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A Bimble in the Desert: My First Ultra-Marathon

Updated: Feb 4, 2018

So here it is, my first ever blog post and it’s about my first ever official marathon / ultra-marathon. I've written it mainly because I’ve had a few people email me asking what sort of training I'm doing for it and if I am either (a) batshit crazy (b) stupid or (c) both! Continue reading to find out...

Photo by Noam Jordan on Unsplash


For those who don’t know me, I'm Rus, a former Royal Marine, security consultant, qualified personal trainer and now, a proud coffee business owner too.

Over the coming weeks I’ll post on here about my training, my equipment, as well as my hopes and fears as the race draws ever closer! I’ll give an honest account and try to avoid any the of macho bullshit as much as possible.


So what is the Marathon Des Sables (MdS)?

In its simplest form it’s a 6 day ultra-marathon in the Sahara desert, Southern Morocco. It's held annually and has been dubbed “the toughest foot race on earth." 


Every day is different as the distances covered each day vary. For the first 3 days its approximately a marathon per day, but it’s day 4 that separates the men from boys! 85 - 90 km with many participants still going through the night. In summary you run / walk / crawl (any are acceptable) your way over 250-ish kilometers of desert, whilst carrying your own food, medical kit, sleeping gear and personal items. Add to this a limited water supply, which is received at certain checkpoints throughout the course and at the end of each day, and you have yourself one character building week!

If the sheer distance and carrying your own kit wasn’t enough, you also face honking sand dunes, jebels (Moroccan word for mountains), dried up river beds and deep morale sapping sand - all in temperatures reaching 50 degrees celsius.

At this point I think it's probably safe to say I must be (c) both, batshit crazy and stupid!


Am I running it for a charity?


Yes, I'm currently in the process of getting sponsorship to raise money for the Royal Marines Charity. With so many great and worthwhile charities out there, there was tonnes of choice but in the end I wanted to keep it close to home. Being a Marine has shaped my life and so it's time to try and give something back.


My Royal Marines Charity sports top and sponsorship stuff arrive in the post.


What do the Royal Marines Charity do?


If being away from home, their families, or Netflix wasn’t enough, serving personnel also have to deal with the same worries that the average person on the street has; rising mortgages and energy bills, unexpected emergency outgoings or even just the cost of living. When such difficulties become too much, the Royal Marines Charity is there to help, and not just for serving personnel, but also for former Marines (you are never an ex Marine) and their families.


It isn’t just financial difficulty that they can help with either, they also help with unemployment issues and the difficult process of transitioning from the military to the civilian world. They're also there to help with medical treatments and if need be funeral arrangements.


If you're able and willing to donate to a great cause, please check out my Just Giving page:


https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rus-mcdonagh


I'm currently at £90, which is great, but of course I'm aiming to raise as much as possible for them! Also a big thank you to those who have donated already!


Adventure is calling....


The older I get the more aware I am becoming of how quickly life goes by! So I aim to cram in as much adventure (and coffee) throughout my life as possible. I'm lucky enough to have experienced and seen some amazing (and not so amazing) things and places in the world already, both in and out of the Corps. But when life happens and we settle down, sometimes we end up up settling for less adventure too. So, I've decided I need to step up my game again and I've created a section on this blog especially for the adventures I go on, from physical challenges like ultra-marathons - I hope MdS is the first of many - and also the places I travel to with my family.


Doing the MdS is more than just a tick-in-the-box on my bucket list though, I'm also doing it to push myself to the limit and see what I can achieve, both physically and mentally - and what better way to test myself than the toughest foot race on earth... After all, how hard can it be?!


If anyone else is doing the MdS this year or has done it before, let me know how your training is going or about your MdS experiences (any tips appreciated!) in the comments below.


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