Desert Running Tips

Hot-Weather Running and Racing Tips

Running or walking on sand is not an easy task. Runners that come unprepared will quickly regret it, there are many factors you need to consider such as foot position, weather condition and descent management when competing in the Oman Desert Marathon. We have compiled some tips hoping to help you prepare better for this challenging but wonderful experience on the sands of the Omani desert:

  • If you do not live in a warm country, try heat training by exercising in a hot room (hot yoga, step-ups, treadmill if possible). If you do live in a warm country, try to acclimatize by trying hot-weather training in the middle of the day.
  • Prepare mentally with positive affirmations that you will be OK. Meditate and imagine successfully getting through the heat. Half of the difficulty is the discomfort and disbelief that you will be able to reach the finish line, but your body actually can.
  • Wear a desert hat and sunglasses. Find a comfortable combination that covers your neck, lets your head perspire and doesn’t add annoying pressure to your sunglasses.
  • Cool core temperature with a mesh bandana when running in the desert. Drench it at aid stations and wipe your sweat points arms, legs, and behind the neck.
  • Make sure there are electrolytes in every sip of water. Take small sips frequently than large sips, which will help physically and mentally.
  • Take a salt tablet at every hour religiously and a couple back at camp once you finish. Salt sticks are very important. Have you ever noticed that after a long run, you might have those white lines on your face or skin? That’s sodium from your sweat. When you sweat during a run, you lose electrolytes. Sodium is lost in the greatest amount, and you also lose much smaller amounts of potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Since it’s the primary electrolyte you lose in sweat, it’s important to consume some sodium when you’re exercising for long periods of time. Salt tablets are concentrated sodium in a tablet or capsule. No matter which product you’re looking at, the goal of all is the same to increase sodium intake during endurance exercise.
  • Learn quickly to read the sand itself. it’s not all the same as there might be some slightly better compact areas than others. Paying attention to this will make your route a little bit easier. It really helps when someone has been in the area already because once they’ve run up it they create steps you can use. The sand will be slightly compacted which just reduces the amount of energy you lose to the running. Trying to follow in someone else’s footsteps will reduce the amount of energy that you’re losing and allow you to summit the dune a bit quicker.
  • Running up a dune depends massively on how steep the dune is. Walking sticks can be very useful when the dunes are very big, as they help you to make less effort and avoid sliding down. As soon as you get to the top, there’s the fun bit, you just slide down the other side, dig your heels into the sand as it really saves your legs. Because sand dunes are so steep, it’s going to be all about getting your knees really high and having that strong drive down through your core and through the front of your quad into your knee. One really good exercise is doing step-ups which you can do in the gym and working hard by running up street hills.
  • Be prepared for the weather. The heat and the sun can be brutal, sometimes the weather temperature can be about 40 degrees celsius. Light reflects off the sand so being able to see clearly is incredibly important. Make sure you have sunglasses, a cap to keep the sun off you. It really does help being able to protect your eyes not just from the sun but from the bits of sand.
  • It rarely rains in Oman around January when the Oman Desert Marathon happens, but if it does rain, with hard sand, the consistency is very similar to running on the road so it would be more like running normally. With wet sand it will allow you to go just a little bit quicker, certainly on the flats. The dunes are always going to be soft; it doesn’t really change.
  • The faster you try to run in dry sand while being inefficient will mean the more pressure you will put onto your feet, and the more you’re going to sink into the sand, and the more energy you’re going to be using.
  • Choose your footwear wisely, this is a completely individual preference, but make sure you have the desert gaiters attached, you don’t want sand getting into your shoes for four hours a day or wearing the mud gaiters that won´t stop sand and will make your feet sweat more.

Are you ready for the Oman Desert Marathon 2024?