The Half Marathon Des Sables is 114 kms (70 miles) across three legs over four days involving 284 participants of whom one in four (25%) would fail to finish!
Not for the faint-hearted, the conditions involved a searing sun with no shade, difficult terrain – sandy beaches and dunes, gravel, rock and dust, dry river beds, ravines and mountain passes – and all whilst carrying a full backpack containing food for the four days, bedding and clothing, and medical/survival kit.
Having run ultra-marathons but never taken part in a self-sufficiency, multi-day event, I entered because life is a quest to find out what we are capable of achieving, and finding out whether we really have any limits or if they are just self-imposed.
The first leg soon showed how tough the terrain was going to be, covered 25kms and lasted five and a half hours, ending with a climb up a sand dune from sea level to base camp at 200m. Several people retired through heatstroke, while I continually doused my head with water to keep cool.
This was but a short jaunt compared to the arduous second leg which covered 66kms, including long runs along a beach, over a mountain and back over another pass later on, and scaling up a 250m cliff before a long journey over yet more sand dunes. Starting at 9:30am, I finished 20 hours later, shortly before sunrise the following day, all without a break. The most beautiful moments were reaching the crest of the mountain pass under a full moon, and hiking along a deserted beach in the dark with no sound other than the rolling of waves for company.
By comparison the final day – only 22kms – was relatively short, though just as hot. Standing on a thorn that pierced the sole of my shoe before the start of the last leg was a reminder that nothing could be taken for granted. As the finish line approached, the enormity of the achievement began to dawn.
Other highlights included being befriended by a kitten while hiking up the afore-mentioned mountain pass, and the delivery of a cold bottle of coca cola on the third day. The simple pleasures in life are always the most valuable.
It was an arduous and brutal experience, pushing my body further than it had ever been pushed before. Completing the distance was an exhilarating experience and one I will never forget, whilst raising funds for Power 2 Inspire gave the achievement an even greater purpose.
If you would join me in raising money for this fantastic charity please hit the button below to go through to MyDonate page.