Marathon des sables



"The hardest part is to always keep focus"

The MARATHON DES SABLES welcomes into its peloton each year men and women with unusual life paths. Jonas DE GROOTE (BEL) is one of them: he will be present for the first time at the start of the MDS next April, and yet a few years ago, nothing predestined him to cross the South Moroccan Sahara over 250 km in 5 stages! « Since I was young I have had enough experience with overweight or obesity. It's in my genes and that will always be a point of attention. About 5 years ago I lost a lot of weight but unfortunately regained it. 4 years ago I finally started my real big journey, after watching Game Changers on Netflix. In January 2020 I also started a vegan diet and lifestyle as good as possible. Initially for sporting and health reasons, meanwhile 100% from an ethical point of view. Just when I ran my first official marathon in my hometown of Ghent at the end of March 2023, I reached my goal, losing 50 kg and having a bodyweight of 98 kg! For the MARATHON DES SABLES I would like to come closer to 90 kg. For some, that still might sound like a lot, but I am 1.97m tall. »

This radical change in life – weight loss, diet, sports routine – commands respect. Despite the advice of specialists, it was Jonas' willpower that led him to this radical change, a willpower put to the test over the years, but largely rewarded by the results. « Perhaps the hardest part is to always keep focus or to find the right mindset even after a backlash. Overcoming the hardest obstacles is perhaps most satisfying along with seeing before and after pictures. I ran my first 3k in 25 minutes. Meanwhile my personal record on the half marathon is 1h49, I walk 100k without any problems, I walked/ran the entire 75k along the Belgian coastline in 10h30 and I already have marathon distances in my legs. Results that I am very proud of, but also trigger me to dream bigger and explore other horizons. »

As for the MARATHON DES SABLES, Jonas has known about it for a long time, but had not lingered there, thinking that this adventure was not for him. However, last year he saw the documentary on Netflix about Amy COSTA, the American runner wearing an artificial leg who competed in the MDS. « I was triggered and fell in love instantly. I must and would register for MDS 2024. I especially expect a lot of adventure and challenge. However, I also have a lot of respect for the challenge. 250k divided into 5 stages through the desert in the south of Morocco in high temperatures, either way it will be a tough test. I also want to show that a vegan diet cannot and will not be an obstacle to great sporting achievements, even more that it can be the driver for even better results. »

What worries Jonas most about MDS? « I am mostly scared of an Illness or an injury that is so bad, that I cannot participate or drop out of the challenge. But I am determined to receive my medal at the end of the fifth stage. My determination, perseverance and focus on all aspects of the challenge combined with preparation, sporting, mental, self-sufficiency must and will take me far. Also my activism in standing up for animal rights taught me not to give up! »

And if Jonas goes alone to the MDS next year, he will be surrounded, from a distance, by a crowd of very active supporters. And for our part, we will carefully follow his progress, and from now on: well done Jonas!

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