This Sahara Desert Ultramarathon Is Just as Badass as It Sounds

by Matt Hershberger Apr 16, 2016

THE MERE THOUGHT OF RUNNING A MARATHON tires me out. 26.2 miles is an insane distance, probably equivalent to the total distance I’ve run over the course of my 30 years of existence. So it blows my mind to hear about ultramarathons: races that are longer than 26.2 miles. The people who run races of this length are actually likely doing their bodies more harm than good, but while the rest of us harm our bodies by eating Big Mac’s or drinking a few too many beers, they’re harming their bodies by doing something that’s monumentally impressive.

There are ultramarathons that last over the course of a month, ultramarathons through the Antarctic, ultramarathons through jungles and over mountains, and ultramarathons through terrain so difficult that, some years, not a single runner finishes.

But perhaps the most badass ultramarathon is the Marathon des Sables, which will be starting its 32nd annual race on Friday. The Marathon des Sables (or Marathon of the Sand) is 156 miles long (the equivalent of six marathons), it lasts over 6 days, and — here’s the kicker — it’s run through the Sahara Desert.

The Marathon des Sables was founded by a French concert promoter whom, in 1984, traversed the Sahara on his own. It took him 12 days to travel 350 kilometers (about 217 miles), and he did it with only the contents of his rucksack — he didn’t stumble across a single oasis or community. Two years later, he returned to start the first Marathon des Sables.

The current race requires that runners carry all of their food and water themselves. Because of this, and because of the difficulty of the run, it is considered one of the most difficult footraces on earth.

The race has sometimes been interrupted by sandstorms and flash floods. Many have been injured, including one man who was a single kilometer from the finish line when he pulled a muscle.

Running into the night on the long stage of #mds2016 #marathondessables photo by @dino Bonelli @runtheworld

A photo posted by I Run for Hope (@irun4hope) on

The race is run to benefit children’s charities in Morocco.

Next time you’re on the beach, try running across the sand for a little while. Notice how much harder it is? Okay, now do it for a week, through the largest desert on earth. We salute you, runners of the Marathon des Sables. You are truly crazy badasses.

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