Alison’s Marathon des Sables blog: Stage 6

At just 17.5K, the final stage of the 26th Marathon des Sables was the shortest by far but still proved to be challenging. It was another hot day - although once the temperature rises above 40C it's hard to differentiate between simply hot and blisteringly boiling.

In a departure from the norm for the Marathon des Sables, the final stage was to finish in the small town of Tazzarine (rather than on a sand dune). The last 2K would take runners through the narrow streets of the town to the finish line, but before that there was 15K of desert to negotiate. No major sand dunes today, just lots of rough sandy, stony ground. In the road book issued to every runner, there are descriptions of the terrain ahead. By the end of the week, the descrpitions had become a source of amusement thanks to thier vagueness. Gems like "sandy and stony", "variably stony" and "slightly stony" didn't really prepare us for what lay ahead.

For the final stage, the bottom 40 runners started an hour before everyone else at 8am. The route took them through the camp so we could give them a big cheer as they set off to complete the stage. At 9am the remaining runners set off, many breaking into a determined jog, ready to expend all their energy on the final push for the finish. I was not one of them. I broke into a determined walk and kept it up for the next four hours as the distant town of Tazzarine became bigger and bigger up ahead.

At around 500m to go the sense of occasion got the better of me and I managed a bit of a shuffle across the line, into the arms of race organiser Patrick Bauer, who personally congratulates every finisher and hands them a richly-deserved medal. Then I went to a cafe, sat down and drank the most delicious Coke of my life to date.

I'd like to say that I sat and contemplated the previous seven days and how profoundly they'd affected me, but I'd be lying. I'm still processing my "week of suffering" as a teammate and I christened the race. My blisters are healing, I'm committing the lessons I learned to memory and - most worringly - I'm thinking that doing the race again, but actually running some more next time, might not be that bad an idea....