Established in 1986 the Marathon des Sables is widely regarded as the toughest footrace on earth. It is a 6 day, 156 mile ultra-marathon with distances ranging from 14 to 54 miles. Day 4 is traditionally the longest stage of the race where runners complete upwards of 50 miles. Few people complete this stage before darkness and many don’t come in until after dark the next night. This is followed by a 26 mile marathon stage.

Conditions are tough. Midday temperatures of 55 degrees celsius are not uncommon and water is rationed.  The ground is uneven, stony and 15-20% of the course involves climbing energy-sapping sand dunes some of which are 300ft high. 

 If all that is not tough enough competitors have to carry everything they need for the duration of the race. Rucksacks weigh 10-12 kg and must include compulsory items including food, medical kit, sleeping bag and, slightly alarming, an anti- venom pump!

Surprisingly, it is not easy to enter the MDS. Approximately 900 runners take part every year from all over the world. The 300 entries for UK competitors to the 2013 MDS sold out in an hour. And don’t ask how much it costs to enter.

 Famous past entrants include the Olympian and adventurer James Cracknell (the fastest Brit ever), TV presenter Ben Fogle and former Rangers manager Paul Le Guen.

Find out more about the race at


You can also find some videos shot by Rob Plijnaar HERE


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