Marathon Des Sables 2022 - Race Report Adrian Tron

Okay so I may have just done a thing..and became a finisher at the 2022 Marathon des Sables which I'm still in disbelief about not least because I now understand how hard the race is (maybe i should have done a bit more research before getting a place 🤣) 😳 and before I go into an excessively long post I wanted to say some massive Thank-yous first in case you quite rightly get fed up reading this and don't make it to them at the end.Firstly to my sister Andrea Tyrson who unknown to me was posting about each day of the race. I've only got to a couple of the posts yet as I have such a backlog to work through having been out of phone signal for nearly a week but what I've read has been so awesome  and a massive thank you to each and every one of you who sent me an email when I had no means to contact the outside world and was going through a lot of self doubt. I'll be in touch over the next 24 hours to thank you each individually. Your messages made such a difference, and realising people were watching I clearly couldn't give up 👍 you are all complete legends ❤❤❤So the race itself. It started so nicely arriving in a tiny airport / landing strip in Morocco and going by bus atraight to the first bivouac in the desert. We were allocated a bedouin tent which would be our home for the week, a sheet on piles, open both sides and a carpet on the stony ground. 8 sharing a tent although for ours 2 hadn't made it, with one failing their PCR and the other with a family emergency. At this stage the race is catered with self sufficiency not starting until the morning of the first stage. The second day was fun too, they did technical checks, gave us our emergency beacons and water ration cards. Mostly we got to know our tent mates and relaxed, with final decisions on what to keep In our packs, worrying about every extra 100 grammes that we would have to carry the 150 miles. We said goodbye to our suitcases and slept, eager to start the race the next day.Stage 1 at 30k was an intro to desert running, some oueds (dry rover beds) stony low hills and A LOT of sand dunes. I learned two fun facts about dunes. Firstly the temperature goes up exponentially in them, they seem to radiate heat. And secondly good luck running for any distance, even a fast walk drains the strength. The shortest stage it wasn't encouraging to get back shattered and wondering how I could cope with the longer days.The second 38k stage was longer but also involved our first jebel (Hill/ mountain) of the race. Again due to my lack of research I'd made a sly assumption the Sahara was flat with dunes. Great for someone with a fear of heights. Oh no. This place is vertigo Armageddon with hills and cliffs everywhere. The route took us through 30k or so of low dunes similar to the day before scattered with rocky flat terrain before winding up the jebel. Which seems easy until half way the sandstorm started.  We had been told to expect them but they last 20 minutes usually. But this one? Oh no, it lasted hours, with visibility down to twenty feet at best and a constant headwind. 10k or so in that was an eternity. And then i reached the jebel itself. Maybe 500 metres high or so. At the top I was confronted by my first proper terror moment of the event. The route down was a 500 metre steep sand Bank to the valley floor. I looked at the safety guy at the top in abject horror and expected him to tell me there was a nice path I'd not spotted but no, he waved me to go over the edge. There's a picture of the jebel in the photos. I can't believe I managed to overcome my fear of heights, those who know me know I struggle to go up a ladder, but dropped myself off the rock face and made my way down. Somehow making it down without killing myself or another competitor I made the last few K to the stage finish, collected my water ration and fell into the tent exhausted. To be greeted by the news that we had 3 jebel the next day, the last one being the sand slope we had come down. I didnt sleep much that night, partly thinking about the next day but mostly the sandstorm raged until 3 or 4am. Tents came down. By morning everything was coated in sand, bags had it inside. A whole camp had an hours kip if they were lucky. No rest ahead of stage 3 then.I started the third 32k stage unsure if I'd have to drop out at the sand jebel climb. But emails had started to arrive and I'd had an emotional moment or two reading them the night before, and just couldn't quit knowing people were following my idiocy so I decided to get cracking and just see if I could do it. About 10k we hit the first jebel, a steep rocky climb but lots of sand with feet slipping. I'm no mountain goat and made the summit shaking to be greeted by the next horror. A 2k ridge we had to follow to the next jebel with a drop either side. I took a few minutes to gather myself and I'll never know how but step by step made it across. Down to the valley floor and up another jebel and hey presto, another 2k ridge 😪 I think I was desensitised to the heights at this point as I made it across more quickly, glad when I was across and down to the very floor for a run to the third jebel. The beast. I think the first two had actually helped as I reached it determined to try, and thankfully the.majority of climbing to start was rocks to the side, far easier than sand. I don't think I looked down the whole way or I'd have frozen. By the time