My interview about the experience at the Marathon des Sables (MdS) of last year

anniversary marathon des sables toughest marathon in the world Apr 16, 2020

Exactly one year I have finished the toughest marathon in the world - Marathon des Sables (MdS). To celebrate this small anniversary I decided to translate and transcribe the interview that I had with RTV Noord on the second day after arriving from the marathon.

Here is the link to the original interview (in Dutch).

Interviewer: This man next to me may have seen nothing but sand for the six days, he has run 227 kilometers through the heavy sands of the Sahara, at 40 degrees Celsius. Alex van Ginneken from the city of Groningen participated in the Marathon des Sables, as it was called. You came back last night with a few hours of sleep. How do you feel now?

Alex: Very fit actually. But I was home tonight at noon, I guess. And I was awake again at 6 this morning. 

Interviewer: To get a picture of your performance - How were the days? say how many kilometers per day did you have to run?

Alex: It varies a little bit per day, but on average was about 40 km a day and a really long day was 76 kilometers. That's almost a double marathon.

Interviewer: You have undoubtedly had questions in your head before the marathon. And have you asked yourself - why?

Alex: I did have a moment like that when I thought why. But yes, I think I need to sum up the beauty of an extreme goal. You really have to start training and you can’t slack corners in the training, because then your condition will be so bad. I see what it has done to me on a mental and physical level, on mental and physical fitness health, it is enormous.

Interviewer: I understand that. Everyone sometimes sets themselves a goal, but to run 221 kilometers for six days is a completely different goal.

Alex: When I first heard about it four or five years ago, I really thought those people were crazy. It is not possible to do that!

Interviewer: But is it true that these people are crazy?

Alex: Well now maybe I'm one of them. But I did notice that the closer you get, the more you start to train and you become fitter. And then it becomes more and more real and it gets closer and closer.

Interviewer: And have you already run all marathons. New York, Rotterdam etc.?

Alex: No. I did a number of marathons, but honestly, I had never run more than 42 kilometers before. I must honestly say it was quite exciting to do that longest day of 76 kilometers.

Interviewer: What is there for you? You will receive a medal and the honor and adventure you have experienced and this is fantastic. But isn’t it very monotonous when you walk in the Sahara?

Alex: It seemed so remote. But I must say that it was indeed, because of a lot of sand, but there are sand dunes and sand mountains. There are also flat plains with rocks river beds and sometimes you come across camels. Furthermore, the route is very well indicated and there are also checkpoints every 12 kilometers. And at those checkpoints you get water. You get a total of 10 liters of water per day and you take two salt tablets every hour. And you really have to, otherwise, you will fall over at some point. And as I said, it can be 40 degrees during the day and at night it can be 4 degrees. And you also run with a backpack of 12 kg, because you have your whole food with you for the whole week.

Interviewer: How to recover on such hot days? Can you do it at all? 

Alex: Because you are always running and you have some sort of adrenaline or something, it just goes really well. You come back and then you prepare food. You must prepare food for yourself. That is also something that is not arranged, otherwise, you will have time to rest.

Interviewer: But now it sounds like it's not heavy at all. But there were some difficult moments.

Alex: Well, it really was a mental battle, especially that long day. I was really nervous. I really thought: would I be okay? And how am I going to be positive? And how will I restrain myself? I really had no idea. I had never done this before, so I really didn't know. I was nervous the night before. I had saved a bit of strength for it too. And in the end - it was my best day. I had the highest ranking of myself, that day versus the rest of the week because I finished. And I was very happy. It was fantastic. The next morning I had a quiet restful day. I felt like walking again.

Interviewer: Can you advise us to participate?

Alex: Not without very good preparation.

Interviewer: Have there been a lot of dropouts?

Alex: About 5% this year. There are years when it is 15%, but this year about 5%. You see that people are getting better and better.

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