Sara Pearce completes Marathon des Sables.

PACTRAC's Sara Pearce has just completed the Marathon des Sables Ultra run in Morocco's Sahara Desert.

The Marathon des Sables is the stuff of legends – a truly gruelling multi-stage adventure in one of the world’s most inhospitable environments, the Sahara Desert. It is one of the toughest footraces on Earth. Physically, it is six days’ running over 152 miles across endless sand dunes, rocky jebels and white-hot salt plains, carrying what you need to survive on your back. It is a mental as well as a physical challenge.

Finishing the Marathon des Sables — or simply running in it — is a tough challenge. Each year, race organisers deploy 120,000 litres of water, hundreds of support staff, and a wide array of vehicles, aircraft, and even camels to monitor the action and keep runners safe.

Brutal heat and challenging desert weather, with howling wind and plenty of steep terrain can wreak havoc at times throughout the week of racing, with the final day being a non-competitive stage.

Sara was running every day for 7 days over 6 stages, including stage 4 which took place on days 4 and 5 over a distance of 56 miles, all on sand. This was the 2nd ever longest stage, and was a monumental effort on its own, taking her 25 1/2 hours. The other stages themselves were around 20-27 miles in the searing heat, often over 50°C, with Sara on the go for 7-8 hours each time, in one of the hardest hottest editions of the race. The drop out rate this year was higher than usual at over 30%.

On top of it all, the 1,128 starters all had to be self-sufficient, with the organisers providing water rations and tents each night. 763 runners finished this 37th edition of the race, in south-west Morocco.

Sara initially entered the race in 2021, but the event was cancelled due to covid and rearranged for 2022. Unfortunately, Sara herself got covid just a couple of days before the 2022 race and had to again postpone. She decided to do her own Marathon des Sables at home, running the same distances as the official runners out in Morocco, including the 53 mile longest stage, and all done over a 4-mile circuit local to home.

Having to regain the motivation to want to train for it all again, Sara entered the New York Marathon last November (4:39 hours) followed by the Pilgrims 66-mile race along the North Downs Way.

Being self-sufficient in the Saharan Desert in the Marathon des Sables was the biggest challenge of her life, setting out to raise £500 for the MIND Charity but exceeding £3,000.

The race has been a long term goal. In the build up to the race Sara said "I have wanted to take part in this event since I started running properly and honestly cannot believe that I am actually going to do it!!! Eeeek! I am wayyyyyy out of my depth yet stupidly excited at the same time. Everything I need for that week I have to carry on my back, and I will eat dehydrated food all week. Whilst this has been my dream race and all self funded, it’s such a huge thing that I decided to try and raise a few £ for charity along the way".

Her focus has now switched to triathlon, with the half-Ironman race in Weymouth in September.


468. Sara Pearce .... Stage .. Distance .. Time .. position.

1 .... 22.3 miles .... 7:05:04 .... 625.

2 .... 19.8 miles .... 7:38:48 .... 537.

3 .... 21.5 miles .... 7:21:15 .... 486.

4 .... 56.0 miles ... 25:27:53 ... 502.

5 .... 27.0 miles .... 8:07:08 .... 383.

6 ..... 5.65 miles .... 2:34:58 .... 634.

Overall .. 152.25 miles .... 58:15:06 hours. 468th overall. 76th female. Age Group 22nd. 1,128 starters.