What's in a desert runner's pack?
According to Damien, the biggest challenge for Half Marathon des Sables Peru runners is not distance or heat, but logistics:
“The race is based on the principle of autonomy,” Damien explained. “Each runner is self-sufficient with food and has to wear everything they need during the race (except water, which is provided by the race organizers). This is the list of kit in Damien’s back pack, which had a start-line weight of 7kg (15.5 lbs.).
Food: 4kg of freeze-dried meals providing around 3,000 calories per day. There are a variety of savory foods (pasta, rice, puree, tabbouleh) and sweet options (compote, cream, muesli). Also plenty of energy bars for during the race and carbohydrate drinks with minerals for hydration in the heat and post-run recovery.
Kitchen kit: A small alcohol-burning stove and a spoon. “I have never been a great cook anyway!” says Damien.
Sleeping: A mat and a good sleeping bag are essential. The bag should be warm enough (night temperatures can drop to 10°C / 50°F) and light and compact.
Mandatory equipment (required by the race organizers): Sunscreen, a signal mirror, a knife, a passport, a headlamp, a survival blanket, a lighter, a whistle, antiseptic, safety pins, and some cash.
Clothing: Despite being on the sand by the sea, Damien is quick to stress this was no vacation. When you have to wear the same clothes for four days, lightweight fast-drying gear like the Long-T and the Hybrid Shorts are invaluable. The gaiters, a scarf or similar for face protection and the poles are all essential to face the sand.
Damien: “For a race like this, a Long-T is your must-have T-shirt. The sun in the desert can be very aggressive, so it's necessary to wear a shirt that’s light, breathable and long-sleeved.”
The Hybrid Shorts
“I wore the two-in-one Hybrid Shorts for the entire race. The tight under-shorts worked well, with gentle, supportive compression shorts.”
So, after surviving his tour of the desert, will Damien be back to take on the Peruvian desert again?
“I've been seduced by the format and I'd love to find another multi-day race, but the thrill of this experience was mainly going into the unknown, and the discovery of such stunning landscapes. So I’m open to new ideas – and new adventures.”
You can view Damien’s full race report at lesothers.com (in French only).