Marathon Des Sables

The Marathon des Sables is a 150 mile self sufficiency race across the Sahara desert.

In an international field of elite athletes, where the largest contingent was from the UK, Ben finished in the top ten Britons.
The Race Director Patrick Bauer said of the Marathon des Sables in 2006,

"We still remember the five days of non-stop windstorm that shook our caravan during the 17th MARATHON DES SABLES. Some thought we’d never relive such difficult weather conditions again! And yet four years later, runners and organisers endured far worse with the 2006 edition. Day after day, the heat and sandstorms, along with an unusually high hygrometry levels, meant a record number of 146 competitors pulled out! When Mother Nature hands out a warning to humans trying to defy her, you scarcely need a metaphysics manual to understand mankind’s place in the universe".

This edition of the Marathon des Sables saw a record number (62) of emergency IV's administered, as a result of extremely high hygrometry levels, and the marathon's first ever case of hyperthermia.

Most of the 104 runners who finished in front of Ben were experienced in the race and came from countries such as Morocco and Algeria where they are used to the conditions.

Ben ran the 150 mile race in 30 hours 25 minutes 56 seconds.
(Full results at http://www.saharamarathon.co.uk/mds_results_2006.html)

This Race is run in six stages. Ben’s best stage position was 87th on Stage Four (The Long Day).

“I tend to do comparatively better the longer the distance is. I think it’s as much to do with mental endurance as anything else”.

Ben completed this race with a rucksack on his back containing his sleeping bag, clothing, food for the whole week and emergency supplies.

The first day on a 28km stage temperatures rose to 41C. Eight experienced runners who had completed the event before were forced to retire.

The second day saw Ben face a 35km stretch in temperatures of 42C. The high hygrometry levels on this day saw another 27 competitors quit the race. Towards the end of this stage in a dune section a windstorm blew up and some got lost in the dunes, but Ben pushed through and finished strongly.

The third stage of 38 km found the temperature a little cooler at 39.4C and the runners were down to 663 with 68 retirements. The terrain was uneven with a long series of ridges and dunes. The checkpoint was inaccessible by vehicle and had to be installed by helicopter.

Stage Four, Ben’s best stage was a long stage scheduled over two days. Because of the severe conditions it was cut down from 72km to 56 km and competitors had their water rations increased. Ben finished this, the toughest of stages, in just 8 hours, 29 minutes, 55 seconds.

The fifth stage of 42km was run in much lower temperatures of 28.1C. Stage 6 of 11.8km in 34.3C was over flat, stony terrain in the main. It did however include 3km of the highest sand dunes in Morocco.

“When I charged in over the finish line on the last day, I was satisfied that I had fulfilled one of my ambitions in competing in the Marathon des Sables, and I was elated to have finished so high in the rankings, but I have to admit, there was a part of me that knew that I hadn’t been pushed to my limit yet and I needed to look towards my next challenge.”