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My experience at the Marathon Des Sables

Tom Pope, MS-UK fundraiser and all-round adventurer, has just returned from the Marathon Des Sables, dubbed ‘the toughest footrace on earth

In this blog, he updates us on what the experience was like and why he took part in such a challenging race for MS-UK…

The Marathon Des Sables is absolutely everything that you expect and want it to be. It pushes you to the edge of your physical and mental limits and forces you to draw on a level of resilience and strength that you want to challenge yourself to recognise within. It awakens the characteristics and attributes that you sign up to unearth and gives you no other alternative other than to find a way to keep going within yourself. It is every bit as punishing, relentless and testing as it is rewarding, gratifying and euphoric. I have created memories, friends and experiences that will last an entire lifetime and have joined an exclusive club that I never thought possible. On top of this, I have finished 79th and have smashed my silent ambition to place in the top 150 of 1200 runners from all corners of the globe.

Despite the difficulty of many of the stages, particularly the long day of 84km, I always had my motivation and rationale to draw on. In this sense, I actually felt quite lucky and, in a strange way, almost protected. Through tough times I thought to my family, my friends and the warm and supportive messages I had received to carry me through.

I thought to the struggle that my mum had experienced with her diagnosis in 2004 and the courage and strength she had shown until her passing 10 years later. I was able to draw on a sense of perspective that kept me going and think of her lovely smile and the looks she used to give me to keep me motivated and strong until the finish. I thought to the sheer volume of donations on the justgiving page and the way in which mum would have reacted when I told her how much had been raised. I felt that she was playing a huge part in the desert with a number of things going my way – fortuitously having a doctor in the tent and then experiencing rare breezes that ran through the vast, desolate valleys to cool us down when the sun was at its highest point.

My mum, my beautiful girlfriend, my family, my friends and everyone at MS-UK were with me for the whole experience and I couldn’t have done this without them. Thank you so, so, so much for the support.

It has already got me thinking about my next challenge……..; ) !!!


Visit Tom’s JustGiving page at