About the Race


The ‘Gateway to the Sahara’ and ‘Hollywood of Morocco’ – Ourzazate – is also the jumping off point for the Marathon Des Sables (MDS), a 250 km stage race through the Sahara Desert. For an extremely tough race, the MDS is surprisingly accessible for those new to ultras. That’s because it’s staged over six days and even the fastest runners will be kept from going out too hard, carrying a 7 kg pack over sandy terrain. Even still, it is considered one of the toughest ultramarathons in the world. Racers take off each morning in the MDS to the sounds of AC/DC’s Highway to Hell playing and helicopters fly overhead. The song is gives runners a sense of the temperatures in store for them, which can reach 50°C (120°F).

“Just for one week, it refocuses your attention on the things that are necessary for survival. It makes you appreciate the simple pleasures in life.”

- Magdalena Boulet

The heat is especially oppressive on “Dune Day”, a crossing of the highest sand dunes in the Sahara, and the longest stage, which is 50 miles in one go. Pair this extreme environment with ferocious sandstorms and challenging terrain and it’s no wonder the race is known as one of the world’s greatest adventures. Training for the MDS requires a lot more sophistication than your typical ultra. Not only do you have to build up distance gradually, but you also need to develop heat tolerance (e.g., by jogging in place in a sauna), practice carrying a heavy pack, train for running in loose sand, and trim down your gear, so that you only have to carry the bare minimum while still meeting mandatory kit requirements. This preparation can take months, even for experienced runners, so be sure to leave yourself plenty of time.

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