Flights to the 2019 Marathon des Sables can be booked now so why not let the team at Travelling Fit help by booking your preferred airline on the dates that best suit you, or alternatively you can join the Travelling Fit team all the way from Australia to Morocco. We can arrange your complete holiday package all in the one place to help you save time and money.
Marathon des Sables is a self-sufficient foot race held across the Sahara desert in Southern Morocco. It’s held in six stages over seven days covering a total of approximately 250kms with set distances for each day ranging from approximately 10kms to 90kms.
Participants must carry all their supplies including clothing, food, sleeping bag and first aid for the duration of the event. Overnight shelters (in camps) and water (strictly controlled and distributed during the race) is supplied. The first five stages will be timed with the final stage being untimed “Solidarity” charity stage.
The route details are only given to the participants on the day of registration in Morocco, so there is no unfair advantage in planning.
The event goes way beyond merely covering 250 kilometers in extreme conditions; it is a challenge to get past what normal people would regard as crazy, and achieve one’s personal goals.
Have you thought about extending your stay? Check out our amazing optional tours to make your holiday the trip of a lifetime.
Use Travelling Fit! Organising yourself for the MDS is a major undertaking and I think pretty much everyone was fairly stressed by the time they got on the airplane. Not having to worry about organising the travel made it that much easier to go to the race and enjoy it without worrying about travel plans. Travelling Fit is an excellent company and I had no regrets whatsoever using their services. I attended the Travelling Fit training camp which provided me with most of the information I needed to start buying my gear. Probably more importantly, I met some of the runners, who later were in my tent. For me, the MDS was as much about the people I did it with, as the race itself, and this was set up as a result of meeting them beforehand.
I have just competed in, and completed, the marathon des sables 2013. From start to finish you guys have made one of my life long dreams come true. Admin wise you made everything so simple and answered every question in a fantastic time making our journey so much easier. You took the stress out of our entire trip! (Thank you Di, ask Mari-Mar for a pay rise as you deserve it!). Mari-Mar, you truly are one of life's genuine, energetic, caring people. You went out of your way for every single person on this trip, often making sacrifices for yourself. When my bags didn't turn up you kept me sane, helped me get what I needed from everyone else, and to this day I still can't believe my bag turned up three days into the race in the middle of the desert!!! And having to sleep next to Hully's "drink" bottle must have made the whole trip even more memorable! Your photos are perfect, your attitude is fantastic and you made my experience one I will never forget (or stop talking about!). Tent 69 was so much fun and each of us encouraged the others to get through and friends for life were made, perfect match, thank you. We did this race to raise money for charity and Ronald McDonald house Newcastle will be the recipients of over $25000 of which indirectly you have made a massive contribution too, with your support and words of wisdom to both Drew and myself. Sadly Drew had to cut his trip short as his girlfriends sister had a baby who sadly passed away 11 days later. Ironically the family stayed at Ronald Mcdonald house so out efforts have already seen the good it can do. Once again thank you for everything you did for all 41 people, you are an amazing, inspiring woman who will continue, I am sure, to make other people's dreams come true. Thank you
Thanks for your assistance in the months leading up to the event. I’d have no hesitation recommending TF to friends off the back of my experiences with MdS. With an event of this nature and being a first timer there was a great deal of information to absorb, documents and forms to complete and arrangements to make and to be assisted along the way like you did was ideal. Particularly helpful was the access to seasoned runners via Facebook and the webinar prior to the event and then Mari Mar and others in Morocco. Any question that was not able to be answered on the spot was done soon after. The race was just a brilliant experience. Thanks again,
A huge thanks for all your advise, support and involvement in this years MDS. It was great, I always felt you had a finger on the pulse and that I could just sit back and relax. I`m back home now and relaxing. Very happy to have completed the Epic race... I will be looking at your company to swan off and do a few more adventures as I think you did a great job.
