What it means to take part in the Toughest Footrace on Earth.
On April 7th a group of 15 men and women will be setting out on the first leg of the Marathon des Sables (MdS) running in aid of Hope for Children. It is the equivalent of running 5 marathons in 6 days in the Sahara desert and so gruelling is the event that many don’t finish it, only to be swept-up at the back of the field by a man with his camel!
For some it is their first time running the MdS, others are returning for the second or even third event and all of them are raising money to help vulnerable children around the world. For such an event preparation is the key to success with most of the participants starting a year or more before-hand running “normal” marathons, triathlons or iron-man events as well as regular long distance runs or walks to keep them in condition.
For some the training has gone pretty smoothly, others already have issues with their knees or ankles even before the event begins!
What drives people to attempt such a challenge? As Alec Mills, running with his partner Lucie, says ”Its the Toughest Footrace on Earth – there is something superlative about that”, and Lucie agrees”it’s just so exciting being part of something that is so niche”.
David Meredith who was inspired by a Channel 4 documentary about the MdS a few years ago, set his sights on taking part is looking forward to to being taken completely out of his comfort zone especially as he hates camping with a passion! And Michelle Smith who is much more used to mountaineering expeditions and is running with her husband Scott, knows that the mental side is key to such an event, confirming you need a good head-game to keep you focused when things get difficult.
Adrian May, who is returning for a 3rd time really enjoys the sense of camaraderie, being in a tent with 7 others looking out for each other, not to mention the stunning scenery which is not just made up of endless sand dunes but magnificent landscapes with colours ranging from golden browns to deep reds and even jet black in places. Also, where else can you find yourself listening to a live Paris orchestra seated around a Bedouin camp-fire!
Another aspect that several of the runners are particularly looking forward to, is a few days living a simpler self-sufficient existence, not being constantly surrounded by technology. Although the runners will have limited access to internet and SMS in camp each evening, the chance to escape from it all as Murat Baygeldi, back for a second time says “it is wonderful to have no contact with the outside world and no distractions from IT– instead its just seeing what you are capable of doing as a human being”
The opportunity to raise funds in aid of Hope for Children is what has spurred them on through the arduous training schedules and finding a charity that they could easily relate to was extremely important. Daniel Owen-Parr is passionate about helping to give children a better start in life, so the charity resonated with him immediately. Others like the fact that we are a small, personal charity and they feel part of an extended family whereas larger charities can seem a bit faceless. Charlie Drinkwater says he is looking forward to being part of Team Hope, working towards a common goal, bonded by both the cause and the event.
Those who have been through the experience before obviously have a good idea of what to expect although the first time it can all seem like a bit of a blur. There are lots of horror stories about problems with blistered feet, heat-exhaustion, not to mention the vicious camel spiders, but for all of them knowing that they are helping to transform children’s lives makes it worth putting up with a little hardship for a few days as is the support of their family, friends and work colleagues, helping to keep them going, even when it seems impossible to carry on.
Ultimately of course, they all hope to get across the finishing line without feeling the camel’s breath on the back of their necks!
Full Hope for Children Marathon des Sables Team 2017:
Adam Ball, Murat Baygeldi, Charlie Drinkwater, Lucie Holtermann, Adrian May, Moerieda Mckay, Alec Mills, David Meredith, Daniel Owen-Parr, Nicholas Rust, Martin Scott, Michelle Smith, Scott Smith, Palmer Winstanley, Peter Winstanley.