Marathon des Sables, Peru

Day 2, Marathon des Sables, Peru 2017, © Marathon des Sables/Paolo Avila   

Day 2, Marathon des Sables, Peru 2017, © Marathon des Sables/Paolo Avila


The Marathon des Sables, Peru is a staged ultra-run approximately 250km long which takes place in Peru. The inaugural race, held in November and December 2017, is taking place in the Ica and Nasca deserts some 300 kilometres south of the Peruvian capital Lima.

The race follows a similar format to the original Marathon des Sables, which has been held in Morocco since 1985. It is run in six stages over seven days. Races vary, but the distances covered are approximately 35 km - 40 km for the first three days, then a long day of around 70 km on Day 4. After a rest day there is a full marathon at 42.2 km and then on the final day there is a shorter run of around 20 km to the finish line. Competitors must be self-sufficient in all food, bedding (sleeping bag and mat) and equipment (everything from cooking equipment to sun cream). Rationed water is provided at checkpoints, as is medical care. Competitors sleep in individual tents, which are dismantled each morning and re-erected at the next camp as the competitors arrive. Since its introduction more than 30 years ago, more than 20,000 competitors have taken part in the Marathon des Sables in Morocco, and the record field of was 1300 runners. See the main Marathon des Sables page on A Life of Adventure.


Marathon des Sables, Peru, course details 2017

The course of the first Marathon des Sables, Peru is 243 kilometres long and it is starting from the ruins of the old Nazca city of Cahuachi. There are six stages - 37.2 km, 42.2 km (a full marathon) and 32.7 km, followed by the long day of 68.4 km and then a rest day. Next comes a second full marathon at 42.2 km and the final run of 19.6 km. Held deep in the desert, sometimes touching the Pacific coast, the terrain is extremely varied and the competitors will be running through dry river beds, canyons, stretches of rocky and stony ground as well as up and down some steep ascents and descents. And, of course, there will be plenty of sand, including a stretch of beach and, naturally, some huge dunes. Elevation gain over the 7 days is reckoned to be around 2500 metres, ranging from sea level to around 700 metres on Day 2.

There are around 300 runners in this first event, of whom the quickest are expected to complete the course in around 20 hours. The cut off speed is just less than 3 kmh.

See the event website at the Marathon des Sables, Peru.


Click on the images to read race reports and pre-race interviews with two runners who took part in the inaugural race in November 2017.


James Henderson of A Life of Adventure was the first British writer to (enter and) write about the event, in 1995. You can see a selection of his articles below.