The final countdown: MdS 2016

Last updated: 01-Sep-16

By Alice Morrison

MdS 2016 is upon us and the heroic runners are getting their kit and heads in order to launch their quest for desert glory. It is a race like no other and is there for anyone brave enough to take it on, whether they be an elite or a plodder. You need a good attitude, strong feet and a capacity for enjoyment in the face of extreme heat, an awful lot of sand and seemingly endless dunes.

Warnings done, it is one of the best experiences in the world. This is how I felt at the finish. “As I was walking up towards the crest of a stony hill, the man in front of me started jumping up and down and cheering. I knew he had seen the finish and so I ran up as fast as I could. When I saw the bivouac in the distance and heard the music playing, I felt like my heart was going to burst out of my chest with joy. Those moments only happen occasionally in life. All the training and long hours of slog, the humiliations and difficulties, the soreness and the exhaustion, were paid back, in full and with interest.” Full blog.

If you are about to do it, signed up for 2017, an MdS veteran, or just thinking of putting it on that bucket list, here are some articles that we hope you find both interesting and useful. We will be telling as many of your stories as possible on social media so follow us on facebook and twitter for updates #mdsrunultra


By now, you have probably packed and repacked you bag obsessively but it never hurts to just have a final check so here are two pieces for you on packing for a multi day race with some solid advice from Elisabet Barnes, ladies MdS champion, 2015.

Packing for your multi-day ultra running race – what and how.

Fitting your MdS ultra bag rucksack – getting the most out of it.


Whatever your level, MdS is going to test you to your limit. This is a beautiful story from Ian Corless, who is an absolute MdS expert.

And who doesn’t need a little motivation sometimes? Words of wisdom from the elites that we prised out of them for the new year, but which still hold true.

Tips for the Race

For a general overview and some very sound advice we turn again to Ian Corless.

Coach, Andy Mouncey, wrote this as a guide for the last few weeks before the race.

Don’t skimp on hydration, during this or any other long run. Rin Cobb helps you work it out.

BLOGS from the class of 2016

The training and build up is definitely a major part of the experience and we love reading how people have been getting on with their training.

Simon Dicks has been charting his MdS build up and so far it has been really positive. “It’s been great getting back into running, finishing my first trail marathon in less than 4 hours, meeting new people, learning more about nutrition and trying new things.” Full blog.

Rebecca Adie-Drackley has been blogging through Facebook.  This entry typifies the fabulous lengths we all go to to keep that pack light. “Shaved 777gms off my total food weight today. Am now rocking it at 3,942gms totalling 17,225 calories for seven days food and protein shakes.” Full blog.

Duncan Slater is an inspiration. He is aiming to be the first ever double amputee to complete the race. Full details here.

Final advice from The Chief

Steve Diederich, an MdS veteran, is one of the people tasked with marking out the route – and keeping it top secret of course. Every year he is also out there supporting the racers. What he doesn’t know about this race, isn’t worth knowing, so here are his words.

You cannot afford to pick up any illness before or when you arrive, I still remember a harrowing call I got on the morning of departure a few years ago from a competitor and through the sobs, I made out that she had a chest infection and wouldn’t be able to make it to the start line. Don’t let that be you! Don’t shake hands or swap bodily fluids with anybody. Wash your hands before you touch any part of your face, carry and use antiseptic gel. Also avoid crowded places and children if you can! When you are in camp the same applies, sure – give me a fist bump as you go past but avoid any areas that have been touched by others and be obsessive about personal hygiene and cleanliness.

And then there is my second bugbear. As you may know, I work the course as a course marshal (Commissaire de Course). This role is primarily to keep you safe, keep you on course, make sure you are following the rules etc. I carry a medical team and a fair amount of medical equipment with me either on foot or in a car. The single most common medical issue we have to deal with besides blisters, unsurprisingly is dehydration – and mostly this can be avoided by following the very basic rules of taking salt tablets (please note that I didn’t say Nunn tablets or Pixie dust, just the salt tablets that the organisers give you). You will get issued with these on the technical check day together with advice on how often to take them. We call salt tablets “Glue”. Salt allows the body to retain fluids rather than to lose them, hence without them you dehydrate rapidly. Having said this, if at any stage you feel dehydrated, flag down one of us or jump into a medical tent (at every check point) and get someone to look at you – that is what we are there for, it is a lot easier to get you on track with rehydration powders than to give you a drip or worse to call the Heli in if someone is in bad shape. So… think preventative.

And here is my last bit of advice, for what it is worth…. You will be in one of the most amazing places on earth. It is a real privilege to be there as survival without support is not easy. It is also one of the most stunning place on the planet and one that you may never visit again, but be able to tell your grandchildren about your experience. So my advice is – that unless you are seriously going for a position and every second matters, stop occasionally and just marvel at where you are, what has got you there, the distance between you and your “other life”. One of my favourite things to do is to take my shoes and socks off and bury them deep in the sand on top of a dune and to just spend 5 minutes looking, absorbing a memory that will be with you forever even when your kids have put you in an old folks home and you are dribbling – you will have the amazing recall of that moment.

And finally – enjoy it for what it is …. A fantastic shuffle in a huge sandpit with some amazing people – See you in Ouarzazate!

And if that has whetted your appetite, or brought back memories, here are some Q+As from MdS veterans to enjoy.  Happy Running – Happy Reading!

We will be telling as many of your stories as possible on social media so follow us on facebook and twitter  #mdsrunultra

Jack Tavernor 2013

Colin Harper 2014

Neal Edmonson 2014

Richard Lendon 2012

Peter Clist 2009

Nick Keen 2012

Mark Roe 2012

Matt Buck 2014

"I felt like my heart was going to burst out of my chest with joy"

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Date Range

Global - Virtual


A virtual race which can be run at any time shown on the dates shown, on any type of terrain in any country.

Suitable for

For runners from beginners to experienced as you choose your own course and challenge based on the guidelines and options set by the virtual race organiser.

Endurance - Multi-activity


An ultra distance race including at least two of the following activities such as running, swimming, cycling, kayaking, skiing and climbing. It may also include different climatic conditions (eg ice, snow, humidity, cold water, mud or heat).

Suitable for

Experienced multi-skilled athletes who have trained for the different activities included in this event. Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements and any specialist equipment required such as a wetsuit, skis or a mountain bike.



Increase of up to 2000 metres with very challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity, heat or at high altitude)

Suitable for

Very experienced long distance ultra runners (min 3 years’ experience) or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races is often subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Purchase of specialist kit is often recommended for these races.



Increase of up to 2000 metres with some challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity or heat)

Suitable for

Experienced runners who have completed at least 4 ultras in last 12 months, or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements.



Increase of up to 1500 metres

Suitable for

Runners who have completed several ultra distances or similar events, or are doing long distance running regularly, with elevation shown.



Increase of up to 1000 metres

Suitable for

Runners who have completed at least one ultra in last 6 months or are doing long distance running (>26 miles) regularly, with elevation shown.



Very little change < 500 metres

Suitable for

First ultra event. Runners completing a marathon or doing regular long distance running (>26 miles) in the last 6 months.