It is billed arsenic the “toughest footrace connected Earth”, the equivalent of 5 and fractional marathons successful stifling godforsaken heat.
But runners astatine the Marathon des Sables person accused organisers of failing successful their work of attraction by letting the lawsuit spell up successful exceptionally precocious temperatures, and aft a tummy bug swept done runners, arsenic good arsenic aesculapian and enactment staff.
Some runners person told the Guardian they feared they would dice successful the dunes of the Sahara arsenic they struggled nether 56C heat, and were told a fig of aesculapian unit were retired of enactment owed to illness.
The six-day 250km Marathon Des Sables – Marathon of the Sands – usually takes spot successful April, but this twelvemonth was delayed to October owed to Covid and temperatures were overmuch higher than usual.
Organisers said 1 runner died this twelvemonth connected the 2nd day, the 3rd decease successful the event’s 35-year history, and astir fractional of competitors failed to transverse the decorativeness enactment – the highest driblet retired complaint ever seen successful the race, which is usually astir 5% to 10%.
Temperatures during this year’s contention were overmuch higher than usual, regularly supra 50 degrees, and a operation of heatstroke and a suspected tummy bug debilitated galore people. The operation of factors has led immoderate competitors to question whether the lawsuit should person been allowed to continue.
“I tin truly lone picture it arsenic an utter warfare zone,” said Charlotte Heaford, 31, who said she pulled retired aft the archetypal time with her partner, Grant Moors, who became ill. “He was truthful sick, I’ve ne'er seen him similar that before. I tried pressing the telephone fastener connected our beacons astir 5 times but thing came of it.”
She added that she felt it wasn’t made wide precisely however to usage the instrumentality and this whitethorn person been wherefore they didn’t person assistance.
The couple, who unrecorded successful Poole successful Dorset, yet received aesculapian attraction aft walking a further 5km, and Heaford said contempt her spouse vomiting and being placed connected a drip by aesculapian unit they felt arsenic if helium was inactive pushed to transportation on. “We’re each the benignant of radical who evidently privation a situation and are acceptable to propulsion ourselves. We knew what we were getting ourselves into.
“But erstwhile you are physically begging to discontinue due to the fact that you person been projectile vomiting and can’t support immoderate h2o down and it’s implicit 52 degrees and a doc has enactment you connected a drip, yet they’re inactive pushing you to transportation on. That’s however they behaved to my partner,” she suggested, adding the brace had trained “relentlessly” for a agelong clip successful mentation for the event.
“They made him consciousness embarrassed to not proceed but we are adults and we cognize erstwhile we are putting ourselves successful mortal danger.”
The race, which costs £5,000 to participate and usually attracts much than 1,000 participants, is dispersed implicit six days and runners are required to transportation each their ain nutrient and supplies.
It was founded by Frenchman Patrick Bauer successful 1986 aft his ain 200-mile trek crossed the desert.
One runner, who asked to stay anonymous, said helium had tally a fig of ultramarathons earlier and regularly runs successful 40C vigor successful Greece. “I’m beauteous fit, I was successful the apical 20% of the runners astatine the extremity of time one,” helium said. However, soon aft helium said helium developed heatstroke and spent 5 hours connected an IV drip earlier withdrawing the adjacent day.
“To beryllium honest, the attraction I received was beauteous good, and I made the determination to accidental I’m not going further due to the fact that I rather similar life, and I didn’t privation to hazard it immoderate further. But I deliberation those that were little fortunate were successful the incorrect spot astatine the incorrect time,” helium said.
“The happening that frustrates maine much than thing is the inability for the aesculapian unit to say, this is really excessively dangerous, radical shouldn’t beryllium moving this, these heats are extreme.”
The lawsuit organisers defended their determination to spell up with the race, saying mean temperatures successful the Moroccan Sahara successful October are the aforesaid arsenic successful April, and this year’s vigor “was an exceptional lawsuit that was not foreseeable”. They added that it is not the archetypal clip the contention has been deed by precocious temperatures.
“Safety is regularisation fig 1 connected the Marathon des Sables,” a spokesperson said. “Everything is done truthful that thing untoward happens: GPS beacons, 3 to 5 information vehicles depending connected the stages, 2 helicopters and 45 members of aesculapian unit for 672 participants astatine the start.”
Organisers conceded this year’s contention “will undoubtedly beryllium remembered arsenic the astir hard contention to day – betwixt the heat, the planetary wellness crisis, intestinal problems, and the interaction of the play connected the 2nd time of the race”.
Another runner, who besides asked not to beryllium named, withdrew aft passing retired doubly connected the people connected signifier 1 and aft returning location says she has been signed disconnected enactment for 2 weeks owed to trauma.
“At the medic tents connected checkpoint 2 it was wholly packed, with radical connected drips and throwing up, and past I passed out. When I heard that idiosyncratic died it truly shook me,” said the runner, who past period ran the magnitude of Iceland. “I inactive don’t consciousness we’ve had each the answers of precisely what happened.”
Ben Gateley, 31, pulled retired during signifier 4 of the contention with his moving partner, Sarah. “We were starting to uncertainty whether the organisation was putting the runners and the competitors first, oregon whether they were putting the marque and the fable of the contention first, truthful I deliberation it made our determination truly easy. We felt that we were a spot astatine risk, and we didn’t consciousness similar we could needfully spot them to look aft us.”
A French runner successful his aboriginal 50s died from cardiac apprehension successful the 2nd signifier of the race, and organisers said the event’s aesculapian manager and unit arrived connected the country wrong minutes via helicopter.
A spokesperson for Marathon des Sables said that “to amended the information of the runners, 2 helicopters were medicalised and h2o bottles were provided to each runner astatine each cheque point”.
“Admittedly, it was difficult, and the gastric troubles considerably analyzable the concern of the runners, and outright pushed immoderate to stop. But astir 350 radical came retired unsuccessful successful this adventure, and adjacent among those forced to abandon, we work galore precise affirmative comments.”