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  • Writer's pictureAlexa

Writing a plan for the Marathon De Sables

I wrote a training plan for a teacher with a place at the Marathon De Sables in 2018 “The Worlds Toughest Foot Race”. This post explains a little about how I wrote the training plan and what I included.

The Marathon De Sables (MDS) is a multi day race across the Sahara Desert, you can find out more about the race on their website Suffice to say it’s a big challenge!

In terms of writing the training plan I started the same way I usually do; by taking an overall look at the runner and where they are in terms of fitness, running routine, other sports, injury history and then looking forwards to their goal. This gives me a view on the journey I need to take the runner on to be race ready. I’ll also gather lots of information about the runners life, available time and other pressures; family, work, etc. It’s great to look at any other races planned, holidays coming up, or other stressors.

I combine this information into a high level sketch of the plan; breaking it down into training blocks with different focus areas that build towards our goal race. These training blocks have a number of weeks in them which get an intensity allocated; how hard will the runner be working that week on a high, medium or low scale.

I flesh out the training week for the runner, often this will be driven around work commitments, family, maybe exercises classes they do, preferred days for their long runs or rest days etc. If the runner has an established routine I don’t usually mess with it too much, to make sticking to the plan easier.

Then comes the fun part, writing the sessions! I have lots of different sessions stored in my brain, but always start with what elements of fitness am I trying to train. For the MDS it’s about time on the feet, endurance, resilience and also strength. I also factor in race specific conditions; for a race in the desert the heat and running on sand are the top two things to focus on.

So the plan involved double run days, back to back long runs as well as long rep speed work. I tried to vary the sessions and still include different paces so it wasn’t too boring. Due to the runners work as a teacher she was running with the children doing cross country etc this has to be factored in too, mud is a great substitute for sand so that worked well. Runs wearing a couple of extra layers and indoor treadmill sessions means some heat acclimatisation during winter training too!

Whatever your goal I can write a bespoke training plan to suit you, your life and your fitness. Drop me a line on

Picture of three runners sliding down the sand dunes in the desert
Imagine thanks to Red Bull

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