10 Tips for Marathon Des Sables (MDS)


Marathon des Sables

MDS is one of those epic challenges of a lifetime. A multistage race through the Sahara desert covering about 150 miles (250 kilometres) over 6 days. Runners must carry their own food, sleeping equipment and everything they will need whilst in the desert. People come from all over the world to enter this race. I completed MDS in 2016, finishing 3rd amongst the British runners and 22nd overall learning many lessons along the way, here is a list of the top 10.

  1. LIGHT PACK - Aim to get your running pack as light as possible. The MDS rules state a minimum of 6.5 kilograms and maximum 25 kilograms. This weight does not include the water in your bottles so make sure to allow for this. Trust me a light pack will be better than a heavy one.

  2. GET THE RIGHT KIT - Decide early on what kit you will be taking with you and practice wearing it during training. Do not turn up to Morocco with new untested kit it might cause chaffing, blisters or you might just not like the feel of it.

  3. BECOME HEAT ACCLIMATISED - Remember this is a race across the desert in very hot conditions. You will be better prepared if you become heat acclimatised. I took my kit with me on holiday in Thailand and practised running during the hottest part of the day.

  4. CHOOSE THE RIGHT FOOD - Decide what food you will be eating and test it out ahead of time. You do not want to be in the desert and become sick due to your stomach not liking the food you have taken.

  5. MDS FACEBOOK PAGE - Join the Marathon Des Sables Facebook page, this way you can post questions and have them answered by other runners who have experienced MDS and successfully finished. You may also make some friends and could meet up before MDS for a training run.

  6. GAITERS - Get good gaiters for your trainers. Some people in my tent at MDS were unable to finish due to their feet becoming so blistered they were unable to even walk. I used the stitch on velcro method and it worked. I coupled this with a pair of Raidlight gaiters. I got the stitching done professionally by a Tailor.

  7. FITTING YOUR TRAINERS - Make sure your trainers fit properly. That means leaving a space of at least half a centimetre from your longest toe to the inside front of your trainers. Failure to do this results in loosing your toenails. I never had a problem with feet.

  8. COURSE KNOWLEDGE - Learn each stage, you need to know cut off times so you can stay ahead of being disqualified. Many people each year fail to finish MDS, this is one of the main reasons. It’s also good to know what distance you will be covering each day and will be better mentally prepared.

  9. BACK TO BACK TO BACK RUNS - In training you want to experience what it’s like to run on tired legs. I used back to back to back runs to help me become prepared for MDS. It totally worked and I even enjoyed them.

  10. TRAIN WITH YOUR PACK - Practise running with your pack on. Not every run and not even the full weight but do not turn up to MDS without ever experiencing whats its like to run with a pack on your back.

    I hope the top 10 tips above has helped. There are many other things to consider but the above information will help you in your journey towards finishing MDS. I wish you the best of luck.

    Kristian Morgan.