James Le Gallez takes on the ultimate endurance challenge in April 2024 when he competes in the Marathon des Sables, with his mammoth efforts raising vital funds for three local charities, including Autism Guernsey. To make a donation towards Autism Guernsey, visit: https://givestar.io/gs/SXLX63Y
We put him on the spot to talk about calorie consumption, hot yoga and mandatory anti-venom pumps!
How many people complete this race? Are there many drop-outs due to heat/length?
In recent years, over 1,000 people have entered each race. It’s quoted at around a 90% completion rate most years.
2021 was an exception; it was moved to October due to Covid and there was a 56-degree heatwave. Almost half of the competitors didn’t finish and there was one death.
Is it dangerous?
It’s extremely well-supported and well run for maximum safety. The race comprises 100 volunteers, 400 support staff, 52 medics, 100 AVTs, 23 buses, 6 planes, 4 camels, 3 mountain bikes and 1 incinerator for… well, you know what!
We also have a very strict list of mandatory kit that we need to carry, which includes an anti-venom pump, of all things!
How many litres of water will you have to consume daily?
There are checkpoints roughly every 10K and where you’ll normally take on at least 2 x 1.5L and then a big allocation at camp at the end of each day.
So, I’d expect to be drinking way over 15 litres a day. Salt intake is insanely important, so I’ll be loading up on that, too, by taking lots of Precision Fuel & Hydration.
How do you manage nutrition for the event?
Poorly! You have to carry all your own food, which is a minimum of 2,000 kcals per day, so that’s a starting total of 14,000.
It will be a mixture of Expedition Foods, gels energy bars and a jar of Nutella for the down days when I’m really struggling.
What will be your biggest challenge for MDS?
No doubt, the long stage. It’s around 85km in one go and will probably take me over 15 hours to complete.
That, and remembering to eat and drink regularly – ADHD and long-distance running equals chaos!
What are you most anxious about for the race?
Getting injured and not finishing. It’s never happened but I properly twisted my ankle on a trail race a few months back and I thought it was all over. That was a pretty anxious thought.
I’ve never broken a bone, but it would be just my luck!
Have you made any contacts with other competitors?
I’ve spoken to lots of past ones so far who have provided plenty of advice! I also follow a couple of next year’s competitors on Instagram.
How are you finding training? What specifically are you doing to prepare for it?
It’s really tough going, but more and more people are joining me on my training runs, which I really appreciate. I’m training for a smaller ultra in November at the moment, so I’m about to start tapering in a few weeks and then the cycle starts again in December.
Lots of mileage, plenty of mixed terrain, variance, training in full kit, keeping my temperature up and carrying plenty of kit to mimic the race as much as possible.
What about preparing for the heat?
It’s going to be tough! As the race is in April, I’ll have the joy of coming off the back of a typical British winter, which isn’t ideal. So, I’ll be wearing lots of layers, spending some quality time in saunas and contemplating hot yoga (which I’ll probably give up after one session!).
What are you looking forward to the most about MDS?
In no particular order… Hopefully, seeing a night sky full of stars, getting the medal, tent life, crossing the finish line with my trusty Guernsey flag and telling everybody I bump into that I’ve done it for at least the month that follows!
For regular updates on James’ training progress, you can follow him on Instagram @fromtidestotrails.