Ameen completes his first Ultra: Ultra Mirage 50 km in the Sahara Desert, Tunisia
My recent run at the Ultra mirage Event on 2nd October 2021 was in Tunisia. I successfully completed the 50 km (52 km to be precise ) in the Sahara desert.
It was a big personal achievement that I thoroughly prepared for. I can now officially call myself an ultra runner.
Being an ex-pat, I had trained for this in extreme summer conditions in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from June till September.
To prepare, I got up early in the morning by 3 am on weekends to practice my long runs in the sand dunes which was 60 km from my home hoping to have at least 30 to 45 minutes of running before the scorching sun came on top of my head.
I enrolled with a coach to prepare for the race. It was mentally challenging to do daily speed/ tempo sessions for four months at the same place near my home.
I gained the insight that getting up to run in the same place in solitude every other day, our mind conquers the hard times if the goal is clear: completing my first major ultra marathon in the brutal Sahara desert.
It was the first time for me to run an extreme race.
Loads of training and planning was done for this day to cross the finish line in good health and without any injuries.
My race strategy was clear. With input from my coach, I decided to play around with my HR in Zone2-Zone3 to be able to cross the finish line. Also, the focus would be to make it checkpoint by checkpoint.
The race started well with a nice breeze and clouds. The first 14km was hard sand and some rocky parts. After that, sand dunes and soft sand started. We were told that the soft sand was mostly from the 24 km mark but due to the breeze the sand arrived early.
I reached the first checkpoint at 20km in 2:25h, well ahead of the 4h cut off.
I was able to push nicely to 24 km then the mayhem started. The terrain was totally soft and uneven sand which felt like a never-ending road to the next hydration point at 31 km. I felt slight fatigue building up but I made sure to keep my HR in check. I used wet wipes over my head, face and hands to cool down. I somehow got to the checkpoint at 35km.
Each checkpoint is a possibility to collect the thoughts. I rested and thought- you wanted this and you are here. The goal was in sight.
I began running again and then till the next hydration point at 46 km were the loneliest kilometres passing perhaps one or two runners. I just wanted to drown myself in water. Seeing the hydration point, felt like a life saviour for me.
At this point, I wasn’t able to eat or drink anything as that vomiting feeling was on the rise. I simply poured water on my body which was heated due to weather and continued.
Reaching the finish line was a hell of a lot tougher than I anticipated. The race was well organised in all aspects. Extreme running made me realise that I have lived a very pampered life since my childhood.
At the finishing line I was sitting in wet sand, pouring water like a shower just to cool the body in the middle of the desert, with all types of mini creatures passing by, was one of the many things I did that day that something I never thought I would do. Unlimited self-talking was done, numerous arguments with myself took place that day.
Getting comfortable in the most uncomfortable situations, physically and mentally was the crux of the race.
Essential equipment during the race was my desert gaiters (need to be properly sewed on) and large hydration cap along with a proper running vest which can carry at least 2 litres of water. I might have been better off with a more lightweight desert cap.
My biggest takeaway is that human potential is unlimited. I learnt a lot and will soon be at the next start line.
See you there!