The Toughest Footrace on Earth

Sometimes you need to push your body to extremes to find out what you’re really made of!

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The Marathon des Sables (MDS) is known as the toughest footrace on Earth. It’s a gruelling 250-kilometre, seven-day journey that takes place in Morocco, through the Sahara desert. MDS takes participants up and down sand dunes, traversing through mountains, and across salt pans – all while fighting through sandstorms in the scorching heat and carrying everything needed for the duration of the race on your back.

Why would I ever consider such a task? I wanted to prove to myself, and everyone who thought I didn’t have it in me, that I could complete such a gruelling race. I also wanted my daughter Arielle to be proud of me, and to know that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

When the Going Gets Tough

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I completed the race with my husband, and his faith motivated me to finish each day. I also had the pleasure of running a section of my daily races with renowned English explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who called this particular footrace “more hellish than hell.” It was a sentiment both he and I shared.Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 4.46.20 PM

There was a point where I thought I had reached my limit. I’d completed three straight marathon days, and was embarking on the long stage – 92 kilometres – that would require me to stay on my feet for 24 hours, with only two hours of rest. My glucose levels plummeted and temporary blindness set in. I reached a checkpoint, and for the first time I knew I needed medical assistance.

Tanya_Pieterse_Photo_2 (2560x3840)The medical team from Doc Trotters had me put on a drip to rehydrate my body and stabilize my blood glucose levels. After my prognosis and treatment, I was given the option to fall out of the race. I waited for the morphine injection to kick in, and got up with the assistance of my husband. I went on to finish the stage, and eventually crossed the finish line.

After pushing through so many harrowing days, I was elated. I gave in to tears of extreme joy as a crowd cheered us on. I had done it!

This race has become a life-changing experience. When taking part in the MDS, everyone is fighting their way through the desert together on equal footing. Nationality and gender no longer exist – everyone bonds and becomes one through their shared struggle.

Achieving the seemingly impossible has changed the way I see myself in the mirror each day. I now know that I can do anything that I set my mind to, and that I can survive any adventure I choose to embark on. I’ve learned that I can dream big, and I will follow my dreams regardless of whether anyone may doubt me. I am braver than I once believed, and stronger than I know.

By Tanya Pieterse

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