30ème Sultan Marathon des Sables - Journey to the Sahara, 2015

MDS 2015: Win some. Lose some.

30ème Sultan Marathon des Sables - Journey to the Sahara, 2015

After careful consideration and with the help of input from a lot of people in the ultra running community I have made the decision to withdraw from the 2015 Marathon des Sables. I posted a condensed version of my ‘Pricing up the Dream’ post on the Ultrarunning Community forum on Facebook and was extremely surprised to see the response I got! I posted it the evening before attending the myRaceKit Desert Running seminar and a few of the people there had seen and commented on the post too.

I was pretty sure as I arrived at the seminar that my mind was made up, I would withdraw from the MDS and turn my head to a different multi-stage challenge at some point next year. By the end of the evening I was certain that I do want to do the MDS but I want to be able to prepare my finances properly, hone my training and marathon/ultra/multi-day techniques and then do it once and race it to the best of my ability! As it stands, if all of my training went well, with my current marathon PR and if a lot of things fell into place during the MDS itself my potential suggests I would be able to finish in the top 100 to top 125. I did state from the get-go that I wanted a top 10% or top 50 Brit finish but after thinking on it during the seminar, taking on board what Danny Kendall (5th) and Steve Hodges (11th) had to say, I really feel that if I hold off for a few more years I can finish much higher than my current potential suggests – that is what really grabbed my attention and turned my mind to what I’m going to do in the meantime!

I can safely say that after 48 hours of gathering opinions and weighing them up with my own I have absolutely no regrets in making the decision I have made. In fact, I feel much lighter as the spectre of a huge and ill-planned financial burden has been lifted.

I have picked out some of the more important points that helped me to make my decision and they are summarised below:

  1. The MDS isn’t going anywhere and I’ll have a better chance of racing it well with more experience. It is a much more sensible idea to save up over a long period and then enter once I can actually, realistically afford it.
  2. From the feedback I got I found that the general consensus was: if you’re rich then go for it, if it’s a one off and you’re never going to do another multi-day ultra again then go for it and/or if you’re willing to get into debt for it then go for it. None of these apply to me.
  3. As it stands I feel the amount of debt I’d be facing just to participate would potentially impact negatively on my love of running and could well lead me to feel jaded and leave me with a bitter taste.
  4. As with all races there is no guarantee of finishing but being pulled by medics at any point I fear would lead to bitter disappointment.
  5. I would like to go on holiday with my girlfriend who also likes to run. MDS would mean no running holidays or even normal getaways for quite a while afterwards!
  6. The Al Andalus Ultra Trail sounds like a better value option at this point and there is a lot of love for the race to be found on various blogs and forums! Then again there is a lot of love for a lot of other races that are equally (or more) challenging, well organised and that take place in beautiful surroundings for a fraction of the MDS cost…
  7. The registration price does include cover for air ambulances, helicopters, superb medical support etc. but this is offered at other races too so the mark-up gets lost somewhere down the line. The ‘slight corporate’ feel to it that has been mentioned a number of times really doesn’t sit well with me because as I much as I might try to ignore that and enjoy the race itself it would probably bother me quite a bit.
  8. In conclusion I thank Martin Like for his very true comment that “…all that really matters is that you take up [a] challenge, enjoy every minute…come back with a lot of awesome memories and never feel the need to look back with any bitterness because of something as controllable as money…” and also to Ian Corless for his comment that “Not being able to afford it is something completely different. In that scenario, sense has to prevail.”

Well folks, sense has prevailed and I’m off to seek a challenge elsewhere for now!

One final thank you to everybody that weighed in both on the forums, at the seminar and on the run for your measured, considered and very helpful thoughts and opinions on this subject. I hope that it’s not only helped me but also anybody else who has been harbouring similar reservations to myself.

To those of you heading to Morocco for MDS next year, I respect your decision to do so and I wish you all the best – have fun, enjoy every minute and bring home some good memories. As for myself, I hope you can respect my decision that at this stage of my life and running the MDS is just a financial step too far!

Peace & Blessings x

3 thoughts on “MDS 2015: Win some. Lose some.

  1. Elisabet Barnes

    Nice post Alistair. I’m sorry you won’t be out there in April but you have made the right decision for you and I am glad the seminar was helpful. Good luck with your next adventure. Whatever it might be I’m sure it will be an awesome experience 🙂 /Elisabet

  2. Paul Bateson

    Sensible decision and if you do choose AAUT then thanks, you won’t find it easy, it is a proper race and not a walking endurance test but you will learn a lot about how you perform in high temperatures in very tough terrain. You don’t need to fork out for lightweight kit and you are well fed:)


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