What's a desert race?

This race format is run in self-sufficiency, the runner carries their own pack with food/clothes/sleeping. The weight can vary from 6.5 kg to 15 kg depending on the runner's level and speed of progress. The temperature can go up to 50°C during the day in full sun and go down to 3°C at night. The terrain is varied between sand dunes, rocky, dry riverbeds, tracks, small mountains...So, in this environment, the whole body is put to the test. We have some advice that deals with the 3 key elements necessary to take on such a challenge.

Desert Race Challenge

The equipment

Running for several days under a blazing sun requires suitable clothing and equipment. RaidLight has developed ultralight products designed for a Marathon des Sables type format.

Training

Wearing 6kg for several days in the race? You need an adapted training plan!

Food

On the half and full format of Marathon des Sables you have to carry all of your food. But what foods give you the nutrients you need for a race like this?

Testimonials

Physically the desert races require a rigorous preparation, I start it 5 months before the race. I vary my training between weight training and cardio but also in terms of terrain in order to be as complete as possible. I train an average of 3h/day morning and evening. In terms of mental preparation, I imagine myself crossing the line as much in training as on the day of the race.
RACHID EL MORABITY

Preparation advice

Training

We don't have the intention here to make one / more training plans to prepare for a "desert race". These plans must be built to the individual's time availability, experience and level. However, we do have "guidelines" which can assist you in your preparation.

1 Do not stereotype your training as all about endurance. You should do varied training, working at different efforts and pace: endurance but also threshold, VO2 Max...even with 3 training sessions per week.

2 For endurance, there is no need to run for more than 2 hours. Afterwards you get fatigue, you get tired and you can't train properly the following week. On the other hand, it is essential to go hiking, mountain walking or walk/run for 4 to 6 hours once a week. It is also an opportunity to do plenty of elevation and to get used to the technical trails.

3 When you are doing intervals, a 30-minute warm-up and a 15-minute cool-down is sufficient. Don't do any more unnecessary effort, and work your sets better. When you do efforts, 30 to 40 minutes are enough. When you do endurance, push up to 1h30 - 2h00. But don't try to do 2 or 3 things in the same session...

4 The pack. Taking the pack too often exposes you to overload and injury. For example, wear it only for the last month of training, once a week, during the threshold session. It is during this session that you concentrate on your race pace, so try to reproduce the elements of the race.

5 Don't do too many kilometres! The major fault of multi day runners is to do too much endurance. You get exhausted, and you limit the "cubic capacity". You don't prepare for Stage racing by running 2 hours every day!

Preparation advice

Preparation

Desert races are endurance races and runners must prepare themselves mentally, but above all physically for the repeated effort. It is important to pay particular attention to your food. The race takes place in self-sufficiency under a harsh sun, the runner must be well hydrated and well fed so as not to succumb to the conditions. Most runners, aware of the difficulty of the event, choose to follow diets and stick to a balanced diet months in advance.

During the race

Runners are self-sufficient for the duration of the event. They must also travel light and have a minimum ration of 2000 kcal/day. The aim is to restore the reserves that the body uses during the race. Hypoglycaemia is the exhaustion of the body's sugar reserves. When the blood sugar level drops, the body is completely exhausted. You will need to consider carbohydrate-rich foods and liquid foods, they are easier to eat while walking. In addition, they will help to reduce fatigue during the run. You should also think about hydration before, during and after the race to avoid dehydration. It will be necessary to fill up with water and energy/electrolyte tablets. Combined together, they will help the body to manage during the event.

After the event

The body as a whole will be tired and the runner must gradually accustom back to "normal life", particularly their digestive system to a more regular diet. It is better to go slowly and avoid large portions and heavy/rich foods that are difficult to digest in favour of lighter meals in moderate quantities. In summary, nutrition and hydration are important when embarking on this type of adventure. The Marathon des Sables is an endurance event, the body will have to be able to withstand the load placed on it, it is important to have an appropriate diet.

Hygiene

Remember, there are no toilets, showers, electricity or mobile phone sockets... But here are some small items of equipment to ensure basic hygiene and equipment maintenance: Microfibre towel Fresh gloves - these gloves allow you to wash without water. Thread + Needles, Patch fabric, Glue - a good runner is also a good handyman... Tissues, Sunscreen, Anti-friction cream, Soap, Earplugs

Food

Desert races like the Marathon des Sables are among the most difficult races in the world, it is not for nothing that the MDS inherited this title, it is run over 240 km in 6 stages and 7 days, all in extreme weather and terrain. The runner has to be self-sufficient throughout the event. For those who are considering taking part, here are a few tips to remember.

Suggested hydration/eating plan

In partnership with Isostar and a professional nutritionist, you will find below a suggested hydration/nutrition plan. The hot climatic conditions of the desert require a fairly substantial consumption of liquids. On the basis of 800ml per hour and a carbohydrate intake of 90g per hour, here is your estimated consumption:

1 BOOSTER ENERGY GEL ↦ 16 GR / H

The gel is easily and quickly digested, even when you are tired. They are fast-acting and should be taken continuously, varying the taste each time. Every 60 minutes, alternating every 60 minutes.

½ ENDURANCE BAR ↦ 14 GR / H OF CARBOHYDRATES

These bars are fast energy, and provide "something for the stomach to digest". They are fast acting and should be taken continuously, varying the taste each time. ½ bar every 30 minutes in alternation.

H&P DRINK: 800 ML / H ↦ 56 GR / H OF H&P CARBOHYDRATES

Electrolyte-charged drink prepared for: - Energy intake (combination of slow and fast sugars) - Avoid important loss of salts - Maintain a sustained effort for several hours - Fight against muscular fatigue.

BICARBONATE STICK

An innovative action that helps neutralize lactic acid within the muscle. At the end of the effort. While continuing to hydrate, replenish energy stores and rest the muscles. Meals - Pack 7 days self-sufficiency (1 sachet = 1 meal)

The Desert Race Pack is a good base. Repackaging meals in freezer bags saves about 500 grams and a lot of space in the pack. This pack is a BASE; it's up to you to add to it with little things that will make you feel good and cheer you up! Note: These meals can also be rehydrated with hot water to speed up the rehydration process.