Marathon des Sables – starting your training

You’ve entered the 2014 MdS and you need to start training.  How do you begin?
First think – how do I want to do?

  1. Just get round
  2. Get round but feel good
  3. Get round and do well
  4. Win

Then think – what do I know about how it feels to run day after day?

  1. I’ve never run
  2. I’ve run but never those distances
  3. I’ve run that far, but only for a day or I’ve done multiple days, but walking or biking
  4. I’ve done multiple running days at these distances

Finally think – how much time can I commit to training?

  1. I’m busy all the time and have no time for training
  2. I can fit in some training at the weekend
  3. I can fit in training during the week and at the weekend
  4. I’ll fit everything else around the training I need to do

These three questions should form the basis of your training schedule.

If you are answering 4s to all these then you probably don’t need my help.

If you have answered 1s then you should consider whether the challenge may be too much for you.  If you haven’t any experience and haven’t got the time to train, then it is going to be a very unpleasant few days.

If you said all 2s, then you will need to build up your running to the point that you can run the distances and then put in some multiple days, running shorter days to start with.  Mentally, you need to know when you start that you can make the distance on the first day and that you can do that for the next couple of days.  Always include some speed work to start with, as the faster you can run, the shorter the days will become.  The other thing to do is try to give yourself more time to train.

All 3s, this could get interesting.  If you have run marathons or single day ultras, then you know your body can cope with the distances.  So, mentally, you need to prepare for the multi-day aspects.  First, you need to build up to being able to run the distances again (assuming you aren’t already there).  Next, you can lower the training lengths, but spread the time over 2 then 3 days.  Then build the lengths back up over those 3 days.  Keep the speed work in, because you want to do it all quicker!

If you have done multiple long days, but not running, then, mentally, you need to prepare yourself to be able to run for those distances.  You will need a long and steady build up for your running.  Include speedwork, but start to increase the single long days over a few months.  Include the form of exercise you are used to in your training so that you start to exercise on multiple consecutive days.  But, by the end of your training, you need to run for three consecutive days and these runs need to be several hours and you need to have done at least one run that is long enough that you know you can complete the 75km stage.  It will be up to you to decide how long that needs to be!

If you are in the 2s, 3s or even 4s and you would like my help in planning your training, please contact me on



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