Imagine yourself carrying 12kg of weight on your back, with nothing but rolling sand dunes to keep you company. The temperature is over 40 degrees centigrade, and you can't even feel your sweat evaporating. Your lungs are parched, It's too hot to breath, and the blisters on your feet are getting worse and worse as you trudge, slipping and struggling, up the next sandy djebel.
In the midst of this fevered delirium, part of your conscious mind is screaming at you to stop, right now...
This is the Marathon Des Sables (Marathon of the Sands), a challenging multi-stage 250km ultramarathon held over 7 days, in one of the world's most unforgettable and inhospitable landscapes, the Sahara Desert in southern Morocco. It is ranked by the Discovery Channel as the Toughest Foot Race in the world, and is one of the ultimate tests of endurance and discipline.
Runners must be self-sufficient and carry all their own food, cooking kit, clothing and sleeping bag for the chilly desert nights, first-aid and other emergency equipment, with only water provided at each checkpoint, and open-air tents for shelter at the end of each day.
This year, in 2015, the Marathon Des Sables celebrates its 30th anniversary. Race director Patrick Bauer promises it will go through some of the most beautiful locations that have built the Marathon Des Sables legend, whilst runners will face the longest stage in the marathon's history (the current record is 92km for the 2009 edition).