| Fitness, Lifestyle, Travel,

The Toughest Race on Earth

Beatrice Lessi

Celebrate in Style

If you  are a fashion blogger and have a round birthday coming up, like me, you might want to celebrate in style. And indeed, I have been thinking very hard on what to do in 2016 for my big one. A big party? No party? Exotic trip in a Spa? Splashing some money for fashion? How could I make the experience theatrical enough? I finally decided: a challenge. The desert. I had seen an online caption that really got my attention: The Toughest Foot Race on EarthIt sounded fancy enough for my taste, so I went online, put my name in and paid. Without reading.

MDS-logo

The MDS logo. Photo: marathondessables.com

What Is It? 

Marathon des Sables lasts one week and takes place in the Moroccan desert. If you look at the pictures of the dunes and the blue sky, you dream of being there – it looks wonderful!

After putting my name down on a whim, I decided to read what the race is actually about. You have to run more or less a marathon a day in temperatures reaching 45 degrees during the day and minus 5 at night (apparently you don’t even sweat because any drop immediately dries out for the heat), carry a heavy backpack on your shoulders (about 10 kg) with all your food, your own mattress and sleeping bag. You will also need a first aid kit, mandatory antidote in case a snake bites you, a compass, a light, a Swiss knife and more of  such survival goodies.

dunes-sky

Golden dunes and blue sky. Photo: marathondessables.com

My Skills

I have never been camping. I have never slept in a tent in my whole life. I run badly uphill, on sand and in the heat. Being Italian I think that, when it’s very hot, a nap is a good idea. I tend to take 2 showers a day, and become really grumpy if I finish my body lotion. I wear make-up even to go to throw away the rubbish. I have no sense of orientation whatsoever. I am terrible at organisation and hate lists,  instructions, mandatory rules and any kind of map. On the positive side: I am persistent and tend to like long, slow runs. I am blessed with an incredible amount of energy and optimism. Isn’t that enough? Sure I’m going to rock the desert! …I think.

Ready to train in my Odlo gear

Dressed up in my Odlo gear and ready to train – in easy Switzerland conditions. Maybe.

What Do I Do Now?

After the initial bragging, reality kicked in: I was slow and out of shape. I decided to chicken out and thought there was no way I could finish such a race. Shit…I had blown my birthday budget for nothing. Then I met a wonderful chef who finished the race 2 years ago. He prepared me a great meal in his own restaurant near Zurich,  Wirtschaft zur Burg, and raved about the whole desert experience. He told me I would discover things about myself that I didn’t know. He said the sceneries are to die for, the shared experience with all that people from allover the world bonds competitors strongly, and that, when you arrive at finish line, you are so proud of yourself you think you are on top of the world. He also reassured me: the orientation issue is not so important, because there are always slow people in sight, to guide you through the right path. I must be very easy to influence, because after the first course I had already decided I’d go for it. And the day after I started training.

turi-thoma

Turi Thoma in his restaurant, Wirtschaft zur Burg. He is the running chef who made me decide to try.

How to Train

I told my husband, who is also passionate about sport, that I allow him to take care of all the reading, the organisation of the the trip, and above all of the training program. He can be the brains, I will be the body. Yes, yes, I know, it’s the lazy way, but hey, after all I have to keep my energy for the desert! So the program is there now. It includes 2 training camps, starting with 10 days of running in the Dubai heat, in February – I am so looking forward! It’s going to be a long birthday present.

Before that, all I have to do is run a lot and get used to the weight on my shoulders. Right now I use a small backpack and I slowly add books in it to increase the weight.

Beatrice-small-backpack

Starting with a small backpack, and the perfect temperature. Pink top by Odlo.

beatrice-light-backpack

Odlo gear, light backpack and wonderful weather: still easy training and a lot of work to do

Nutrition

A very important part of Marathon des Sables is nutrition. Competitors need to bring at least 2000 calories a day with them, and my guess is that, especially starting with with my body weight (46 kg), the risk is that I don’t have enough fat or reserves. So a part of my training from here to April (when the marathon will take place) is to gain some fat. If any reader has tips or ideas on how to do that, please write! And if you really want to help…please send me cake.

Little weight, a lot of calories: lyiophilized food.

Little weight, a lot of calories: the lyiophilized food I will eat in the desert.

eat cake

Skinny people are easily kidnapped…stay safe: eat cake!