The 2017 and inaugural Marathon des Sables Peru got underway, today, November 26th. With the passing of time, it is a day that will be remembered fondly as all those who are taking part will look back and say, “I was there, I was there at the very first edition!”
Marathon des Sables is over 30-years old and had Patrick Bauer not decided to take a solo-journey, on-foot, through the desert of Morocco, we may well not be talking about MDS Peru.
Bauer pioneered the multi-day racing format and although it has been copied the world over, no other race quite compares to the grand scale of the first and original MDS!
MDS Peru is looking to follow its big Moroccan brother.
Nearly 500 runners from all over the world arrived in Lima to start their journeys. New journeys! They are pioneers of this new race and as such they will create history.
Peru is not a quick trip, for most people, they will have undertaken a minimum 16-hour journey to reach Lima and as they soon found out, the journey didn’t stop there. Boarding luxury CIVA buses, the journey continued for a 9-hour drive south to the ICA desert and bivouac one. A police escort made leaving Lima somewhat faster than on a normal day.
What lies ahead?
Gigantic dunes, cliffs, oases, canyons, sand and the Pacific Ocean. The race will start cover 240+km from Cahuachi to La Catedral.
The MDS Peru follows the Moroccan format of 6-days racing of self-sufficiency, the only things provided; a tent and rationed water. Unlike Morocco, the bivouac will be made up of Individual WAA tents grouped in numbers of 6. These tents will be grouped based on the participants country and language. Think of them of little circular communities built around (hopefully) a camp fire.
Day 1 – 26th November is a travel day of approximately 285km south to Cahuachi and bivouac 1. Apart from long travel, made comfortable by luxury coaches, the runners will have a short welcome briefing, dinner provided and a first night under Peruvian stars.
Day 2 – 27th November is an admin day with equipment checks and the deposit of personal belongings. Food will be provided throughout the day. After the evening meal which concludes at 2000hrs, self-sufficiency will begin and the reality will soon hit home that MDS Peru has begun.
THE RACE November 28th to 4th December.
Day 1 starts in Cahuachi and concludes in Coyungo 37.2km later. The day will begin at 0730 and it is a day of pretty much all downhill starting at an altitude of just over 350m and concluding a little higher than sea level.
Day 2 starts in Coyungo and concludes in Samaca 42.2km later. The profile is more challenging than day-1 with a climb starting at 2.5km covered and concluding 10km later. A long 10km descent follows and then a rollercoaster of small inclines and descents follows all the way to the line. It will be a tough day with some steep sections, dunes and the canyon of Rio ICA.
Day 3 starts in Samaca and concludes in Ocucaje 32.7km later. It’s a mixed day of sand, Lunar type landscape, stony terrain and big round shaped dunes. The route climbs just above sea level from the start to around 550m in the first 13km. The remaining 20km stays a move 450m and constantly rolls up and down all the way to the line.
Day 4 starts in Ocucaje and concludes in Barlovento 68.3km later. It’s the long day and the one that often strikes fear in to many of the runners. The first 40km undulates up and down above 400m until the route drops to sea level at around the marathon point before once again climbing back up at 57km to around 63km and then a final drop back to the finish at sea level. It will be a tough day of sand, dunes, hilltops but the incredible Pacific will accompany the runners throughout the day.
Day 5 starts in Barlovento and concludes in Medieta 42.2km later. It is the classic marathon day and all those who finished the long-day will now be smelling the finish line. It’s a day that runs along the coast and arguably may be the most spectacular of the race as the Pacific will always be to the left sending hopefully a breeze off the sea. Beaches, rocks, cliffs, protected archaeological zones, constant up and downs as the route constantly drops to sea-level and climbs back up to around 220m.
Day 6 starts in Medieta and concludes in La Cathedral 19.6km later. Like the day before, it’s another coastal day but easier in regard to elevation gain and terrain: dirt roads, shingles, beaches and small cliffs will conclude the 2017 MDS Peru.
After the conclusion of day 6, runners and staff are transported to Paracas for 2-nights at Double Tree Hotel before flying home on December 6th.
Runners can expect to be surprised, a raw experience, a basic experience and a full immersion in nature deprived of creature comforts. Runners have three simple things to thing about – run, eat and sleep. For 30+ years, MDS has pioneered this return to basics and in 2017 MDS Peru continues and enhances the legacy of Patrick Bauer and the Marathon des Sables.