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Matt Buck in Marathon des Sables 2014

Marathon des Sables 2014

09-May-14

Last updated: 20-Aug-18

What was competing in the Marathon des Sables 2014 really like?

Review of MdS 2014 by Matt Buck

The legendary Marathon des Sables (MdS) - one of the toughest foot races on the planet, was especially challenging this year with the highest number of  drop outs on Day 1. In this review ultra runner Matt Buck explains what it was really like and why he thinks it was an especially tough challenge.

For those of you aiming to compete in the 30th anniversary MdS in 2015 - this article is a must read.

Any memorable moments of the MdS that you'll never forget?

There were so many moments that I will never forget about the MdS, some great moments and some low moments. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the moment we entered the Merzouga dunes for the first time, they are huge and stretched as far as the eye could see. This was early on Day 1 and I very quickly realised that this race was going to be every bit as tough as people say it is, and more! 

Another memorable moment was as the sun went down on the long day, there was an hour or so when it was nice and cool, yet still light enough to see, this was amazing after the hours we’d spent in the Sahara sun…it was so nice. 

Finally one moment I will never forget was seeing the finish line in the distance on the final day, I captured the moment on my video and it was one of the most emotional moments I’ve ever experienced on a challenge, and I’ve done a fair few in my time. 

MdS short version from Matt Buck on Vimeo.

How did you find training for the MdS?

Training was hard, finding the time was the trickiest part. Training for the MdS is hugely time consuming and takes huge dedication, factoring this around work, family, friends and everything else that life throws at you is crazy. 

I’d be out the door at 4:30am on a Saturday morning, hitting the North Downs Way in the rain to run a marathon of trails before breakfast! That’s the sort of dedication you need, it’s all worth it though. I also had to find time to run the miles throughout the week, most days I’d run before and after work, and at lunch, basically every spare moment I had! 

What was the highlight of the MdS for you?

There are so many highlights of the MdS so it’s very hard to simply focus on one. Camp life was always a highlight, the camaraderie within the camp and more specifically within my tent group was amazing, we really looked after each other and supported each other through thick and thin, none of us knew each other particularly well before the event, yet we all had this one major thing in common, we wanted desperately to complete the MdS. 

You develop a bond there which will never be forgotten, you can’t really fully explain what the MdS is like until you do it, yet we supported each other and took that journey together, and will always have that in common. 

What advice would you give to someone doing MdS for the first time?

Practice walking! I think everyone is surprised at how much walking is involved, unless you are up there with the elite, you WILL be walking. I had images of me running most of it as I’m sure many people did, but walking plays a huge part and if you don’t prepare for that, it will catch you out. 

Also practice with your heavy pack, I thought I’d done enough weighted pack runs but there is no way I was prepared enough to carry my pack on the first few days, my shoulders hurt more than my legs! 

Which day was toughest for you and why?

The first day for sure, I ran out of water in the first set of dunes and never really came back from that.  I was hugely dehydrated and not taking on enough fuel. I struggled through the day and made it to the end somehow, but I then experienced my whole body cramping and was also sick. 

All through dehydration, thankfully I managed to refuel and take on some water ready for the next day but it was a worrying time, it was a steep learning curve on how to survive in the desert but thankfully from that day on I was ok with my hydration and fuelling, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again. That day caught a lot of people out and they said it was the toughest first day they’ve ever had, it was also the highest drop out rate on the first day they’ve ever had! 

Any advice for those aiming to do MdS next year?

Make sure you train properly and get your pack as light as possible, take it easy on the first few days as you acclimatise and be sure to concentrate on your hydration. Basically staying hydrated is half the battle, if you manage that, you’ll be ok. 

Has the MdS changed you in any way and if so how?

Completing the MdS was everything I had ever dreamed of, so in a way it has changed me in that I’ve now achieved my ultimate ambition, its left a bit of a hole in my life as I try to work out what to do next.  I feel immense pride to be able to say that I have completed the MdS and will however be grateful that I was able to take part in such an iconic challenge. 

How did you find MdS in 2014?

If you took part do share your comments, reviews and articles with us.

Review Marathon des Sables 2014

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