Marathon Des Sables 32

Documentary of my journey at Marathon Des Sables 32

Recreational athlete Joel Juht, who successfully participated in the Marathon Des Sables desert marathon in Morocco in April, has made a documentary about this entire endeavor, which begins with a report from Morocco, where he arrived with his Russian travel companions by flight from Paris.

Joel, going through the check-in, tells that there is a five-hour bus ride ahead, but first you need to get your bags. At the same time, one of the companions comments in Russian: “Joel arrived happily, everything is fine with him, we drank champagne on board”, but Joel’s reaction allows us to assume that he, unlike his neighbors to the east, got out of it. However, when leaving the airport, the receptionists greet the people going to the marathon with loud applause and shouts, and the bus journey begins.

“Joel Juht, Estonia!”

After a two-and-a-half-hour ride, there is a break, where the runners take a meal from cardboard boxes. Joel explains that in the bus they were given papers with explanations of what they have to do and the journey continues in the desert landscape, with mountains and date palms as a background, sometimes also buildings with clay walls. However, the camp site and the starting point are in an open area in the desert, where you have to register first. “Joel Juht, Estonia!” says our man and then introduces the camp area where there are many tents but they are more like open shelters. A small social conversation with Russian companions follows, and then Joel visits a spacious canteen tent, where, at least visually, everything seems to be up to par.

During the night, everyone started to get very cold, in the morning everyone was wrapped in wool, and there was also a dust storm during the night.

About the first night in “this nice hotel”, Joel says that at night everyone started to get very cold, in the morning everyone was wrapped in wool, and there was also a dust storm during the night. In the morning, however, everything seems nice again, and the last day in the comfort zone begins with packing and putting on the appropriate clothes for the trip, and then we go to the inspection with the Russian team. The suitcases are dropped off and real life begins.

Five, four, three, two, one, and the Marathon Des Sables begins, with Joel rushing along in the crowd.

Having passed the inspection, Joel reports that his backpack weighs exactly 10 kilograms, plus water. “So the bag I was training with did the job,” the marathon runner is satisfied. On the morning of the first day of the race, however, there is a lot of commotion in the camp, Joel tells about the fact that people have already lost their backpacks and sleeping bags. But then the whole mass gathers under the big starting arch, music is playing, faces are smiling, people are taking pictures and filming themselves and others, there are also helicopters in the air — it seems like a real public celebration. Then the countdown is read: …five, four, three, two, one, and the Marathon Des Sables starts, with Joel rushing along in a large crowd.

The punt that started running at the beginning is starting to fall apart.

When the first 5 kilometers are up, Joel says he’s trying to get his heart rate up, which he says is difficult. “The bunch that started running at the beginning is starting to fall apart,” he says. We go along the sand dunes and then Joel announces that he found one more Estonian — it’s Ingrid, who came to Morocco from Australia. In fact, they have met before, but now they are on the track together and the Estonian is talking about the blister on her toe. According to Joel, the track is intense and the people’s faces are happy, but on the third day, in his opinion, this is no longer the case.

One passer-by has already found blisters on the end of each toe and has been cutting them open.

Ingrid believes that at the end of the second day it will be time for crying faces, because there is a mountain to cross and Joel promises to check the condition of his legs in the evening in the ambulance. Ingrid adds that a passer-by has already found blisters on the tip of each toe and has been cutting them open. Then the intermediate point is reached, where the registration takes place and the runner receives a new water bottle. On the first day’s finish, which is located in a flat open desert area, Joel runs to victory with one sample, you can hear from him “Nice job!” and the first day is over.

You have to take it easy today.

On the morning of the second day, Joel says that on the opening day he ran to the 460th place, the time was 4 hours and 34 minutes, now a new start awaits and he has to run 39 kilometers. “You have to take it easy today, because yesterday’s run was quite fast, the muscles are sore,” he states. In addition, his hips hurt from sleeping on the carpet because there is no mattress and it is cool at night. He states that he threw away the heating tablets because there is enough fire on the ground.

In the meantime, there was such a mess in front of me that I started to think – why I came here in the first place.

