Off To The Marathon Des Sables

On March 22, 2009, in Racing, by Meghan

Tuesday morning, I’ll board a series of eastbound airplanes. By the powers of technology, about 20 hours later, I’ll emerge no doubt blinking and bleary eyed in Morocco. A few short and hot days after that, I’ll run over the starting line of the 2009 Marathon des Sables, a 7-day, 250 km race across the Sahara Desert in which I’ll be carrying all of my provisions (save for daily water allotments and a 2-sided, shared sleeping tent). In all, I’ll be off the terra firma of the United States for only about 2 weeks, but I’m thinking this will one of those lifetime-type journeys.

That’s all almost too scary to think about, and it makes the dinner I’m eating right now rise back up towards my throat, so is it okay if I skip all that for a moment? The details of planning and packing for this race, they are monumental distraction techniques (As is the rest of life, if you ask me. But that’s a whole different story, or two.). Thank goodness for all of these things, and their ability to keep the Marathon des Sables a little intangible.

Have you every considered donning a 20-pound pack and attempting to maintain a moderate running pace? How about this: ever get on a treadmill with an over-sized backpack, and watch everyone in the gym watch you run? When was the last time you called a 9-minute mile on a flat, even surface “blazing fast?” Pack training has been a fascinating endeavor. Perhaps the most important thing it has taught me is patience. The world passes by somewhat slower when you’re lugging extra weight around, and that’s a lesson that can be applied to many life venues.

Have you ever wondered where to find the most lightweight after-running flip-flop? And, how about salt tablets, ever curious what one of those (or 50 of them) weighs? And, the world of ultralight running backpacks, don’t get me started, that’s a ridiculous conversation. Assembling a pack full of gear that is neither too heavy nor missing critical essentials (In my mind, food, salt, sunscreen, and toilet paper. Just kidding, well, sort of.) could become an obsession or a professional hobby. Luckily, I seem to have escaped both, and my pack is still a pretty light 17.2-ish pounds.

Have you ever sat in an uncomfortably hot room, willing yourself to not look at your watch because you know time is just barely passing by? Perhaps you’ve attempted to fall asleep in said hot room because that has to be less painful than being awake? When was the last time you jogged in place inside a sauna, much to the chagrin and/or amusement of other sauna go-ers? Yeah, heat training. Sitting in a sauna for 90 minutes was much more uncomfortable than any MdS training run, but I suppose I can still chalk that experience up to “adding mental toughness,” in addition to heat training.

From March 29th through April 4th, during the race, you can follow my progress through daily updates and send me messages via the race’s website (It might be a little difficult to navigate, as the website is translated from French, and the translations can be kind of entertaining.). Each night, the race staff downloads messages via satellite, prints them, and distributes them to racers. Pleasepleaseplease think of sending messages of support!

Illustration of the Marathon des Sables (from

I think I’m going to have a lot of fun over there in the Sahara Desert. I also think that, at times, it’s going to hurt a lot. People ask me almost every day now why I’m going to do this most difficult race, and I wish I had a stellar answer for them. I joke around and say that it’s because I’m just a little bit loony, and I suppose that’s partially true. Mostly I believe that every single day of one’s life is supposed to be an adventure, and we all have to find our own journeys. Mine, it seems, is waiting for me on the red sand of the Sahara Desert.

Thanks so much for all your support!

24 Responses to “Off To The Marathon Des Sables”

  1. Bryon Powell says:

    I can’t wait to follow your journey you loon!

  2. JeffO says:

    I’ll do my best to post every day.
    I’m so happy for you! This is maybe the biggest thing ever and you won’t forget a minute.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Go Meghan! Soak it all in (and tell us about it when you return).

  4. brent says:

    awesome, have a great race! i cannot wait to hear about this one. GO MEGHAN!!

  5. Backofpack says:

    So exciting Meghan! Good luck, we’ll be following your adventure!

  6. Danni says:

    Wooohoooo you’re going to rock!!!

  7. Tom says:

    Go for it Meghan! I wish you the best time of your life.

  8. Roslyn says:

    Very, very, very best of luck! It sounds like a terrific, totally Meghanesque adventure.

  9. Sunshine Girl says:

    Like you said honey, once in a lifetime! Stay strong and smile big. Good thing you got a haircut. That must have dropped, like 2 pounds of weight you hippy.

    P.S. Have y’all actually checked on how well are Meghan is doing? She is out there rockin’ the freeworld right NOW. So send her a message. And give her some love!

  10. e-rod says:

    an aging hipster gave us an update on how you did at the mds. well-deserved congratulations are in order. great job for representing!!

  11. Leslie's Keith says:

    Fantastic Job you superstar!!!

    Can’t wait to hear about it in person ! See you in 2 weeks!


  12. LT says:

    Meghan, you’re a rock star!! We’re all sooo proud of you!!

  13. Roslyn says:

    You are so amazing!! Great going. Cannot wait to hear about it.

  14. Tom says:

    2nd WOW 4/4/09

  15. chelle says:

    The website says it all…I think the bad translation makes it even better!

    In top shape, the American Meghan Hicks finished at the second position for her first participation: an exploit. She came in Morocco «to discover another part of the world», she really surpassed herself.

    She did indeed…we love you, Meghan!

  16. Lisa Smith-Batchen says:

    Meghan!!! America is so proud of you!!! MDS Champ:)
    You go girl!!!


  17. olga says:

    That is one helluva discovery! Way to go, Meghan!

  18. sea legs girl says:

    Wow, Meghan. You are awesome! I guess all of that crazy training paid off. I’m so proud to know you. Happy recovery!

  19. A says:

    Yeah, Meghan! We are so thrilled for you! What an incredible adventure. CONGRATULATIONS!

  20. Steve says:

    Congratulations, Meghan! Can’t wait to hear all about it!

  21. Sunshine Girl says:

    Giddy-up! I reckon you had a good week!

  22. Backofpack says:

    Nice work Meghan! Congratulations!

  23. Meghan says:

    Aw, you guys, you rock! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

    Never underestimate the power of support and encouragement. All of your thoughts and positive energies out there buoyed me much more than you can imagine!

    Thanks again, I’m so touched!


  24. […] Off to the Marathon des Sables […]

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