Tuesday 22 January 2013

Marathon des Sables: the real fashion edit

Never looked so good

There are three outfits you will need for Marathon des Sables: your pre-start kit, your race kit and your camp kit.

Pre-start kit
This kit is what you will wear before the race begins. You have two nights and a day and a half in the Sahara before the inaugural Highway to Hell music begins and you shuffle off. Some people just wear their camp kit which is fine. I took some extra clothes that I then just left. Old jogging pants, socks, t shirt. This left my camp kit clean - small mercies. Nothing goes to waste. The Berbers who set up and take down the tents will take any useable stuff to use or sell.

Race kit
This set involves a bit more thought. From head to toe here's what to think about:
Cap - white is best, with a neck-guard. Doesn't need saying but a cap is vital.

Sunglasses - I took prescription wrap arounds which took a bit of getting used to but were better than wearing contacts.

Buff - this is a tube of stretchy thin material that has multiple uses - windguard, snot rag, hat, ear muffs. Another essential in my opinion. A lot of people also get nosebleeds because of the sand and dry heat (myself included) so it's useful to mop up yet another type of leaky bodily fluid.

Sports bra - one for the ladies.

Running top - two things to consider - tight or loose and short or long sleeved. I went for a loose short sleeved Under Armour top as I wanted to not feel restricted. My other half went for the opposite. Both were fine. Just what you prefer. Under Armour do a range of heat gear that are designed to try and help keep you cool, so they were my number one choice of brand. I just took one running top.

Shorts - same things to think about - short or long, baggy or loose. I went for short (as do most people) but took both baggy and loose. You can do the race with just one pair but I wanted to change half way through. If you take baggy shorts make sure you have worn them in as they may chaff more than tight pants.

Underwear - I didn't wear any. Eek. But some people may want to.

Socks - toe socks like Injinji are pretty standard for most shufflers. I wore ankle length ones, but did think that compression toe socks may have been a little better to help with the swelling. I then wore another pair of Hilly mono skin or Bridgedale over the top. I ended up taking the extra pair of socks off half way through the day as my feet became so swollen. Both Hilly and Bridgedale were fine, though I would probably take Hilly again as I found Bridgedale a bit thick. I took 2x pairs Injinji and 1x pair of Hilly and Bridgedale. This is a good idea as it gives 1 pair a chance to dry out and lessen the chance of blisters.

Trainers - have a full post on trainers. boom.

Gaiters - the two types people wear appear to be Sandbagger versus Raidlight. I'm all over Sandbaggers. They were great and didn't let any sand in. Do make sure you trial your trainer/gaiter combo though before you go to make sure it is sandtight. Sandbaggers will also stitch your gaiters onto your trainers for you. I bought the velcro gaiters and got the velcro stitched on but don't think it matters much as you can easily take your trainers off without removing the gaiter.

Camp kit
Windstopper - Really lightweight Montane one.

Fleece - I took a lightweight Montane fleece in a cheerful red. It was always lovely putting it on in the evening - my one bit of luxury and comfort!

Old t-shirt - curiously I took my first race t-shirt I ever got (5 miles in Leeds if anyone is interested)

Spare bra - I took a spare sports bra, but you don't really need an extra one. Let it hang out! (That goes for you mooby men as well)

Running tights - I took normal skins, but compression tights may be a good idea for the eves to help you recover.

Slippers - I took polar slippers (Trekmate) which were great as they are comfortable. However they are a bit sweaty betty. If I ever do MDS again (gawd help me) I'd take a pair of flip flops but with a strap just across the middle - as lightweight as you can as they are more comfortable than flip flops but give a bit more support on the soles of your feet in camp (it can be stony) and not as sweaty. I was given the great tip that polar slippers double up as shoulder pads for your rucksack, and are super lightweight so horses for courses.

Tyvek suit - Some people take these. They are windproof and light and easy to deal with, but not very warm so I would advise taking some sort of fleece as well if oyu decide to go with this highly fashionable item.

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