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Kingston man runnning in Sahara ultramarathon

April 8, 2013

A Kingston man engaging in what the Discovery Channel describes as the toughest footrace on earth says the first stage of this year’s race was the hardest and longest first day in the 28-year history of the Marathon des Sables.

“The desert and the difficult course were a shock to me,” wrote Martin Mack, a Kingston building contractor who is competing in his fourth Marathon des Sables, a six-day ultramarathon through the Sahara Desert in southern Morocco.

Sunday’s first stage covered 37.2 kilometres, from Jebel Irhs to Oued Tijekht. Mack was the 512th across the finish line in an international field of 1,198.

The rules of the race require participants to be self-sufficient, to carry everything necessary for survival except water. Racers are given a place in a tent to sleep at night, but any other equipment and food must be carried.

In an email to family and supporters, Mack wrote that Sunday’s first stage, a steady incline over mixed terrain of sand and rock, had three difficult climbs and with a full backpack it was “crazy.”

“To the first (checkpoint) I felt good and I ran and walked the hills,” Mack wrote. “To the second (checkpoint) the undulating terrain forced me to walk a little more.

“From (Checkpoint) 2 to the Day One finish line the heat was really starting to get to me.”

Because the course took runners through a valley between mountains, there was no breeze, Mack explained.

“I decided to run less and walk more, especially with the increase in the knee-deep sand sections, which are impossible to run,” he wrote.

“All in all, it was a good day in the desert.”

The elements presented an interesting challenge to the competitors before the race even began, Mack wrote.

“When we arrived on Friday it rained and we had a sandstorm all night, which made sleeping impossible,” he wrote.

The entire race will cover about 250 kilometres by Saturday, with each stage roughly the distance of an Olympic marathon. Today’s stage, from Oued Tijekht to Jebel el Otfal, will cover 30.7 kilometres.

(for a map of the course, go to:


From → Amateur sport

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