Once again thank you for all your help in getting me to fulfil a long time dream. Your assistance in the entire holiday was very much appreciated. To you Mari Mar thank you for all your support during the event. You were there morning and night to make sure we were all OK despite going through the same tough stuff we were all sharing and despite having a bad day yourself. You go above and beyond and it is very much appreciated. No doubt I will be in touch again to book another event in the not too distant future.
Flights and Additional Travel
Travelling Fit is a fully accredited travel agency which offers a full range of services to our clients. This enables us to book your flights and additional touring to help us assist you in creating your perfect holiday experience.
Entry Fees must be paid directly to the race organisers online.
The total registration cost for the 2019 Marathon des Sables is EUR3,100 for individual registration and includes all arrangements from Friday 5th April through to Monday 15th April 2019.
Qualifying Times are not required however you must be 18 years or over. Written permission from parent or guardian must be given for any entrants aged between 16 and 18 years inclusive.
Competitors must hold a medical certificate form (issued by the event organisers) which must be completed by their GP along with a resting ECG report with graph. The medical certificate and ECG must be dated no more than 30 days before the start of the race. Please note that failure to provide an up to date medical certificate and ECG may result in a fine or potential disqualification.
The start time for each stage race will be confirmed by the race organisers at race control the day prior to the event start.
Cut off times do apply for each stage.
Cut off times will be confirmed by the race organisers in the handbook which is distributed on the way out to the Bivouac on the Friday.
Competitors will be equipped with a ChronoTag for real-time monitoring and ranking.
Technical and administrative verification will take place on arrival at first Bivouac. Participants must present themselves to the race organisers and meet all administrative, technical & medical requirements.
Participants will receive two race bibs, timing system, distress beacon, salt tablets, road book and a check-in card.
Not applicable for this event
Water will be distributed per day to each competitor during the race at check points and upon arrival at the bivouac.
Medical assistance will be available at each check point.
Personal Refreshments and Clothing
All of the compulsory equipment and personal belongings for each competitor (eg food, first aid, sleeping bag and backpack) should weigh between 6.5kg and 15kg. This minimum/maximum weight does not include your daily water supply.
Each participant will have to fulfill the above obligations during the administrative and technical checks on a daily basis.
A transfer will be provided from Ouarzazate to the first Bivouac and after the final stage race back to Ouarzazate
Finishers T-shirts, Medals and Certificates
All finishers will receive medals at the finish line. Finishers T-Shirts will be given out the day after the event in Ouarzazate. Certificates will be forwarded at a later date.
Average Temperature in April is 30 degrees Celsius during the day and 5 degrees Celsius during the night. The Moroccan Sahara is a very dry heat with the average humidity being less than 10 %.
In the event of a sand storm lowering visibility to zero, competitors must stop on the course and wait for instructions by the organisers.
Solidarity Event – last stage of Marathon des Sables where family and friends of the MDS participant can join them.
This stage of the race is compulsory however the time it takes to complete it is not included in the overall MDS time.
If family and friends of the participant wish to partake in the final stage then they will be required to purchase a package.
Please contact Travelling Fit for details.
Marathon des SablesMarathon des Sables 2013 2 weeks on, and now we're both back in the 'real world' and day jobs, wondering if the surreal race through the Sahara desert was all just a dream. If I had to sum up ...
Marathon des Sables 2013
2 weeks on, and now we’re both back in the ‘real world’ and day jobs, wondering if the surreal race through the Sahara desert was all just a dream.
If I had to sum up the experience up in just one word, it would be exhilarating. There’s nowhere else where you can traverse one of the most stunning landscapes on earth, with some of the most inspirational people you will ever meet. This is something anyone can do, you just need to believe you are capable of more than you ever dreamt possible, and then take the leap.
While we were in the Sahara it was difficult to get the time to write about all our experiences, so, without further ado, here is a recap of our amazing adventure written from Tanya’s perspective.
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT BIVOUAC 1 (CAMPSITE WHERE THE RACE BEGINS).
