The Marathon des Sables may prove a step or several too far for most people. This six-day, 251-km ultramarathon across the Sahara Desert in southern Morocco has been called ‘The Toughest Foot race on Earth’.
Anyone can pay $4647 [Rs. 3,51,150], the 2020 entry fee, in order to endure tortures such as an 80-km-plus run, a near double marathon, in a single day.
Arthur Worsley, an Anglo-French traveller and blogger, has a taste for such extreme adventures. He entered in 2016 as one of four close friends.
“It was an opportunity to spend time in the desert together,” he says. “No distractions, no phones, no emails-how often does that happen?” At the time he booked, Arthur could barely complete a 3-km run. He had 10 months in which to get fit. “I just ran wherever I happened to be,” he says. “I got chased by a lot of dogs. “It wasn’t always easy. But it was also an amazing way to get to know the world around me.”
Marathon des Sables competitors have to carry all their food and equipment with them. So Arthur trained by running with a backpack of Coca-Cola. “I learnt to stop resisting the pain that comes with ultra-running and really fell in love with the sport.”
“Stepping back and appreciating the desert is one of the main things that makes all the pain and suffering bearable. It’s sheer size and beauty is deeply humbling.
It really puts your problems in perspective. The marathon was relentless, unforgiving, demanding, empowering, life-changing and a lot of fun. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”