Alison’s Marathon des Sables blog: Stage 5

Stage 5: 42K

Today was the marathon stage of the race. I managed to run the first half - I'd become bored with walking and wanted to test myself, but at the second checkpoint, at the 24K-mark, and with the temperature hovering around 50C, I took a break and never really got going again. The first half took around three hours, but it took me more than five to do the second half.

The scenery this morning was some of the best in the race: we clambered up jagged escarpments and hugged the ridgeline before dropping down to an oasis. We had to be careful not to trespass on the local crops, but the route had been well signposted with orange markers, either paint sprayed on rocks and bushes or signs hammered into the rock-hard earth.

At one point my team of four were all in a checkpoint at the same time, but it's hard to go at someone else's pace so we tended to string out along the course. Conversation turned to all the foods and drinks we'd like to eat when we returned to civilisation. Frozen margarita was top of my list.

It's been great to receive emails from friends while in the desert. Cath wanted to know what I am most looking forward to when I get back to Ouarzazate tomorrow: a shower. I've never been so grubby in my life. We all have a bit of a wash every day but then have to put the same filthy clothes back on. I wanted dreadlocks as a teenager and my mum forbade me, but I have them now.

There's a party atmosphere in the bivouac tonight. The VIPs have arrived from Paris, along with the orchestra, so we've had a concert, eaten the last of the emergency peanut M&Ms and used all the stove fuel for cups of tea.

Tomorrow we have 17K to complete the race. It sounds like a tiny distance compared with what we've faced every day up to now, but my feet are extremely sore and it could be another hot one. Still, just one more night under the stars. It's wonderful to think that in 24 hours I'll have completed my first MdS and be clean again.