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Marathon des Sables 2016 – Thoughts from the Course

Photo credit: RunUltra.

Marathon des Sables 2016 – Thoughts from the Course


Last updated: 27-Apr-16

By Steve Diederich

Steve Diederich is the head of RunUltra and he has been organising the British contingent at the Marathon des Sables for many years. There is nothing he does not know about the race and the conditions and challenges that the competitors face. Here are his thoughts from this year.

The standard question everyone asks you during and after the MdS is “Is this the hardest MdS?” …. Well this year, I can probably say that in all the years I have been on the course, the answer is probably “Yes”.  Participants endured high temperature, high winds and low humidity, which is a cocktail that leaves runners at significant risk of dehydration. Roll onto Day 2 and we had one of the highest drop out numbers I have ever seen, the toll of the first dunes demonstrated the brutality of the conditions. This was compounded by one of the sandiest courses we have ever had …. only matched by the beauty of the course, which went in to a new region we have never been to before.

However, we had some amazing people along with us: Ted, who wore a camel costume on the first day; Bill (71) who is a real character and now is the oldest Brit to have completed; Kevin who has terminal cancer and is one of the most amazing men I have ever had the pleasure of meeting; and Duncan who battled through the long day on his snappy (double) prosthetic legs.

Then we had our athletes: David Hellard who came in as first British male, and 17th overall; Elisabet who came in as 4th lady. They both achieved those places in the face of some really heavyweight competition. And Gavin, who by the time the runners had come out had already done the 2011 MdS course and went on to set a new record of doing two MdS’s back to back. A very impressive result.

What really impressed all on the race was the level of preparation, and the sense of humour of all the UK + Ireland contingent even when the going got really tough. This year was one to remember … have a look at the photos!


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09:46 26-04-16

It was my first time at the MDS, i went with the mindset of a physical challenge and to compete to be top 100, i soon realised the race / event was more than that and soon lost the need to compete and found the love of the camaraderie, team spirit and the humble feeling of a, being privileged to take part and lucky enough to finish amongst such amazing people. MDS for me will only ever be a one time bucket list event, i don't think i'll ever relive that amazing experience. Thank you to everyone involved. Paul