Marathon des sables

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Adeline GOURDON (FRA)

“The MDS will be a first for many things.”

Next October Adeline GOURDON (FRA) will take part in her first MARATHON DES SABLES. As a 21 year-old competitor, she will be one of the youngest of the pack.

 

“21 years is young to run so many miles! “This has been said to me over and over. I used to consider 10-km runners as crazy, and then as I had started to do some jogging, the idea of me running a marathon at age 25 quickly took off… Eventually it went faster than I had planned: at age 18 I had run a half-marathon, at age 19 a regular marathon, and at age 20, an ultra-trail… It was through the MARATHON DES SABLES that I was able to discover the world of ultra-endurance. I looked up to the runners from afar, dreaming to be among them one day. I talked about it to a school teacher whose support was so great I signed up that very evening!

The body’s ability to adapt to effort and the environment fascinates me. My new-found mental strength and physical resilience—which I had never imagined—help me a great deal every day. The moment you say to yourself ‘I’m gonna do this’, everything becomes possible with abnegation, humility, and resilience.

Foot racing is my closest confidant, it has witnessed my darkest thoughts and my tears of joy. When I run, I feel alive and my entire self without any filter. Long distances, by bike or foot, allow me to travel, to feel unbound by the constraints of time, and to return to a simpler life. Moreover during long-distance races, tight bonds are forged with people we may never meet again. Ultra marathons are foremost a human experience and a beautiful journey surrounded by nature.

Since my schedule doesn’t allow for a fixed training plan, I establish goals for each month. I switch between sports; I work on my weaknesses and on my strengths. The important thing is to train smartly, to have fun, and take care of oneself to have a body that is ready at any time of the year! This routine even saved my leg following a traffic accident in January 2020.

I have already gone through quite a few hard times during sports, a notable example being on the way back from my cycling round trip Paris-Dieppe—a distance of 300 km. The cold grew biting as night fell. I couldn’t feel my hands or my feet anymore. I could barely stand on my bike, I was tired, I was hungry, I was feeling cold. I had never felt this cold. At the time hypothermia had started to settle in, my body was shaking, breathing became harder, I fell many times off my bike, I couldn’t get back on it anymore. Despite everything I had to finish. I had to draw on my last reserves to steel my mind, get back on the bike, and ride it to the end. How I like to say: ‘I’ve seen how slopes can be steep, I’ve seen what it does to people. But I have also seen the peaks and they are worth the pain!”

Everything about the MARATHON DES SABLES makes me anxious and envious all at once! I have never travelled outside of Europe, I’ve never been on an airliner, I don’t have my passport yet, I’ve never bivouacked, never ran such a long distance or participated in any stage race, my skin is sensitive to sunlight, and let’s not even talk about blisters… The MDS will be the start of a great many things, so obviously it’s scary! But if our projects don’t scare us it means they’re not big enough…

Evidently I will shed tears, but I’ll also share thousands of smiles… I hope the race will change my life, that I will have more self -confidence, that it will heal wounds I never took the time to treat, and that the encounters on this journey will leave their mark on me… and that I will too leave a mark on others. My objective by doing the MDS is to prove it’s possible for anyone who believes, dares, and puts passion in their actions. I’m no superhuman—neither the fastest nor the strongest—I’m nothing but a slip of a woman of 21 years old who still has a lot to learn, but I have this spark inside me telling me to believe.

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