You don’t need to be an Olympian – or Paralympian – to complete the MdS. You don’t have to be a certain age (previous entrants have ranged from 16 to 78-years-old).
But to complete and enjoy the race you do need to have realistic expectations of the challenge you are undertaking.
The best equipment matters, but is no substitute for the right attitude, positive thinking and some proper training. Don’t obsess over your kit at the expense of other preparation. The surplus supplies jettisoned at the end of Day One show the unhelpful focus that some of this stuff gets.
Listen to and read about the experience of previous runners. Learn from their insight. They have been there before.
Explore online forums, choosing those where you know you can trust the information and the advice is based on fact. Beware rumours born of fear and a lack of knowledge.
The basics apply. You need to understand how you will react under the environmental pressure. And be aware that you will have choice and responsibility as an individual for the actions you take.
You need a plan, based on whether you want to complete the course or compete for a place. The strategy and approach you adopt will be different. Will you be walking or running? How will you use each checkpoint – for a brief stop, a rest or to eat?
Build your fitness progressively
Physically, you should have started your preparation at least three to five months before the race begins.
Long distance runners should aim for weekly runs of around 100 to 125 miles. If your goal is more modest, aim for 30 to 50 miles each week. Increase your distances in stages.
Build your stamina over long distances gradually by alternating endurance racing and walking fast.
Train, as much as possible, with a backpack to get used to using it and the sensation of carrying it, If you do want to tun with weight, start low and increase the weight gradually. Use a waist bag to help balance the load.
Practice packing and unpacking your rucksack until you know exactly where everything goes and that you have the essentials. The items you need to frequently (or in an emergency) should be close at hand.
And remember: your training is absolutely vital to ensure that your feet remain in the best shape and condition during the race – practice taping your feet like a pro, before you need to do it in the desert. Prevention is also really important and the judicious use of preparations like “Tuff-foot” and “Noc” cream are well worth adding to your prep.
Nightly treatment of blisters is the daily routine of the medical team on hand.
If you have never run or aren’t used to training at least twice a week for several months, then this should become part of your weekly pattern as early as possible. Back-to-back hikes will also stand you in good form. If you’re in good shape, play other sports and are highly motivated, you can do the MdS
Hydration: how will you monitor this in the heat of the desert sun? This is the most critical, yet often overlooked, aspect of your preparation as it can seriously impact your comfort, performance and health.
Recognise the challenge and your physical requirements. Understand your salt intake and develop a routine for this. Don’t wait until you are in the Sahara – drinking during your training is essential.