Marathon des Sables 2009 – A New Challenge

Today, was kind of a big day for me – I verbally committed to running the Marathon des Sables in […]

By on September 29, 2008 | Comments

Marathon des Sables 2009Today, was kind of a big day for me – I verbally committed to running the Marathon des Sables in Morocco next March and April! I’m so very excited for so many reasons – the challenge, the training, the people, the planning, the experience – just to name a few. Over the next half a year, I plan to share with you the training, the planning, the gear testing, and, ultimately, the effort and spirit I put into the Marathon des Sables itself.

In case you are wondering, the Marathon des Sables is a 6-stage, 7-day race that covers approximately 150 miles of the Moroccan desert. That means we run over sand dunes, up mountains, through dried river beds, and on miles and miles of rocky desert landscape. In case, that’s not fun enough, it’s likely to be hot (think 120′ F) and could be really hot (130′ F). Oh, did I forget to mention that participants carry everything that they need for the week with the exception of water and the 2-walled Berber tent they’ll sleep in.

Marathon des Sables Stage 3 2008How do they may the course look so cute?

While I have no clue how I will fair relative to the competition, a number of experienced MdS and adventure racers have said that the race will suit my strengths. Their confidence in me was one reason that I decided to make the commitment after only a few days consideration. Well, that and the fact that I tend to agree with them and here’s why:

  • I tend to “run smart” and take care of myself well. This should be a huge asset in a race with (1) 150 miles in 7 day (2) over sand and rough terrain (3) in sick heat (4) all while wearing a 10-20 pound pack.
  • I am “not a small runner,” as a friend put it yesterday. No, I don’t have some warped body image and think that I’m fat or a goliath, I’m just not a waif. I’ve got big strong legs. This will be one time that I’m glad I run like the rhino and not the gazelle.
  • I’ve got some ultrarunning and, now, some stage racing experience thanks to August’s GORE-TEX TransRockies Run. Fortunately, I still feel good about my effort and strategy at TRR.

As I mentioned, I’m also excited about the people I’ll meet and see at MdS. If even a few of the folks I meet at MdS are anything like the folks I met at TRR, it’s sure to be a good week. That said, I’ll be happy that when I show up at MdS I’ll alreasdy know folks there as great as the DreamchasersLisa, Jay, and Colleen; my new friend from TRR, Meghan; and my neighbor and weekly training partner, Michael Wardian. Speaking of Wardian, I’m also hoping that I’ll get to join him and another runner as part of what could be a very good American team at next year’s MdS.

Of course, I’m also ready to geek out planning for the race. The fact that I’ll have to carry all my gear and food the entire way means that I’ll very carefully select every bit of my kit. (I’ve obviously already spent far to much time at the UK MdS Forums.) Of critical importance will be the pack itself – so I intend to test a great number. I’ll also be taking a look at new running sunglasses, running hats, gaiters, various smaller pieces of gear, and dried foods. I can’t wait to share what I learn with you.

Last and certainly not least, I’m psyched about training for the race… and about learning how to train for the race. I’ve already tested running with a 10 pound pack and intend to do much more training with heavy packs (unless I learn that’s a bad idea). I’ve already started doing core work (wheel of pain) and push ups. For the first time in the five years I’ve had chronic Achilles problems I’ve started actively rehabbing the injury. I want it fixed by next March. I may also do some serious back-to-back runs, some sand runs (if I can find enough sand), and some sauna work. Oh, I also plan to train my butt off for the next six months. Wish me luck!

If you want to follow my journey leading up to and through the Marathon des Sables, consider subscribing via RSS or via email.

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.