As we pile out of the coaches that transported us all from the desert town of Ouarzazate, we can see the bivouac in the far distance, row upon row of black tents, arranged in a giant circle.
Amazingly, it is raining lightly, but within minutes a dusty sand storm (mild variety) envelopes us all and everyone scrambles to put on sunglasses to protect eyes from the grit flying around. Everyone grabs their bags and clambers onto the luxurious transport to the bivouac, a line of army unimogs (trucks). If there was any doubt that we had left the luxuries of the western world far behind, they were certainly gone now!
The bivouac itself is a riot of colour and sound. There are over 1000 competitors here from all over the world, who are supported by over 400 staff, 270 berbers (locals), 100 all-terrain vehicles, two helicopters and one plane, plus 6.5km of Elastoplast and over 120,000 litres of water!
Our new home for the next week or so are traditional berber tents, made from heavy black cloth. They’re surprisingly more comfortable than they look…either that or we were so knackered at the end of each day, we slept soundly regardless of the conditions. I’m part of tent #69, and the only girl! Apart from my husband Yaroslav, we have Drew and James, friends racing together who have raised over $40,000 for their charity (supporting disadvantaged kids in sport) to be here. There is also Andy, a former bomb and IED disposal expert who is doing this race in honour of his friends and workmates, some of whom died or lost limbs in the service of their dangerous profession. In their memory, he will be doing the entire race in his bomb-disposal gear to raise awareness. Absolutely mad and admirable. I am in impressive company!
DAY 2: RACE BRIEFING AND REGISTRATION.
Everyone is hyped. The atmosphere here is electric as people register and do their last minute kit checks before race day. At the center of our tent ‘village’, Patrick Bauer (who founded the race in the mid-1980s) gives us a long speech on rules, regulations, safety and tips for the days ahead. We meet last year’s winners and get pumped as the media helicopter does low fly-bys overhead.
Television crews are everywhere, and there are at least two documentary crews following the German and Japanese teams this year, as well as the usual French media hoopla. This year we have some inspirational competitors. A group of French firemen are taking three disabled children through the event, carrying one of them each day on a custom-designed wheel/sedan style chair. Two blind people are competing with their guides, and a one-legged Israeli man will be competing as well, using his custom carbon-fibre blade and crutches to carry him along. Humbling.
DAY 3: RACE DAY, 37.2KM
If yesterday was exciting, today is manic. The berbers start taking down the tents at 6am each morning, and if you’re still in it, it gets taken down around you regardless! Today we are one of the first tents to get packed up, so breakfast is out in the open air with the buzz of the campsite surrounding us.
By 7am our bags are packed and ready to go with supplies to sustain us for the next 7 days. There is nothing to do but wait for the start and hope we survive!
Everyone is smiling and cheering, bands are playing, planes and helicopters do low fly-bys constantly. Cameras are everywhere and flashes pop constantly. TV crews roam the starting line, and people are being interviewed left right and centre. We are in the middle of the desert with nothing around for miles, and there is more adrenalin, high spirits and dancing/jumping about than a giant rave party on new year’s eve. Highway to Hell blasts through the speakers, a tradition that is played at every single start for every one of these races. It’s simply amazing.
After what seems like an age, Patrick Bauer finishes his speech (in French of course), and suddenly we are off, careening through the desert like a herd of startled colourful gazelles. The helicopter pilot is a magician. He sweeps along the long train of people stretching out into the desert so closely, that you could almost reach up and touch the feet of the chopper as it passes over our heads. And so we begin one of the toughest weeks of our lives.
Today is 37.2km, an unusually long leg for the first day of the event. We pass through magical scenery, travelling across small dune systems, along broad flat rocky plains and up hills that offer sweeping views of the desert.
