Posted by gaincanada

Albert Martens Report On The “Marathon des Sables”

Just arrived home in Manitoba. It was nice to be greeted by Edna and family, Patrick and Judy and the grand children and by Kyle at the Winnipeg Airport, after a long day of flying.  Three continents in 4 weeks.  It is a long time to be away from family.

This trip to Africa and Europe was much more than a race in the Sahara Desert. It was a tremendous ministry trip for me – meeting so many people in the desert as well as after the Marathon des Sables.

The Marathon des Sables was something else this year.  Much was different and I suppose much went wrong, but also much went right.  Rains, heavy rain would you believe in the Sahara Desert. It rained heavy duty as we (840 runners) were enroute to the southern part of Morocco – riding in 18 buses into the Atlas Mountains, planning to arrive in the Nowhere Sands of the Sahara by late afternoon.  We met up with a raging river crossing the road.  All support vehicles including about 100 jeeps, many army trucks carrying supplies like Berber tents and other crew tents, 44 doctors and medical equipment, tons of water, laptop computers to set up a classroom, big Safari (Dakar-Paris Rally) food trucks, and much more had to go to the first set up camp in the desert.  We waited 3 hours and the 150 meter wide and 40 cm deep river still raged on.   One jeep washed away and who knows where the driver ended up.  Finally after three hours wait, one big truck tried it again. He made, and then the buses tried it. We moved all our luggage up into the passenger area of the bus, and the driver left the luggage doors open, so when he drove through this rushing river, the water could run through the luggage area of the bus as we drove along the water road slowly and in excitement and a little fear.  We made it.

150 runners had made it to the first bivouac Berber tent area, only to find out that it was impossible to sleep there, it was impossible even to walk in this muck. Some tents had washed away and so these runners all had to be rescued out of this area, to be brought to Erfoud, a small city in S. Morocco at the edge of the big Sahara Desert. We all ended up in Erfoud, all 18 buses and all other vehicles.  We were about 1200 people.  Now what?  Where do 1200 people just suddenly check in, in the desert?  We all got booked into various Hotels, lower class Hotels.  It continued to rain, lightning flashing and the thunder was rumbling.   Next day – what now, no one really knew. In the evening we were told the first day was cancelled and we were wondering whether the whole race would be cancelled.   We stayed in this Tafalilet Hotel for three nights, before we could go out to the desert to run.  All things were different than other times of the MdS.  The sad thing was now that many runners got sick from either the salad, food or the water in the rooms. I know I brushed my teeth and that is where I think I got the bacteria.   Some runners got sick before they ever started. For me it was a tough day one due to lack of energy already. The great thing about the first day of running was that it was “dune” day with 20 of the 30 km being huge dunes.

The following night was extremely cold. It was 5 degrees and my sleeping bag was too thin.  I was losing more energy plus I got a terrible case of diarrhea.  I lost more electrolytes and froze. Next morning I was worried and did not know what to do. I had given up mentally already.  I went to see the doctors and they asked if I had a fever – I said no.  Then they said give it a try.  I went out to the start and I was weak. I continued for about 10 -12 km and with every step I got weaker.   I got blurred vision and started to weave out to the left and right and could not stay on the course. I sort of half fell down and then a USA soldier who had fought in Iraq saw me. He asked me how I was doing – “not good” I told him about my vision and so he asked whether he should shoot off my French Military Emergency flare gun.   I said yes – why not.  He seemed enthused to do that until he found out that my flare gun was faulty (had water in it) and so when he pulled the cord, the bottom opened up and about 10-20% shot out at the bottom hitting him in the stomach, injuring and cutting his stomach – burnt a hole in his T-shirt.  The majority of the flare went up and in about 7 minutes two doctors came on a Quad and 2 more doctors came in a jeep from the other direction.  They immediately checked my heart and BP and my blood pressure was very low.   Then they hooked me up to an IV – ran 2 bags into me, transported me to CP 1 where they gave me 2 more bags, and here I began to shake with some “Schuttelfrost”.   Then I was taken to the main camp, where the doctors continued the IV a total of 8 bags, four liters till I could pee again.   They did an ultra sound on my return vein and the computer showed that is was basically flat, indicating serious dehydration.   I was out of the race after 5 hours of treatment in the desert field “hospital”.   Now the initial disappointment hit me.   Feet were repaired as well after this.  I could now go to my Berber tent and rest. My role now changed to one of encouraging my team mates, Walter and Dale. I missed out on the 91 km stretch and the last days run of 42 km.   What a big disappointment.  I wept for 25-20 minutes during the night.  I was recovering now.

The MdS however was not over. Soon I was able to smile again and I became positive.  In fact I had laughed and smiled at the time I was lying in the sand with the IV hooked up, some one told me.

I met some very nice people in the desert. Runners from Australia, Spain and Germany and other countries became friends.  We shared email addresses and the life continued.  Make the best of it.  Continue to promote the good cause of  Water for Life.  How weird that the fund raising project sub title is Turning Sand Into Water – Well, water we had when it rained before we had sand.

The time in Germany was absolutely wonderful. So many new runners’ contacts.  Visiting a runner medical doctor in Wuppertal was so meaningful and wonderful where I stayed two nights.  Then the presentation meetings in Southern Germany were so exciting and well attended.  Over 100 runners and business friends came out to hear my one hour presentation.   Several articles were written in the Germany newspapers about my experiences.  The fund raising project continues.  The friendships continue.

The project is to continue till we raise funds for 3 wells in Benin, Africa.

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