I was near the summit the thought of turning to go down meant there was no way back so I had to grab the rope and climb across the top of the sand slope and haul myself over the rock at the top. The route down was easy and then nice flat route back to the finish. Falling into the tent I was both exhausted and exhilarated. If this event is about conquering fears it had it in spades today. So stage 4. The long stage at 85k. Up to now I'd managed to avoid blisters which made me lucky,  most of my tent mates had bandages on various parts of their feet already. So the first 20k or so was okay, a jebel but easy ascent and descent and after stage 3 no amount of heights was going to stop me. At 2k two things happened. We hit midday and dunes. Endless dunes. As it got hotter the pace dropped to a crawl and the water lasted less and less. Checkpoint 4 at 47k was reached an hour before sunset. I'd been going for 11 hours at that point and exhausted, with 38k left to do. By checkpoint 5 it was dark and only the head torch for light. From them the last 30k was a mental battle through tiredness. There was the option of stopping for a nap at the checkpoints but this would mean cutting into the rest day which meant less recovery before the final stage so I kept going. At 330am, 19 hours after the stage start I made it to the finish, 13 hours ahead of cut off. I found ny firstblisters had appeared and the fun of a visit to doc trotters had them lanced and dressed to get me in some kind of shape for stage 5. For the first time in the event finishing now felt a real possibility, stage 3 and 4 were where most drop outs were, I just had to complete the final stage under the cut off 😀 but I now felt totally broken physically and mentally. Everything hurt, and sequential jebels had me emotionally drained. The emails arrived in the evening though and these were the ones that completely changed my mind set. And hence the Thank-you at the start and why l reply to them all as soon as I can. I read and re-read them through the evening. So many kind and encouraging words from amazing people. I might have shed a tear or two that night but I've never felt so bloody proud as I felt then and realised I was one stage from finishing. Given what had been overcome before there was no way I was letting anyone down by not finishing now. Stage 5, the 42.2k marathon. This is the first and hopefully last time I try to run a marathon on blisters 🤣 but it was a flat course, no jebel to worry about, albeit plenty of dunes including some larger fun ones. But hey its the Sahara right 🤣🤣 I managed to run to the second checkpoint, about 22k in and from there with dunes and tiredness the pace dropped off but I'll never forget that magic moment when I approached the finish and realised I was about to become a finisher. They say everyone cries when they finish it and I am definitely no exception. Patrick Bauer put the medal round my neck and I collected my hot sweet tea, water, solidarity tee (we get the finisher top at the hotel tomorrow) and water ration. Stage 6 isn't part of the race but compulsory, a 10k solidarity stage. They are cunning and you only get to the hotel bus by doing it. Hence nobody refuses 🤣 however its not timed and therefore everyone walks. Omg what a route. Straight through the monster dunes you imagine when you think of the Sahara. I'm on the bus now to the hotel. I managed to get a few messages out last night with the patchy signal and will be sending a lot more over the next day. I've become feral, still in the same clothes from the start with no washing facilities and anyway the water ration means little spare for washing. Tired, broken, sore. But realising I've been so very lucky to experience something so completely awesome. I've taken a hundred stories away, some hilarious, some very sad, some uplifting. If I'd known half of what I know about the event now I'd never have signed up, I have never tried to do anything half this adventurous. But I'm so bloody glad I didn't know it and I foolishly signed up or I'd never have discovered just what a fairly ordinary person like me can achieve if they try. I don't understand how but I placed 418 out of the original 900 odd starters, which I'm in complete disbelief about, but assuming it isn't an error then far better outcome than I could have ever thought possible. But then one of the big learnings from the week is how unimportant being the fastest is compared to making it through. I met a lot of incredible people this week, some fast, some definitely not and no less legends for that.The bus lands at the hotel in 3 hours now and my first priority is cold beer. Then a couple to take to my room for the bath.. by the second bath I might even look human. And then I fully intend to drink until I'm snoring loud. Which I'm sad to say will probably take about 5 beers in my current state 🤣🤣🤣 we have 2 nights at the hotel before the flight home and aside from eating as much as I can to replace the calorie deficit weight loss, do as much damage to the bar stock as possible and fill my bags with souvenirs I can't wait for quality time on an actual mattress. I'll not take them for granted again. And don't mention the toilet. You know you've been in the desert way too long when poop bags become normalised 🤣🤣

1 comment

  • Brilliant achievement and a diary that is so enlightening

    Cate

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published