“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be” — John Wooden (and Nina Pitcairn)
Marathon Des Sables 2016: Take 1
My first attempt of the infamous Marathon Des Sables didn’t go to plan, however I definitely learnt many lessons that would help me to tackle it the following year.
The first mistake was not trying all my food prior to going out to Morocco. Having been a triathlete I was fine with gels, powders and any protein shake so I didn’t feel the need to test Extreme Ultra Fuel in training. Big mistake! On day one I decided to have an Ultra Fuel whilst on the course and it made me feel sick, so then I couldn’t drink and because I wasn’t drinking I thought I couldn’t take salt tablets.
I was pretty disorientated and dehydrated. I also didn’t take poles with me but a very kind man gave me his and with them I was able to keep myself upright and walk in a straight line.
Luckily I saw Steve Diederich (Head of MDS UK) towards the end of the day and he told me to take one salt tablet every half hour irrespective of what I was drinking. That got me to the finish of that stage but I collapsed at the finish and ended up on three and a half drips in the medical tent.
I set off and kept being called back by someone asking me to motivate them following which I managed to end up with a group of people who went 8km off course. I then missed the cut off for checkpoint 2 and was taken out of the event. A few big lessons learnt:-
- Always take salt tablets at regular intervals irrespective of how much water you are able to drink.
- Take poles, they might be the difference between a finish and a DNF.
- You need to think about yourself of the course, you are there to do a race, not help others to your detriment. (Obviously if someone is in need of real help, then help them. The comradery is great and I had occasions where people helped me when I really needed it and I helped others in REAL need to).
- Do not blindly follow those in front of you, they may be going the wrong way! The course is well marked so just follow the pink markings.
Marathon Des Sables 2017: Take 2
My second time at the Marathon Des Sables resulted in a medal! I had learnt lessons from the previous year and changed my food, although I did stupidly take Ultra Fuel again which I ended up giving away. I had an amazing time and met some amazing people.
I can’t recommend Ultra Fuel but I can recommend the rest of my kit. You can view my full kit list here on KitJam.
A key learning from the previous year was to find the right tent mates, I did this prior to getting out there and they were an amazing, supportive group of people. Tent life was great, I had made a number of friends in the run up to the event so would go visiting various tents after each stage. I would highly recommend to anyone entering the Marathon Des Sables to make use of the Facebook page and go to or organise as many training days as possible with other participants, it makes such a difference when you are there.
My heat training for both years was in the sauna at my gym, year 1 on a bike and year 2 jogging on a trampoline and to be honest I don’t think this was enough. I felt sick most days and found it difficult to eat. My next event is in Costa Rica, I will be going out early to acclimatise and if I didn’t have that opportunity, I would definitely do heat chamber training.
I went much slower than I could have done because I was scared of failure after my previous attempt but am now pleased to have completed my goal and the fear for future events has gone.
Originally published at KitJam.com