Commercial Solicitor takes part in Marathon des Sables (MdS)

‘Be prepared to lose a few toenails’.

In April Andrew Carrier, a Commercial Solicitor at Fraser Dawbarns LLP, successfully completed the Marathon des Sables (MdS) in the Sahara Desert.  It has been a busy 12 months for Andrew who is based at the firm’s King’s Lynn office; not only has he completed studies for the Society of Local Council Clerks, he also carried out regular training to ensure that he was fit enough and healthy enough to complete the MdS.

We spoke with Andrew to find out more about his experiences of MdS….

Q Can you describe MdS for someone who hasn’t heard of the event?

A 1,200 participants from around the world set out to complete six marathons in seven days across the Sahara desert carrying everything for self-sufficiency in a rucksack – food, clothing, and compulsory items ranging from a sleeping bag to a snake venom pump – with the organisers providing water at checkpoints, shelter at night and medical aid.

Q Why did you decide to take part?

A As a family – I am married with two children aged 12 and 19 – we are a competitive bunch and we encourage each other in whatever each of us sets out to do.  Running has always been a part of my life outside work.  I completed an Ironman – Ironman Zurich – in 2013 and had kept reasonably fit since then.  I was looking for something a bit different to train towards that combined a tough race / experience / challenge / adventure and MdS fitted the bill – Discovery Channel has described it as the ‘Toughest Footrace on Earth’.

Q Did MdS deliver?

Yes! I think it is fair to describe the race as brutal but I never really thought that I would fail – or at least I didn’t allow the thought much prominence.  My brain seems to be wired to keep me moving but not at any cost – something between explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes – he completed MdS in 2015 at the age of 71 – and rower James Cracknell – he completed MdS in 2010, the first Brit ever to finish in the top 10, but collapsed at the end of day three narrowly avoiding being given a drip, which would have incurred a time penalty.

Q What were your low and high points?

A The low was on day four, the double marathon day, when I arrived at the 42km checkpoint with heat exhaustion – the temperature that day had spiked at over 120F – and I had to force myself to eat something or give up.  I thought that day would never end.  The high point was the end of each day’s racing when all eight Brits in my tent had made it back and the evening’s banter started – we were one of the few full tents at the end of the race which saw about 200 participants drop out.

Q What else struck you about MdS looking back?

As an ex-logistics professional from my days in the RAF I found the French-led organisation both impressive and frustrating.  The event this year included:

600 support staff (mainly French volunteers and Moroccan Berber tribesmen (for 1,200 starters))
120,000 litres of water
120 road vehicles and
Three helicopters
Everything about the MdS organisation worked fine but it worked in its own time and you had to live with that – one bit of advice to anyone taking part is not to join a queue without finding out what it is for!

Q What other advice would you give to anyone contemplating taking part?

A Go for it.

If you are fit and can trek carrying an 8-10kg rucksack for long periods you can complete the race – I was really surprised at how many 300m+ hills and dunes there are in the desert so you’ll have no choice but to walk at times!  If you can run a bit as well you will achieve a decent place – I finished 211 – but don’t expect top 50 unless you can compete with the world’s best marathon runners – the second place male in MdS this year won the London Marathon twice.

Don’t underestimate the heat, the temperature spiked at over 120F on day four.

Don’t get too hung up on keeping your rucksack weight to the bare minimum like I did.  I opted not to heat my food but in hindsight I would have taken sachets of Nescafe 3 in 1 (the weight is negligible) and made cold coffee as a treat.

Oh, and be prepared to lose a few toenails (sorry if you are squeamish)!

Q What is next on your bucket list?

A I hope to qualify for another special event next year, Ultra Trail Mont Blanc.  No sand this time.  Just 175km of off-road trails, in one go, 10,000m up and down Mont Blanc.

Can I just get a last word in for my chosen charity, UNICEF, which does great work all around the world.