ALL THE THINGS ARE PACKED

  ©Alexis Berg

©Alexis Berg

At this time next week, I will have completed the first three stages of Marathon Des Sables and run over 100 kilometres through fine desert sand. The thought of such leaves me speechless, as it is getting serious.

Whilst I am very excited to find out what Marathon Des Sables and the Sahara will hold in hands for me, I am looking back at a special last two weeks. Unfortunately, I have not been able to cover as many kilometres as I had hoped for due to the on-going issues with my thigh. Instead, I collected a few air miles that brought me to the other side of the world and were more rewarding than any training I could have ever done.

I have returned to Barcelona yesterday, where I will be spending the remaining hours before boarding my flight to Ouarzazate in Morocco tomorrow. After I had returned to European soil, I underwent a final medical check, which included the mandatory electrocardiogram (ECG), as well as discussed the race plan with my coach last Friday. Yesterday, I picked up the final pieces of equipment and I have just finished packing my bags. My race backpack is allowed to weigh between 6.5 to 15 kilograms, which does not include water. I aim to find myself at the lower end of the scale with my backpack weighing around 7 to 7.5 kilograms. That being said, this weight will obviously reduce from day-to-day, as I will be eating up my food reserves. During my preparation I have been training with up to 11 kilograms on my back. At the beginning, I did not think too much about the weight, but when you begin to run with 11 kilograms on your shoulders, in heated temperatures and sand under your feet, you do really appreciate every gram that you can save.

Once I have completed this legendary race, I will upload a detailed overlook about all the things that I brought with me, as well as provide an explanation to each item and its performance in the sand. I will do the same for the training regime that I have followed in the months leading up to this ultra marathon, as well as the food that I have packed. For now, I will simply provide a rough overview of the goods that you are going to find in my pack at the starting grid on Sunday, 9th April.

The following items are mandatory equipment: backpack, sleeping bag, head torch with spare batteries, safety pins, compass, lighter, whistle, knife, tropical disinfectant, anti-venom pump, signalling mirror, survival sheet, sun lotion, 200 Euros in cash and my passport. Furthermore, the organisation will provide us with a road book, a distress beacon, chrono tag, salt tablets, toilets sachets and a bib number.

In addition to the above, I have to think about clothing, hygiene products and additional equipment. In terms of clothing, I will be wearing Skins compression short and t-shirt as a base with a breathable Arcteryx short and t-shirt on top. The most discussed pieces of equipment must be around your feet, i.e. shoes and socks. Whilst the choice of shoe is very subjective, I have been reading various opinions about finding the right shoe size. I have chosen a pair of Salomon S-Lab Sense that is one and half size bigger than my regular running shoes, which shall accommodate the apparent swelling of my feet in the heat. In terms of socks, I opted for toe socks as a base that aim to reduce the friction between the toes, and a thicker pair of trail running socks, which shall keep my feet as dry as possible and reduce the risk of blisters.

In terms of additional equipment, as well as food I will stay as minimalistic as possible. The only “luxury” I currently possess will be my powerbank, so that I can recharge my GPS watch, in order to track speed, distance and heart rate throughout the week. I am still undecided upon brining my iPod, as well as iPhone, whilst the latter's sole purpose will be to take photos in the camp. In terms of food, I have assembled an array of Clif Bars, as they provide the best gram-to-calories ratio and opted for Lyo’s freeze-dried products for breakfast and dinner. In addition, I will bring homemade, hand-coated and dehydrated nuts as my daily treat for the night.

So, my bags are packed with all the things. Within a few hours, I will be boarding my flight to Morocco and a couple of days later, I will be standing at the starting line of the 32nd edition of Marathon Des Sables. That's crazy, but very exciting, indeed.