A Kingston man is third among Canadians after two stages of the 30th Marathon des Sables, an six-day ultramarathon through the Moroccan Sahara Desert.
Martin Mack completed Monday’s second stage, a 31.1-kilometre journey from Oued Tijekht to Jebel el Otfal, in 11 hours, 33 minutes, 26 seconds. He stands 481st in a field of 1,490.
In five stages over six days, the Marathon des Sables takes competitors over a course that is roughly the equivalent of six conventional marathons. Racers are required to carry their own sleeping gear, food and personal items. They are supplied only with water and a tent in which to sleep each night.
There is one “rest day,” after Wednesday’s fourth stage, an 81-kilometre ordeal. Typically, many competitors need part of that day to complete the stage.
In an email to family and friends, Mack described Monday as a “day of climbs” over a particularly hilly part of the course.
“My goal was to take it slow and have an easy day, as I was feeling the effects of that heavy backpack,” he wrote.
“It didn’t go as planned. With so many climbs and (being) so steep, it was hard to pass people so I decided I would have to run more before the hills.”
The largest climb of the day was in the middle part of the race, over a mixture of rock and sand that Mack described as “the most draining part of the day.” He ran the final five kilometres.
“My body is holding up well but I really need to drop some food out of the pack,” he wrote. “I am not eating a lot during the day, so carrying food I will not eat is just wearing my body out. I’ll go through the pack again tonight to see what I can manage to live without for the rest of the week.”
Mack, who is competing in his fifth Marathon des Sables, is one of 22 Canadians who began the race Sunday. He moved up seven places overall from his Day 1 finish.
The leading racer, Rachid el Morabity of Morocco, completed Monday’s second stage in 5 hours 25 minutes 14 seconds.
Tuesday’s third stage will take competitors 40 kilometres from Jebel el Otfal to Taourirt Mouchanne.