DAY 4: ARE YOU TOUGH ENOUGH? 30.7KM
After our long walk yesterday we have a shorter distance to complete, but today will be anything but easy. Later described by race veterans and leaders as the toughest leg they had experienced so far, today was a true test of spirit, with 3 jebels (mountains) to climb and sand dunes to navigate before reaching the finish line. Temperatures reached over 40 degrees today, some say over 50.
At the top of each punishing jebel we are rewarded with amazing 360 degree views. It’s a prefect chance to take a breath or three and prepare yourself for the next onslaught.
The final jebel is the real killer. With over a 25% incline, the rock face, which stretches some 250 metres upwards, has accumulated sand over previous seasons, pushed along by the desert winds. The sand makes every step more difficult, with the sensation that you’re going backwards at times. Already weary from the last two mammoth climbs and long treks over barren plains in the heat, the effort is brutal and intense.
Finally, at the top of this last tortuous mountain, we are rewarded with the sight of the finish line in the distance. Of course, because this is the marathon des sables, it is still some kilometres away, and we have to cross a small dune field to get there. Still, the sight lifts my spirits and I practically sprint (ok, hobble) to the finish line. Exhausted I cook my dinner together with my teammates in our tent, and doctor my punished feet so I’m ready to go again tomorrow. I am fast become a expert blister-repair doctor, and my elastoplast skills are second to none! That night we all slept so soundly, I don’t think anyone moved until dawn the next morning.
DAY 5: KEEP ON TRUCKIN’ 38KM
Today brings us another 38km closer to the finish. After yesterday’s gargantuan effort, people are now starting to feel the pain and the average pace has visibly slowed. Yaroslav and I are both nursing blisters, and it’s become a matter of managing your feet and your body to last the distance relatively intact…after all, tomorrow will be the extra-long stage overnight! Today I simply aim to enjoying the scenery and keep a steady, ground eating pace as best as I can.
Early on in this stage we pass through the little town of El March, with its oasis of palm trees and curious locals. The heat has really started to set in, with temperatures climbing past the 40 degrees and starting to edge into the 50’s.
Yesterday I had put in a fairly solid effort, so I find the going more difficult than usual, and my feet are giving me significant grief today. I take a lengthy rest stop at the third checkpoint and shanghai one of the poor nurses on duty there to help me out, who does his best to drain the blisters and bandage my feet so I can finish this stage. We’re laughing and joking whilst he works, but I can see in his eyes that he thinks I’m barking mad for being here. “Respect” he says to me as I leave, and then some more words in French. I work out he was trying to tell me that he had a lot of respect for the fact that I (a) managed walk here on my feet in the condition they were in, and (b) will be continuing on to the finish line (about another 15km away) to complete the stage regardless. It took two hours for him to do his work, but whatever he did (I stopped watching!) worked and I found myself motoring along at a decent clip to finish just before sundown. I even manage to enjoy some of the spectacular scenery along the way.
DAY 6-7: HANGING IN THERE! 75.7KM
Today is the stage everyone has been dreading, a long trek of just over 75km, which (for just about all competitors) will include continuing through the night to complete the next morning. Surprisingly, this leg proved to be one of the most enjoyable in the race. Everyone is quite sociable, and once you accept the fact that your feet are going to hurt no matter what, it’s relatively straightforward to find your pace and just simply keep going.
Not long after I pass through the first checkpoint, I catch up with tent-mate Andy, still wearing his bomb suit. We’re both making our way along at the same pace and have a similar plan for this stage (don’t stop until you get to the end!), so we decide to complete this leg together. It’s good to have someone watch your back, as today the heat officially reaches 54 degrees. People are visibly suffering from dehydration and heat exhaustion, particularly as we traverse the long open baking plains in the midday sun. Andy reminds me to take my salt pills at one hour intervals (avoiding hypotranemia, an electrolyte imbalance from drinking too much water), and we both find the hours literally rush by as we joke and talk rubbish for the next 6-8 hours or so till sundown.
