Race Report: Marathon des Sables, Peru, Alexander Stonor
Alexander Stonor took part in the inaugural Marathon des Sables in Peru over a week in November and December 2017. He came a creditable 16th place out of around 280 competitors and was the first Briton to finish. Here he follows up his interview before departure with his thoughts about how the race went.
How did it go?
Overall, it went very well. The race course was spectacular. We would routinely run in between archaeological sites, up and own sandy mountains and across valleys. On the fourth day of running in the desert, the course took us down to the coast of the Pacific Ocean. It was spectacular running across the desert with the ocean alongside.
Finishing was an awesome relief when I consider how the sponsorship was riding on it while at the same time overcoming the personal challenges.
Were you as well prepared as you could be?
I wish I did a few more marathon runs to get the legs used to lengthy stages and that I had dedicated more time to getting used to running in soft sand.
How well did the race organisation function?
As I mentioned the race course was fantastic. I feel though, that the organisation made three mistakes. Firstly, they chose a mineral water, ‘Socosani’ which was not refreshing, off putting when using to cook and unpleasant in taste. This was irritating for all the runners.
Second, they issued individual tents for participants to sleep in, unlike the communal tents that are used in Morocco. Running can be a very a lonely experience and to counter that, it is important to encourage competitor rapport where possible. A communal tent would have been worthwhile.
Third, the inspirational Patrick Bauer who heads the Morocco race was not present in Peru. He was sorely missed and his absence was not explained.
How different was it from the Morocco race? Was there the same atmosphere?
The atmosphere was unique and in line with that of Morocco. The people, whether they were locals, organisers, military or competitors, were all in good spirits and wanting to make this untested first time event a success. And ultimately, when there is overpowering good will, it makes the event greater.
What was the most painful moment?
The most painful thing for me were the blisters. My shoes did not fit as I hoped and the gators that were meant to stop sand entering my shoes failed after Day 1. I developed blisters quickly. Then it was about managing my feet for the remainder of the week and finding ways to keep running.
And your favourite moment?
Seeing the Pacific on day 4. It was brilliantly gorgeous.
What did you learn?
You can never spend enough time preparing. Whether it is training correctly, for example by running more in the sand, or ensuring you bring food you like and have tasted, or testing your equipment to ensure it meets requirements and the like. The more time invested in preparing for aspects of the race, the more you will enjoy it and the more you will get out of the run. Also, in the end, it is the mind drive that drives you to complete the event.