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How to prepare one of the toughest Ultra Trail on Earth : Marathon des Sables®?

For once and since COMPRESSPORT® is an official partner, the scientific approach does not focus on the compression but on the Sultan Marathon des Sables®  which will run from the 4th till the 14th of April. On this occasion, we have requested the advices of Thibault Lussiana, a specialist in biomechanics of running.

The Sultan Marathon des Sables®, a mythic race that all ultra-distance runners must do at least once

The race takes place in the Moroccan desert and includes 6 stages with food self-sufficiency over a 240-km distance. Each participant must carry his own equipment, containing food, sleeping gear and other materials except water, which is provided by the organization. The equipment weight should be between 6.5 and 15 kg. In addition, the sand and the climatic conditions, with temperature reaching 50°C during the day and 5°C at night, make this multistage ultra-marathon one of the hardest! Therefore, it is necessary for the new participants to have an excellent knowledge of the race and its constraints, including physical preparation, equipment, recovery but also management of food and hydration (discussed in another part of this news).

The ‘shock weekends’ to prepare the race …

Of course, the maximal aerobic power development remains important as in all endurance events. However, the specific work at very low intensities is equally important in ultra-marathon. One of the key to success lies in performing the famous ‘shock weekends’ described by the Pr.Guillaume Millet and corresponding well to multistage events. Equipped with your running bag (by gradually increasing the weight): go for 2-3 days with 5 to 10 hours per day at really low speed (alternating periods of walking and running). Thus, you will train in almost real conditions and prepare your body, your muscles and your digestive system to the stress encounter on the event. Similarly, it will be necessary to run on soft surface (ideally on sand), to accustom your stride to a different biomechanics.

Injury prevention, recovery … Take care of your body!

Feet injuries such as burning and blisters are one of the major causes to stop the race. To prevent them, there are some tricks …

  • You can apply a cream to strengthen the feet and to avoid such inconveniences. More simply, the use of gaiter could impede sand seeping into the shoes and thus increase friction.
  • The choice of running shoes and socks is also important: they must be able to dry quickly and to allow your feet to breathe.
  • Speaking of equipment, compression sleeves will be effective before, during and after the race. By increasing the venous return (that is crucial in warm environment – since vasodilation phenomenon is increased), they may ensure a sensation of light legs before to start. During, they may prevent the muscle damage and postpone the fatigue. Finally, they will accelerate the recovery process after the stages – essential during multistage ultra-marathon! 
  •  Furthermore, the best way to recover will be to sleep properly.
  • Therefore, do not forget warm and isolating garments for the night …

About the Author

Thibault Lussiana comes from Besançon in France. He is a PhD student in Life and Health Sciences and works at the University of Franche-Comté in Besançon (EA 4660, Exercise Performance Health Innovation Laboratory). Thibault is also member of the Volodalen Company. You can contact him at


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