Can I really do this?
Why do it for Mencap?
How much will it cost?
How do I register?
What support will Mencap provide?
What support will I receive during the race?
Who organises the event?
What will I need for the event?
How is the total distance divided into the 6 days?
Is there a rest day?
What is the pace like during the event?
How important is the weight of what I carry?
What happens if I drop out before the end of the race?
How are penalties levied or can I be eliminated altogether?
Will I get lost?
Will I be able to communicate with friends and family back home?
Can people come and watch me?
How will I feel when I get home?
How to take part
If you are keen and enthusiastic, the answer is most definitely yes. All you need is the energy to fundraise and the enthusiasm to get fit. Many of the people who participate each year have never even done a regular marathon, let alone 5 consecutive marathons in 1 week. Although this event does attract some serious competitors, what gives the Marathon des Sables its unique spirit is the hundreds of amazingly fearless people who push themselves to the very limits of endurance and really give it their all.
Mencap is the leading UK charity for people with a learning disability. Every day, Mencap helps thousands of people with a learning disability, their families and carers. We provide support services and campaign so that people with a learning disability have equal opportunities to live life the way they want. Challenge yourself for Mencap and join us in supporting people with a learning disability.
- £250 could pay for 16 children who cannot speak to attend a special workshop where they can learn the Makaton sign language.
- £570 could pay for the 16-week course we run for volunteers to train them to provide advice and support to families who have children with a learning disability.
- £1,000 could provide a specialist one-to-one carer for two months, helping someone with a learning disability get the support they really need.
- £2,000 could provide 250 families, who have just found out that their new baby has a learning disability, with an advice pack.
For 2013 we ask team members to seek sponsorship of £9,500. This amount includes the cost of the race entry. Here is an example of the kind of payment schedule to expect:
- £500 non-refundable registration fee at registration time
- £3,325 first instalment, June 2012
- £3,325 second instalment, October 2012
- £2,850 third and final instalment, May 2013
If you have secured your own place on any Marathon des Sables race, you can still join Mencap's team and enjoy the benefits of being part of the team. Plus, we can contribute to your costs. Find out more about being an own place runner for Mencap or contact Rachel on 020 7696 6946.
The next step is to fill in the online application form. Places on Mencap's Marathon des Sables team are very limited. You will need to demonstrate that you can raise - or even exceed - the minimum sponsorship level. We will assess all applications and select the applicants we feel are in the best position to fill these places.
When you join Mencap's Marathon des Sables team you will receive a welcome pack full of training and fundraising tips. You will also receive a Marathon des Sables Mencap team adventure top and access to discounted products and services..
Mencap's events team will be behind you every step of the way. We will hold regular Marathon des Sables training sessions with running professionals and get togethers, and provide fundraising support.
We can also put you in touch with members of our previous Marathon des Sables teams for advice on fundraising and training.
And no matter what your query, our helpful events team is always at the end of a telephone or email.
Mencap's team will consist of 20 people and once you arrive in Morocco you'll meet another 800. One of the best things about this event is the camaraderie. When you are desperate to throw in the towel, you'll have the support of others who will walk or jog with you for a couple of hours, talk to you and give you the encouragement you need to carry on. There is a profound bond between all the competitors.
The race is organised and managed by Atlantide Organisation Internationale (AOI), who work with different organisations around the world. Running the Sahara is the official representative for the Marathon des Sables in the UK. They will manage all registrations and contact you occasionally, but Mencap's events team will be your first point of contact. All money should be sent directly to Mencap Promotions Ltd.
You can find out more at the official Marathon des Sables websites:
We will send out information once you register. This will include kit lists, names and contacts. Everything you will need is available to buy at good camping shops. Once you have registered you will also be able to access a competitors' online area, where you can communicate with other entrants and exchange ideas.
In 2003, the total distance was 243km (151 miles). This was broken down as follows:
- day 1 - 25km
- day 2 - 34km
- day 3 - 38km
- day 4 - 82km
- day 5 - 42km
- day 6 - 22km.
The day following the 75-80 km run is a rest day - but remember, you may be racing into that day in order to get past the previous stage.
Well, most people aim simply to finish this event, but for the record, in 2003, the winner (a Moroccan) covered the 243km in 18 hours, 56 mins and 8 seconds. That's an impressive 12.83 km per hour!
The fastest British person, Toby Till - who came 37th overall - finished in 28 hours, 27 mins (8.54 km per hour). The person who took the longest to finish took 54 hours, 59 mins - she finished the race and enjoyed it just as much as anyone else.
Very important! Aim to keep your rucksack down to about 7 to 9 kg when you weigh it at the start of the race. Forget any luxuries. Take only what is absolutely essential. You can and might start dumping some of your belongings after day one when you realise that you have brought too much food, or things that you don't really need.
You will have to hand in all your food and will spend the remaining days with the organisation. You'll get three meals a day and will be transported to the finishing point by truck or Land Rover. You will forfeit your security deposit of £180 (tbc). But keep positive! This is not something you should be thinking about now.
There is a long list of penalties, ranging from 30 minutes to 3 hours added to your time. There are penalties for late arrival at the start of a stage, missing a document (for example, copy of your passport), missing certain items from the essential kit list, missing your road book, or missing your salt tablets or flares. Penalties will be added to your overall time. A number of situations can result in you being eliminated from the Marathon des Sables - these include turning up without your backpack or equipment, not going through the controls during the event, drug taking and littering the desert.
You are given a detailed road book during pre-race registration. This includes a detailed route for each day, including the type of ground that you are covering.
Yes, a communications tent is set up each day from where you can phone, fax or email. You will be charged per minute or per email address. You cannot, however, receive fax or phone calls, but you can receive emails, for which there is no charge.
Yes, but only for the fast few hundred yards at the finish point somewhere in a small village in the Sahara. Travel packages will be available - we will keep you posted.
When you get home, things may seem dull and boring in comparison with what you have just experienced. You will miss the friends you've made, the evening chats in the tents, the awesome desert, the stars at night, the elation of crossing the finishing line and the sheer excitement of watching and taking part in ‘the toughest foot race on earth'. You may be difficult to live with for a few days - it is hard to share the experience with someone who has not been there. You can get plenty of advice on coping with these feeling from past team members.
For more information about Marathon des Sables, please read the details on how to apply or contact:
Mencap's events team
Telephone: 020 7696 6946