We make checkpoint 4 (45.2km) just after sunset, and we stop and take a decent break to have a hot meal and elevate our feet for a while. At this rest stop many people choose to sleep for a few hours before continuing on in the morning, but we’re both of the opinion that this will hurt either way, and it’s best get it over and done with in one go, rather than trying to go again once muscles have had a chance to seize up!
Checkpoint 4 to checkpoint 5 (54.2km) has to be the most fun. We’re walking in the dark, but the race organisers have set up a giant green laser beam that lances out into the night to guide you in. At this point we are crossing a beautiful large sand dune field, and buoyed up by an intoxicating cocktail of a hot meal, some serious codeine painkillers and a no-doze caffeine pill, we hammer through these at a terrific clip passing at least 20-30 people on the way. I think it helps that the whole leg was in soft sand, which is gentle on tender feet!
The dunes are eerily beautiful at night, the punishing heat from the day has gone and millions of stars have come out. With no big city lights to distract the eye the stars shine undiminished, and the crests of the dunes stretching before us are lit gently by the moon. My super-powerful ‘Ayup’ head torch beams out like my own personal lighthouse, which makes navigating through them a breeze!
Finally, as dawn breaks the finish line for this leg is in sight. We’re both weary and unbelievably sore in legs and feet, but (thank god) we now have a full day and night to rest and recover before tackling the final marathon stage.
DAY 8: THE END IS IN SIGHT! 42.2KM
This is it, the final official stage has arrived. For everyone who made it through yesterday, it’s now a case of seeing this through to the end to collect our medals at today’s finish line. Very few people bother running at the start, as we are all now veterens and know better than to start out hard, only to run out of energy later in the race. Plus, everyone is footsore, and I do mean everyone! Even the elite runners are nursing a blister or two by today. Yaroslav and I have both had to slice our shoes open to accomodate our ever-expanding feet, and to ease off the pressure on the blisters and sore spots we have accumulated.
So, to echo a famous poet, todays start begins not so much with a bang, but a whimper. But its a happy whimper at least! Everyone is all smiles and there’s something ridiculously funny about the way everyone limps to the start line like a bunch of geriatric 80-year olds.
Today turns out to be hottest yet, with temperatures again reaching 54 degrees, and long stretches of flat open terrain to navigate. Water is in tight supply today and we have to ration carefully between checkpoints. More than one person runs out before hitting resupply points along the route. Luckily I had over a litre left over from yesterday so I manage fine, but many competitors choose to take a 1/2 hour time penalty and grab and extra bottle at the checkpoints.
Our final 10km takes us through the ancient town of M’Fis, which used to be the home of people who worked the nearby lead mine. It’s in ruins now, but people still ghost about in doorways as we run through. It’s beyond strange, never have I felt more like I’m in a video game or a scene from Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones. The thought keeps me amused as I pass through, and only the guy snapping photos of all the girls passing by on his iphone spoils my role playing!
Finally I crest the last rise and the final finish line is in sight! Broken feet or not, I cannot help but break into a jog, which slowly accelerates as I run the last 3km home. Yaroslav is waiting for me just before the finish, and together we run the last 500m. Those of my Aussie teammates who finished before me are all lined up at the end, and I get a rousing cheer as I approach cross the finish line. Patrick Bauer is waiting with my medal, and in true French style I get a kiss on each cheek and a hug before he hangs it round my neck. It’s a hell of a rush, and one of the reasons this race is amazing, everyone is treated a winner regardless of where you are in the pack.
Together the Aussie team finishers wait until the rest of the group comes in, giving each victorious finisher a rousing cheer as they cross the line. We’re still anxiously awaiting for bomb-disposal expert Andy to come in though…his poor feet were in pretty rough condition yesterday and that, together with wearing the bomb suit today in 54 degree heat will make today very tough going for him. Finally, about 10 minutes before the final cut off time, we see him pelting (ok this is relative, kind of more a hobble-run) towards the finish line. Everyone goes nuts as he crosses and gets his medal from Patrick.