While hiking, Joel introduces a new friend from Japan, whom he met the day before, who runs in a costume. In the beginning, the whole road is full of runners, but then you reach the mountains and the rocky path begins to branch off. On the other side, there is a descent in the sand to the plain, and soon Joel’s smiling face can be seen under the finish arch of the stopover, where he is once again receiving water and pats on the back. Joel goes to the tent to get a recovery drink and see what he can take off the bag because it’s starting to feel awfully heavy. “In the meantime, there was such a mess in front of me that I started thinking – why did I come here in the first place,” he admits. And then somewhere someone shouts, “Joel! You are a monster!”

The distance of the day is 31 kilometers.

On the morning of the third day, Joel says he’s feeling surprisingly good, though his voice is clearly tired. The distance for this day is 31 kilometers, but an 86-kilometer day awaits. As for the second day, he thinks he ran 300, he hasn’t seen the results. “The first slap is this mountain,” he points in the direction of the towering hill in the background and humbly promises to run, to save energy for a long day of running.

A public toilet seat demo with a “poop bag” and detailed instruction will take place on the roof of the car.

The following shots again show the climb on the rocky mountain trails, the descent in the sand, the stopover and the finish. But before the harshest challenge, there is a dance night at the Marathon Des Sables camp — it makes you wonder that people still have enough guts to dance. Then there will be a public toilet seat demo with a poop bag and a detailed tutorial on the roof of one of the cars. The French-speaking man finally demonstrates sitting (without taking off his pants, of course) while reading a page.

The previous day’s letters from friends brought a tearful taste to my mouth.

On the morning of the fourth day, Joel admits that he is a little afraid and he thinks about how to tactically run those 86 kilometers. The batteries on his phone are dead, the solar panel doesn’t work and he can’t listen to music. Joel adds that the previous day’s letters from his friends made him cry, but they are very necessary in the desert. He is not going to broadcast during this day’s distance, so the explanations will come when everything is over. “Let’s do it!” he ends for now. However, the next connection takes place at the 43rd kilometer and then the poor condition of Joel’s legs is noticeable — he walks cautiously, as if feeling pain. And the sun is blazing in the sky…

The last sprint. Death, just death.

The next transmission comes from the dark, with two headlamps flashing in the running rhythm and Joel’s voice announcing that he is running with a Russian companion. There is bellowing and “The last sprint”. Death, just death,” Then the darkness recedes, the light of the finish arch breaks through, and raising their hands together, the men finish the longest and hardest day of the marathon. Now there’s a serious reason to laugh, and that’s what tired Joel is. Then the smile disappears and what remains is a heavy tiredness in Joel’s features.

By the end of the night, my legs hurt.

The next morning, the voice of Joel, who is still widowed, is calm, because the day off is coming, when all the marathon runners can treat their legs. He himself only had a blister on one toe, after a 14-hour run, Joel cleaned his feet and immediately went to sleep. “My legs hurt so much that I took ibuprofen, aspirin and sleeping pills, but it didn’t help, my legs hurt all night,” he says. There is still a 42-kilometer stage ahead, the place is 301st after a super day, and Joel is satisfied because he had a good run, 68 places down. He admits that the day was very emotional, he threw the bucket several times and wanted to finish the race.

At the starting line of the last day, Joel’s mood is super good and he says that 7 kilometers of the entire distance of this day is a charity run. A Russian companion is also running with him. The run takes place in mountains and plains, on sand and rocks, sometimes climbing up using a rope. After 30 kilometers and six hours, Joel gets a leg cramp that lasts twenty minutes, and he admits that he has never been more angry and disappointed in himself on this trip than during those minutes. In the last two kilometers, Joel fights the pain, while feeling both anger and joy at the imminent finish. In those moments, Joel makes an unprecedented and thorough self-transcendence, but then you can already see the camp, Joel runs faster and faster with the Estonian flag in his hand and he crosses the finish line. A finisher’s medal is placed around his neck and our competitor can be seen cooling himself by the fan. Joel admits that the end was the hardest, all the energy was spent on it, but another Estonian has finished the Marathon Des Sables ultramarathon, a real test for real men and women!

Joel Juht thanks everyone who believed in him, helped him prepare for the marathon and supported him — his victory belongs to all of them too!