September 16

The Marathon des Sables Checklist

When I prepared for my first Marathon des Sables in 2012, one of the things that would have helped tremendously would have been to have a checklist. Of course you have the compulsory kit list in the race regulations, and this is extremely important information. However, this list, along with the remaining equipment you need, forms only a small part of your preparations.

In order to have a successful race, it really helps to lay out a plan for your preparation journey. It becomes “Project Marathon des Sables” and it is no small undertaking. When you think about everything you need to do it can become overwhelming. It can also be that you are not sure that you have covered everything.

In order to offer some help at laying out your plan, I have created a checklist. This list contains the most important things you need to do in the lead-up to the Marathon des Sables. I have also listed these tasks by month. The timeline is based on my experience from having competed in four MDS editions (2012, 2015, 2016, 2017), and from having successfully coached many runners for this race since 2015.

Example for October MDS Checklist:

  • formulate a preliminary race goal,
  • start to gather general race information,
  • sketch out your high level training and preparation plan,
  • take a good look at your life and clear out any distracting “clutter” that is not going to be helpful for you.

Formulate your goal

As for the goal, this can be difficult to formulate. However, so many of the rest of your preparations rest upon having a somewhat realistic idea of your race ambitions. The kit, food, and the training you will do, will look different based on what kind of competitor you perceive yourself to be. Are you a walker, walk/runner, mid pack runner, front pack runner, elite? It can be just a rough idea for now, and you can refine it down the line, but do not ignore it. Coming to some clarity around this will be a great guide when you start planning.

Start to gather general race information

This may include reading articles and/or books, listening to talks, chatting to previous runners, watching videos. You have probably done this already since you decided to sign up to the race. Maybe it is a matter of informing yourself in more detail now, so that you become more clear on what you need to do and what you can expect. For example, I am doing a free MDS talk in October, which is an example of a general race information resource.

Create a high level plan

The check list will help you with the high level preparation milestones and where they fit in. For your specific training you might work with a coach to get help with your training plan. If you don’t, you can look for training specific resources to make your own plan. We’re talking high level now, first of all. One thing that you can hang a high level training plan on are some interim goals. These can vary a lot depending on your previous experience and current fitness level, but can include for example a trail marathon, a 50km ultra and perhaps a 75-100km ultra. Read about MDS training tips here.

Organise your life

If you have a busy life with other commitments (family, relationship, friends, hobbies, work, kids) you need a plan for how these areas will keep functioning whilst you introduce project Marathon des Sables into your life. How are you going to maintain a healthy balance between different areas in your life as well as good physical and mental health? Maybe some people or some things will have to take a lower priority for a while. How will you go about communicating and organising that? For example you may need opt out of certain work events, or your partner might be seeing less of you. Planning for it upfront can help avoid frustrations, disappointments, and stress. On the other hand some people might love to be involved and help you. Who are they?

You may have other things that you personally feel are important do get done in October, and then you can add them to the list.

What people are saying who have downloaded the checklist:

“This is just sensational. Thank you for making this checklist available.”

“Invaluable! Thanks”

“Thanks for making this great document available”

Download the full Marathon des Sables Checklist

You can download the complete Marathon des Sables Checklist above. It contains what I consider to be the most important tasks to do between October and race day in April. I have split them out by month in order to give you peace of mind that you do not have to think about this. Of course you may want to add own items, or reorder things depending on your personal preferences.

Look at this as the skeleton and basic aid for your own plan. As you begin to gather information you will have more clarity and you add details, comments, questions, check off things you have done, and build out your plan to be personalised to you.

The check list is in .pdf format, is free, and it is based on more than 10 years of multi-stage racing and coaching experience. The only thing I ask in return is to be able to inform you of upcoming events, articles, resources or offers that I think may be useful to you. If you do not wish to receive this you can just unsubscribe and keep the checklist. To be honest I am really terrible at sending out e-mails so it’s not like I will be clogging your inbox…:-)

I hope you’ll find it useful!


checklist, Marathon Des Sables, MDS, MDS 2023

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