A gruelling slog across 250km of barren hammada and scorching desert, the Marathon des Sables is generally acknowledged as the toughest foot race in the world. Runners are required to carry all their own equipment, including GPS (in 1994, Italian runner Mauro Prosperi spent nine days lost in the desert after getting caught in a sandstorm – he survived by drinking bats’ blood and was eventually found in Algeria, 300km off track) and the dozen litres of water they’ll consume during each of the six days it takes to complete the course.
Founded by a Frenchman, Patrick Bauer, in 1986, the race takes place in March or April, and today attracts around 900 runners each year, 250 or so from the UK, from a surprisingly broad range of demographics; in 2012, the French runner Joseph Le Louarn completed his sixth Marathon des Sables at the ripe old age of eighty. The constantly changing route has recently included places such as Foum Zguid and Merzouga. For further information, see w darbaroud.com; UK runners interested in competing should contact Running Sahara (w runningsahara.com).