It’s a wonderful finale, everyone made it through and now is the time to celebrate. Tonight we are getting our first catered meal in a week, and wine too! The organisers have installed a stage and a band will be playing. Ironically most of the competitors are pretty shattered, and I admit, after my glass of red wine I’m back to our tent to pass out till the next morning.
DAY 9: HOMEWARD-BOUND! THE UNICEF CHARITY WALK 7KM
Today we Marathon Des Sables veterans will walk our final 7km through some spectacular sand dunes for the charity Unicef. It’s a untimed stage and family/friends are invited to join us so the whole day has a very relaxed, carnival atmosphere. It’s just as well as both Yaroslav and I have broken feet and we can only just manage a slow limping walk. Thank God the terrain is soft and sandy, it will be gentler on our tender feet!
All up it takes us about 3 hours to complete a mere 7km. On the way we go through some amazing sweeping dunes, complete with herds of camels and many curious locals!
Finally, though, we make it to the end where our coaches are waiting to ferry us back to Ouarzazate. All up the experience was outstanding and we have learnt a few lessons along the way to help for the next time we do something like this (2015 anyone?!).
My top 3 would have to be:
1. Take care of your feet from Day 1, they need to last you all the way!
2. Pack weight matters. We took more food than was necessary, and our packs wieghed up to 6kg more than some of our Aussie teammates!
3. Regiment your salt, water and calorie intake religously during the event. This will stop dehydration and keep you going when the conditions get tough.
The Marathon Des Sables is a superbly organised event and something I would recommend to anyone, the experience is well worth it!
SATURDAY, APRIL 13, 2013 – WE MADE IT!
Hurrah! We have both completed the MdS 2013. 230 km of blood, sweat and tears, that less than 800 Australians have managed to complete in the 28 years the race has been running.
Thanks to everyone for your support, see you back in OZ!
WELCOME TO THE SAHARA DESERT
As the official Marathon des Sables representative for Australia & New Zealand, Travelling Fit will take care of your pre-race land arrangements in Morocco and can also arrange your flights to ensure that all travel coincides and your trip runs as smoothly as possible. Our involvement in your booking process allows you to focus on your training and we will take care of the rest.
We highly recommend that you stay a minimum of 2 nights in Ouarzazate prior to the event. To facilitate this we have put together a “Pre-Event” package that will allow you to not only meet your fellow competitors but also to acclimatise to the conditions before you get to the start of the race.
Mari-Mar Walton, Founder and Managing Director of Travelling Fit, has completed 5 MDS events and can provide firsthand knowledge and experience. We know what it takes to participate.
Travelling Fit is an accredited travel agency which offers a full range of services to our clients. This enables us to book your flights and additional touring to help us assist you in creating your perfect holiday experience.
- 1 Nights Accommodation Sheraton Casablanca (In: Tue 02 Apr Out: Wed 03 Apr 2019)
- 2 Nights Accommodation Hotel Le Fint, Ouarzazate (In: Wed 03 Apr Out: Fri 05 Apr 2019)
- Breakfast Daily
- Informal welcome drink at the Sheraton (Tue 02 Apr)
exclusive to Travelling Fit clients
- Private Bus Transfer from Casablanca to Ouarzazate (Wed 03 Apr)
exclusive to Travelling Fit clients
- Dinner at Hotel Le Fint (Wed 03 Apr & Thu 04 Apr)
- Group lunch at a local restaurant (Thu 04 Apr)
exclusive to Travelling Fit clients
- Optional Warm up run in Ouarzazate
exclusive to Travelling Fit clients
- Personalised Travelling Fit Running Top
exclusive to Travelling Fit clients
- Invite to Travelling Fit's MDS Closed Facebook Group
exclusive to Travelling Fit runners
- Travelling Fit Representative on site and available for questions
exclusive to Travelling Fit clients
- Taxes and Service Charges
Deposit: $350 per Runner and Supporter
Balance: Friday 11 Jan 2019