From Monaco to Peru: local runners head to inaugural Marathon des Sables

NFL's Philippe Verdier at MDS.
NFL’s Philippe Verdier at MDS.

On Tuesday, November 28, the first Marathon des Sables (MDS) Peru will kick off.

The concept is the same as the famous MDS Morocco footrace: running 250 km in 6 stages over 7 days in a desert environment while carrying all your own food. The difference will be the terrain (canyons, huge dunes) and weather conditions (maybe a little less hot than in Morocco).

Two local figures in Monaco’s sports scene will be at the Start in Peru on Tuesday.

No Finish Line’s Philippe Verdier, an avid runner, did the MDS in 2013, 2014 and 2015, placing 15th twice and 16th, although first in his age category. “I like the idea of total autonomy, being cut off from the world for seven days,” Philippe told Monaco Life.

He shared that he’s become friends with MDS organisers Patrick and Marie Bauer, and with their association Solidarite Marathon des Sables, No Finish Line (NFL) has financed the construction (in progress) of a sports centre for 300 underprivileged children in Ouarzazate, Morocco.

Philippe said this year’s edition of NFL was met with great enthusiasm, “breaking two beautiful records”: the number of registered 14,260 participants and the number of kilometres completed – 436,963.

“It was an extraordinary atmosphere with everyone united by the same cause – to support disadvantaged or sick children. It will be difficult to beat these numbers … but we say that every year, and every year we do!”

For Philippe, running in the Ica-Paracas desert will be fantastic, with landscapes that will be even more grandiose than in Morocco. “My wife will be volunteering during the event so it’s going to be a new and beautiful adventure for us to share.”

Steve Gale of Gale Force Computing at MDS 2017.
Steve Gale of Gale Force Computing at MDS 2017.

Also sharing the adventure is Monaco-resident Steve Gale of Gale Force Computing. Steve, who was one of 49 people to complete all ten editions of the Nice-Cannes Marathon on November 5, just completed his first MDS in Morocco a few months back. (Two other Monaco residents participated in that same race.)

He told Monaco Life, “I assumed that most of the race would be on gravel tracks and that the sand dunes you see in the photos were just for publicity. In fact most of the race is on real sand and very little on solid ground. Very hard with a full backpack.”

Like Philippe, Steve took a 7-hour bus trip from Lima to the bivouac on Sunday, and had technical checks on Monday, the day before the race. “Having done the MDS in April, I felt ready for another challenge. And being part of the very first MDS in Peru seemed like an excellent opportunity, especially as I have never been to South America before.”

Emmanuel Lamarle, 
Editor MDS, also talked to Monaco Life about the inaugural edition. “The Marathon Des Sables Peru responds to the recurring demands of our competitors to discover new deserts, and runners from the American continent to benefit from a course similar to MDS, but closer to home.”

The Ica-Paracas desert “was love at first sight,” said Patrick Bauer, creator of the MDS.

In eight months, 300 participants from 40 countries covering all continents signed up. Twenty elite women and men will be competing for the podium, including ultra-trailers at the highest level worldwide. Nearly 40 international media have been accredited.

You can follow Philippe (No 13) and Steve (No 42) on MDS Peru live tracker.


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