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Marathon des Sables, or MdS, (French for Marathon of the Sands, also known as Sahara Marathon) is a six-day, 251 km (156 mi)ultramarathon, which is approximately the distance of six regular marathons. The longest single stage (2009) is 91 km (57 mi) long.
Photo of the first British Runners to complete the Marathon des Sables (Dr Mike Stroud OBE, Rene Nevola, Richard Cooper and Prof Mike Lean).
The marathon was the brainchild of French concert promoter Patrick Bauer who in 1984 traversed the Sahara desert on foot and alone. He covered 350 km (214 mi) in 12 days without encountering a single oasis or desert community along the way. Two years later in 1986 the first Marathon des Sables was run. Twenty-three runners participated in the race with Bernard Gaudin and Christiane Plumere, both of France, finishing as the winning man and woman.
By 2009 over 1,000 runners participated in the event and the Solidarité Marathon des Sables association was created. The aim is to develop projects to assist children and disadvantaged populations in the domains of health, education and sustainable development in Morocco.
In 2017, two new Marathon des Sables events took place for the first time: the Half Marathon des Sables on Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands in September, and another full-length Marathon des Sables event in Peru in November.
Moroccan brothers Lahcen and Mohamad Ahansal, who won 10 and 6 editions respectively, Mohamad also being 7 times second behind his brother.
Marco Olmo, Italian ultratrail specialist, ran all editions since 1996, with best placement 3rd (achieved three times). At the 2013 edition, Olmo was 64 years old, and he was 47 when he ran his first.
Dima and Lama Hattab, Jordanian twins who were the first female Middle Eastern participants in the race.
James Cracknell, British rower and adventurer, competed in the 2010 race and became the highest placing Briton to ever compete in the race, finishing 12th until fellow Briton Danny Kendall placed 5th in 2014. In 2017 Tom Evans became the first Briton to finish in the first three, finishing third overall.
In 1994 René Nevola, Mike Stroud, Mike Lean and Richard Cooper became the first British runners to complete the Marathon des Sables. René Nevola was the first Briton to complete the race and finished in 22nd place.
Mauro Prosperi, former Olympian from Sicily, entered the race in 1994 but was set 299 km off route by a harsh sand storm. He was lost for ~11 days before being found in Algeria, following a well-publicized search of the desert.
In 1999 Carlos Sposito was the first Brazilian to complete the Marathon des Sables.
Gavin Sandford completed two Marathons des Sables in 2016, running the 2011 course alone and then immediately joining the start of the 2016 course, so completing 300 miles on foot in 12 days 
Duncan Slater was the first double amputee to finish the Marathon des Sables in 2017.
Nikola Doeg and Frances Davies previously rowed the Atlantic Ocean as part of Team Yorkshire Rows, setting a record as the oldest all-female team to row any ocean, will take part in the 2018 Marathon des Sables to raise money for Maggies Cancer Care charity.
Ted Archer:Carved by god, cursed by the devil - a true story of running the Sahara Desert. Redwood City CA, University of Dreams Foundation 2009. ISBN978-0-9770735-3-5
Patrick Bauer ... [et al.]: Le Marathon des Sables. Paris, SPE (Société de production éditoriale) 2000. ISBN978-2-912838-08-7 (English version by David Waldron).
Steve Cushing: 24th Marathon des Sables - a competitor's tale. Leicester UK, Matador 2010, ISBN978-1-84876-286-2.
Guy Giaoui; Foued Berahou: Ultramarathon stage racing - from our experiences of the Marathon des Sables, the Trans Aq', and other races - a practical guide. St-Genest-Malifaux, Raidlight 2008. ISBN978-2-9530683-1-3.
Marcel Nickler: Running the Sahara - a diary from the desert and beyond, BoD, ISBN978-3750423152
Monika Nicolle: Histoire d'un Marathon des Sables - 245 kilomètres dans le désert... Paris, Éditions de l'Onde 2010. ISBN978-2-916929-30-9.
Eddy Poirier: Vaincre soi-même : Marathon des Sables! Toute une histoire. [S.l.], Glob 2009. ISBN978-2-918257-03-5.
Pierre-Emmanuel Rastoin: Regard sur le Marathon des Sables : 2004/06. Biarritz, SAI 2007. ISBN978-2-7588-0037-8.
Herbert Meneweger: Marathon des Sables - die Grenze ist, wo die Vorstellungskraft endet - der härteste Marathonlauf der Welt, 243 Kilometer durch die Sahara. Anthering AUT, Meneweger 2003. ISBN978-3-200-00037-7.
Mike Stroud OBE. (re-issued 2004). Survival Of The Fittest: Understanding Health and Peak Physical Performance.ISBN978-0224075077