The Birthday Gift – July 2019
For years I had heard about my mom’s dream of running the legendary Marathon Des Sables, a 150-mile self-sufficient stage race across the Moroccan Sahara Desert. Any time she came across a fellow runner who had completed it, read an article, or watched a documentary detailing its toughness, she’d light up and talk about how extraordinary it would be to do the race one day. Little did I know that her words stuck with me until I was trying to come up with a special birthday gift for her. After thinking long and hard on it, I decided that the best gift would be an experience and what better opportunity to gift her with than the 2020 Edition of Marathon Des Sables! As a mother and daughter team, we planned to tackle the desert together and make memories to last a lifetime!
Finally! – April 2023
After numerous postponements due to COVID, we were finally set to start the 37th Marathon des Sables on 23 April 2023, almost 4 years later! It is rumored that getting to the start line is more challenging than the race itself, and there’s an element of truth to that. Prepping for a self-sufficiency race was unlike anything we had done before. Self-sufficiency for this meant that we had to carry everything we needed for a week minus water and shelter, which were provided by the race organization. From 14,000 calories worth of food, a sleeping bag, extra clothes, and sandstorm goggles to medical supplies, sunscreen, headlamps, toilet paper, and a small bar of soap, we each had to carry all our equipment in a single backpack. My mom and I spent countless hours testing gear and equipment, making spreadsheets, and going over calculations to try and keep our equipment/packs as light as we could without being utterly uncomfortable.
Upon arriving at the bivouac, we sat in our camel-haired berber tents and continued going through our packs numerous times. We shared thoughts and ideas with our illustrious and experienced tentmates and even began the process of removing tags from clothing and equipment to save weight. On Saturday afternoon before the race, it was time for the final weigh-in and technical check with the MDS race officials. With a goal of keeping our packs under 9kg, we successfully made it happen with my mom’s pack weighing in at 7.9kg and my pack weighing in at 8.6kg.
Finally, with all the preparation done, equipment checked and weighed, there was little left for us to do except do our best to keep the race jitters to a minimum and get a good night’s sleep. We embraced the sandstorms when they came and celebrated the simplicity and beautiful Saharan desert as the day turned into night and the millions of starts danced in the sky.