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The question Garth Reader gets asked more than any other is, “why?”
The question is in response to Reader’s goal of competing in the Marathon Des Sables, a multi-day scheduled footrace in the western Sahara Desert.
“Everyone asks that,” said Reader, a local ultra-runner who jumped at the chance this year when his name came up to compete in the Marathon Des Sables, which encompasses a 240-kilometer (approximately 149 mile) path through the burning southern Moroccan corner of the Sahara. “I found out about it more than a decade ago and it struck me as one of those things that you see and you say ‘that’s me.’ That would be so neat to do.”
The Marathon Des Sables, scheduled from April 5-15, is no ordinary ultramarathon — if there is such a thing — as competitors run set distances every day and camp in two-sided tents called bivouacs at night out in the desert. Daytime temperatures can reach in excess of 120 degrees, while nighttime temperatures can fall to near freezing. Throw in the random Saharan sandstorm and things can really get interesting for competitors.
All of these complications don’t seem to hurt interest in the race any. In its previous 27 runnings, the race has averaged about 500 competitors a year.
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