14 Nov Desert running: gear and strategy
Desert running: gear and strategy
Muscat, 14 November 2022: Running through the desert is not like any other. A race like the Oman Desert Marathon (21 to 24 January 2023) in which we will also have to be self-sufficient for several days, involves very specific material and logistics.
Beyond running (we all know what we need there) and thinking about what we need during the race, we will have to consider subsistence, in other words, we must bear in mind that both food and rest depend on our logistical capacities. We will need gear that we do not usually use in races and, above all, we will have to carry it from start to finish.
The first thing will be to decide on a form of means of carrying that allows us to run as comfortably as possible, something where we can carry everything we need and which does not involve excessive volume. There are specific backpacks for this type of race that can give us an idea of which way we should decide. In any case, beware of capacity: more is not going to be less. If our backpack is big, we will end up carrying more than we should. About 20 or 25 litres should be enough to put everything you need inside, with the liquid on the outside, usually on the front straps to keep it close at hand and better in two smaller containers than in one large one. Also, avoid hydration bag-type systems: they are more difficult to fill, we cannot control how much liquid we have and what is in the tube can get very hot.
What gear mustn’t we forget in a race like the Oman Desert Marathon? First of all, you have to think about rest. A light sleeping bag and some kind of insulation will be essential for a good night. In January the Omani temperatures are mild, but this is not to be trusted: at night our body relaxes and we are more sensitive to temperature. Not sleeping well will be a problem in the coming stages. The sleeping bag must be light and, above all, compressible to fit in the backpack. Nor must we forget a headlamp and spare batteries.
Food is another point to which we must devote our utmost attention. Regardless of the diet we choose, which we should have tried before the race, we must foresee how and what we need to prepare it. Cutlery, a small saucepan that can serve as a dish at the same time and, very importantly, thinking and rehearsing how we are going to prepare our food. Fire will probably be part of our needs and therefore we will have to think about how to make it. The most skilful runners may collect firewood to light one (don’t forget a lighter!), although we must find out whether this desert offers this possibility. Most will have to consider the need to carry some type of stove, adding weight and logistical difficulty, since we will need some type of fuel that we will probably not be able to carry on the plane. A small alcohol tablet stove is a good solution for making food. For those who do not prioritise performance, loading up with a little motivating extra to please the palate is not a bad idea.
Nor should we forget some light clothing to give us comfort while we rest. ‘PPE’ sanitary protection overalls are a light and comfortable option, beyond the fact that we must contemplate the need for spare socks to take maximum care of our feet. Similarly, some type of light and comfortable footwear (flip-flops) is convenient to rest your feet after the day’s effort. To all this we will have to add essential details such as a hat (with neck protector), sunglasses, sun cream and the awareness that although we have to spend a few days with the bare essentials, that does not mean that we should be uncomfortable or poorly fed.
Nor should we forget that feet swell with heat and exercise: pay attention to the shoe size. And as far as the sun is concerned… loose long-sleeved t-shirts will make our lives more comfortable than short-sleeved ones!
Enjoy the race!
About the Oman Desert Marathon
First held in 2013, the Oman Desert Marathon is a 165-kilometre race of self-sufficiency in four stages, including one night stage, through the spectacular Omani landscape with all its variety, from the Al Wasil oasis, crossing the desert to the Al Jawharat resort. The race guarantees participants a unique experience in the most popular and beautiful country of the Arabian Peninsula. The race is held in January to assure runners the best weather conditions.
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