Miles Smith were proud to sponsor Lizzie Bailey to run the Marathon des Sables (MDS), a multi-day ‘ultra-marathon’ run in six days over a course of 156 miles through the Sahara Desert with temperatures regularly peaking at 54 degrees.
Lizzie, who works in our claims department, has put together the following account of her time in the Sahara Desert. We are very proud of Lizzie’s achievements and are pleased to support her fundraising efforts to raise money for Scope.
“I chose to run the 32nd Marathon des Sables in April 2017, as I have always been drawn to adventure so I couldn’t resist the challenge of a race across the Sahara Desert! I was able to run on behalf of Scope, a charity that has always been important to me; striving for equality for all and championing disabled rights. The work that Scope does is invaluable to thousands of people across the UK, so I was proud and honoured to be awarded a place to run on their behalf.
“The Marathon des Sables is dubbed the ‘toughest footrace on earth’, a statement I found myself agreeing with more and more, with each step I took. The terrain is brutal, the environment unforgiving and the climate oppressive, however the true test was of human character and mental strength. I discovered on the second day during a ‘technical climb’ (where you climb up mountains of sand and rock with the occasional rope for assistance), that I was afraid of heights. This was not an insignificant factor as I discovered this 2 kilometres up, whilst walking along the spine of the mountain with sheer gravel drops either side of me.
“The heat is relentless and all absorbing, making every mole hill a mountain, whilst the dunes throw you around like a rollercoaster. What the average Brit would consider a sand dune is incomparable to the mountainous ‘Jebels’ in the Sahara, which loom so high that sometimes, even for a few precious seconds, they are able to block out the sun and relentless heat. What is incredible is how quickly it all becomes very normal; navigating and moving in the heat for hours suddenly becomes less alien and more manageable, every expectation you had for your own time and ability is crushed by the environment, and your focus moves from race position to survival.
“At the end of each day once you are back in camp you continue to be self-sufficient, living your life out of your back pack that you have carried all day, cooking a rehydrated meal and queuing for the doctors and water. And then trying to sleep on a bed of gravel in an open sided tent, whilst avoiding losing your belongings to the sand storms over night. I irritated the rest of my tent mates because the amount of sand I had inhaled filled my lungs with dust and made me breathe like Darth Vader.
“The hardest day of the race is undeniably day 4, the 86.6 kilometre double marathon that even the elite runners have to brace themselves for. You run through the night by the light of a head torch and through fields of dunes as the desert animals wake up. You finish with a killer climb after running across empty lake beds full of wild camels, pushing to finish so you don’t have to endure another heat of the day. After over 20 hours of moving the feeling of returning to camp is unparalleled, and after days of drinking warm water that tasted of rubber we were greeted by an ice cold can of coca cola, which was probably the best thing I have ever tasted!
“The experience is all absorbing, brutal but beautiful, I have a new respect for my body and the environment. The ultimate question is – would I do it again?
This event raised £8,864.76 for the charity