Rachid Morabity, Mohamed Ahansal's pupil and fellow countryman, in a time of 20:58:19. It was the longest race yet at 250.7 km.

Find out more at the official race website

The Training

Despite the brutal ordeal that is the MdS, there's a waiting list of several years to take part, which means that most competitors start their training two years before they line up on the start.

It has been said that the key to completing the Marathon des Sables is good management - of your feet, your food, your emotions. Alastair Humphreys, author and adventurer, summed up the challenge neatly when he said: "The greatest attraction I can see of the Marathon des Sables is that it squeezes a lifetime of adventure into just one week."

Did you know?

Every competitor receives nine litres of water per day (except on the long stage when this rises to around 12 litres).

It does rain in the desert after all - the first stage of the 2009 race was cancelled due to flooding.

During the 1994 race Italian police officer Mauro Prosperi became lost in a sand storm and was missing for nine days, losing 13kg in weight before he was rescued.

The compulsory kit list includes an anti-venom pump, distress flare and at least 2,000 calories of food per day.

Runners are allowed to send one email a day. They're also allowed to receive emails from friends and family. (Jamie is bib 418 if you fancy sending him few words of encouragement.)

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Discuss this story

THANK YOU 'Runner's World' for covering this Race - you are unique in being almost the only UK media covering this quite brilliant event.

My sister is running her second MDS (the first was 5 years ago in 2007). So a big shout out to her please: 'Harriet Halfhead' (428) and currently lying in 272nd place. (She also has a blog:  to give you extra insight into this incredible experience.

Good luck to Jamie too and all the runners!

Posted: 11/04/2012 at 11:07

My brother Ian Wright (not the footballer!) is also running

He is #565 and currently 200 places behind Catherine's sister in 472nd place (before today's massive 82 km section!) and about 11 hours behind the race leader!. Big shout out to him and his running partner Richard (450). Good luck today guys - hope those feet hold out.

Much respect to them and all the other crazy folks attempting this. My Marathon exploits many years ago are made to look a little lame after this "race"! 

They are supporting a couple of charities if anyone feels the need to be generous:

Posted: 11/04/2012 at 12:03

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