Thursday, April 03, 2008

Tracking the Marathon Des Sables

If you're out running this week and need a boost to keep you going, just say to yourself "I could be in the middle of the Marathon des Sables right now". This six-day, 156 mile run across the Moraccan desert is as tough as they come. You have to carry everything, and get through 6+ marathons in a week. Phew! Today was the longest stage - a 52-miler of heat and sand - and there is still plenty to come.

Lisa Smith-Batchen (who has competed many times, and won in '99) is tracking race progress on her blog if you are interested. She reflects back on her own experience, which sets a great background for understanding the unique challenges of this grueling race. You can also check out videos by stage on the official MdS Web site. If you want to know more about Lisa, check out the new podcast on

The Dean Machine (aka Karnazes) has started his own "Desert Slam" that oddly doesn't include the MdS. He's at the Atacama Desert in Chile in right now, and you can follow along here.

Which is the toughest desert? Which is the toughest race?!? Honestly it boggles the mind just to think about toeing the line at any of these races.



  1. Scott,

    Thank you for such a wonderful post, we are honored:)
    MDS has close to 900 runner's this year, Dreamchasers took 80!!
    We have only lost 1 due to feet problems.
    I have been following Dean. Go Dean. I have a coaching student Frank who is 2nd American behind Dean. The desert stage races are a great deal alike but the one Dean is running has less than 80 people running. Some choose to go to the smaller events. I love that he is doing the slam and hope he will run MDS one day and try to chase the Moroccans:)
    All in all desert stage races are amazing events. The bonding with people and the test of the human spirt is something to be part of:)
    Hope to see you on the trails one day soon.

  2. Dean again this week....Love him or loathe him I have to make a comment. I have to take my hat off to him...He is the best at self promotion and marketing. He is everywhere! In all forms of media and advertising. He has taken his passion and created a lifestyle and career for himself.


  3. Tony -

    I would agree that Dean is quite a talented promoter. But I think the real power behind the throne on this one is the VF Corporation, owner of The North Face. They are professional brand builders (some of their other brands include Wrangler®, Lee®, Riders®, Vans®, Reef®, Eagle Creek®, Eastpak®, JanSport®, Napapijri®, Nautica®, Kipling®, John Varvatos®, 7 For All Mankind®, lucy®, Majestic®, Lee Sport® and Red Kap®.), and really know what they are doing. I've been impressed with their reach out to the Internet community. I'm sure being one of the biggest print advertisers in the business helps get your stories placed too. ;-)

    When I refer to the "Dean Machine", it's Dean Karnazes + VFC, a lethal combo.

    More on VFC here.


  4. Scott,

    Thanks for pointing us in the direction of these amazing races - I know of them but now I get the chance to understand* them.

    And great interview on EndurancePlanet. I look forward to hearing Lisa's on my next long run.

    Keep up the great work.


  5. (oops, forgot to add the addendum)

    * - as much as one can possibly begin to understand these races from one's computer.

  6. I have done one desert race in the US...and it was H-A-R-D!!! But amazing and interesting too. As much as the heat of the races is so severe, it would be my preference over extreme cold. Curious to hear from others who have completed a variety of desert races!!! Thanks, Scott.

  7. hey scott i'm writing an article for my college's newspaper (The Boston University's daily free press) about the runner's high and I was hoping that you could help me out! is it ok if I quote a post that you wrote about the runner's high in my article? email me soon with your response please because I think this could be a very interesting article!
    -Rachel Leamon
    Boston University, Boston, MA

  8. Hi Scott-

    I found your blog after reading Lisa's MDS updates this week, as my boyfriend Ted ran it for the first time. I will have to wait until he gets home for him to share his thoughts on which stage was the toughest. They all seem tough in their own way to me, but I can't imagine what is tougher than the long stage on day 4. I just heard from him this morning and he said he thinks he dropped 10-15 lbs. this week. Congratulations to all those who ran the 2008 MDS.

    - Amy

  9. AMAZING! Thank you for sharing these runners' incredible experiences with us!

  10. RU ready for Diablo? What is going to be your approach? Would love to hear your tips.

  11. Wow... never heard of that race... now I have just got a new goal... although looking at my goals list... this would probably not fit in untill 2011... but that gives a good time to train!! incredible challange racing in such condiditions! adding the weight you have to carry... wow... i am getting too excited here!


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