The Marathon des Sables

The epic and original among the staged desert runs, the Marathon des Sables is now more than 30 years old and has grown from 16 runners in 1986 to hundreds. The race is held in the Moroccan Sahara, usually out of Ouarzazate and takes in teh best of the country there. Water and medical care are provided, but otherwise runners must be self-sufficient (carrying their own food, bedding - and it can get cold in the desert at night, of course - and emergency gear). The total distance of the 'MdS' is around 230 kilometres and it is divided into six daily stages - roughly 25km, 30km, 35km, followed by about 80km, then a rest day, a full marathon (42km) and finally 20km - but the real tests are is really the heat and the terrain, which of course includes sand-dunes. And the ability to keep going and to cope problems that arise, even with mirages - the finish line which hovers on the horizon, but which never, never seems to get any closer.

James Henderson of A Life of Adventure was the first British writer to run in and write about the Marathon des Sables and he has done so several times over the years. For a selection of his articles, see below. Link here to the Marathon des Sables website for UK and Irish entrants.

The race organisers have also recently set up a Marathon des Sables in Peru. Read an interview with a competitor setting off to Marathon des Sables Peru 2017.