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Photo Credit: RunUltra/Steve Diederich

Marathon des Sables - Avoid the social media pitfalls

08-Feb-19

Last updated: 11-Feb-19

By James Eacott

As the iconic Marathon des Sables (MDS) draws near (kicking off early April), it’d be easy to focus solely on the last-minute physical preparations needed to get you into peak shape for the event.

But let’s be honest, there many articles out there (including on RunUltra) about peaking for an ultra marathon and if you haven’t done the work by now, well, good luck to you – take solace from the knowledge that many battle through the MDS on little more than will power and a positive mindset!

So, rather than training, this article is about an often-unaddressed aspect of the final approach to the “toughest race on earth” for the unaware competitor: the social media noise.

Social media can be a great thing. It connects and educates us and can be a force for good. But it can also be troublesome: a swift scroll through Instagram in the weeks leading up to a big event can leave us feeling anxious and unprepared.

So, here’s a few tips to keep your head in a positive space about the wonderful adventure that’s nearly upon you…

Don’t be fooled

It should go without saying but keep perspective and remember that social media is not real life! Tweets, photos and statuses are a projection of how that person wants to appear. It may be the truth. But it could very easily be total rubbish.

I can sit here in my PJs, chowing down a Chinese takeaway and spout all kinds of myths about how much training I’m doing and how successful I am.

Take everything you read with a pinch of salt. It’s hard to do, particularly when the angst builds towards a huge event, but there is a lot of rubbish out there!

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Photo Credit: RunUltra/Steve Diederich

Take a chill pill

After months of training, missed social outings and sacrificed family time, it’s easy to get caught up in the notion that nothing else matters in the world. The MDS bubble that envelops us provides excitement but keep perspective – it’s just a race. It will not define you.

It is a monumental challenge but it’s not life or death (hopefully not, anyway!). Recognising this can take the sting out of comments online.

Trust in your process

Note, I say “your” process. No-one else’s. There is no right way to train for the MDS, whatever you might hear.

You have gone through your own journey to get here. You might have entered the race years ago, and it’s easy to think you’ve made little progress in that time.

If you’ve got a coach, speak with them and they’ll highlight the progress you’ve made. If you don’t, be objective (and ask family / friends if you need to!) and take a moment to really ponder where you were this time a year ago.

In all likelihood, you’ve come a very long way. We all have ups and downs but committing to a race like the MDS is huge and even if you’ve had more downs than ups, your journey belongs to you.

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Photo Credit: RunUltra/Steve Diederich

Get practical

Remember, you can control what you see in your feed. If you are connected to someone who’s becoming increasingly noisy and you’d rather tone them down but not necessarily unfriend them, then there are ways to control what you see.

It’s simple: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all have buttons which will mute your friends / those you follow without needing to delete or unfriend them.

Imagine if you could do that in real life!

Be thoughtful

For those who post things like “Smashing 100-mile training weeks with 24kg on my back easy. Super-psyched for the MDS”, can I make a plea for you to apply some modesty!

Not only will it be embarrassing if you DNF on Day 1, but it can also intimidate those reading. Let your performance do the talking.

It’s a fine balance – I’m not saying we should cower under a rock of modesty and never speak of our achievements, but I’m sure we all follow someone who’s just a bit OTT and overly pleased with themselves!

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PeterB

04:27 11-02-19

Great stuff, I'm not doing the MDS but I am training for the Highland Fling (85km) ultra. Your comments apply to all ultra events with big social media impact and are very helpful.