The MDS: 250 km Sahara Desert Race

Khawar Siddique

  • 23.96% funded
  • $ 1,330.00 pledged
  • Open

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What is The MDS?

Marathon des Sables (The MDS) is the ‘Toughest Footrace on Earth’ (Discovery Channel) in one of the world’s most inhospitable environments – the Sahara desert. Sound challenging enough? Wait, it gets better.

  1. 1,200 international runners will brave a distance of 257 km over 7 days.
  2. Runners will carry all their food and equipment on their back.
  3. The terrain ranges from rocky grounds to soft sand dunes reaching as high as 1,000 feet.
  4. Runners will brave temperatures of 50+ degrees centigrade. Yeah, there is no fun under this Saharan Sun!

My story

I’m from Pakistan – a country with a proud history of producing world class sportsmen like Jahangir Khan and Wasim Akram. These men are true athletes and have inspired me to play sports. I was an active person during high school and university. I played squash, cricket and football. However, after joining the workforce as a Project Engineer, I got too busy and my participation in all athletic games took a backseat.

In the summer of 2013, I had a terrible accident that left me bed-ridden for two months with a painful neck injury and concussion. While lying in bed day in and day out, I kept thinking about how we take many things in our life for granted. Many of us don’t put in enough of an effort to maintain the two best tools that we have been blessed with – our mind and body. I made it a mission to take control of my life, start focusing on my health and encourage others to do the same. This is when I found my passion for long-distance running.

So I worked hard to get back in shape after my traumatic injury and ran my first marathon in January of 2015. An elite runner once said, “Everything you ever wanted to know about yourself, you can learn in 42.2 km”. Here is what I learned in my 42 km:

  1. Don’t be afraid to push your boundaries. They are always further than you think.
  2. It only counts when it starts hurting. Pain is a sign that you are becoming stronger and tougher. Embrace it.
  3. Listen to those who tell you that you can’t do it. Remember their names. You will share the news of your accomplishment with them first.
  4. Always remember to give back to the community that supports you. Sometimes you run with the hopes and dreams of those who can’t run for themselves.
  5. When passing by the ladies, even if you don’t feel like it, run in perfect form. ; )

I have to be honest, the first time I heard about The MDS, I thought to myself who will take on such a crazy challenge? The very next moment, I realized that I will be crazy NOT to do it! The organizers of this race also contribute towards childrens’ education and female empowerment in impoverished communities – two causes that are close to my heart. Hence I have been actively training for this race and with your support I will finally be able to turn this dream into a reality.

How your contributions will matter

An international challenge of this magnitude requires organizers and runners to be equally prepared. This is where you come in. While I have been able to completely self-fund past races, I will need your support to fulfill this dream. I need to raise $5,550 to cover the costs of the following:

  1. Mandatory kit: 20L backpack, sleeping bag, headlamp, stove, compass, anti-venom pump, whistle, mirror, knife with blade, disinfectant and survival sheet, etc.
  2. Clothing: Specialized desert running ultra-light t-shirts, shorts, socks and sand-proof goggles.
  3. Footwear: Specialized running shoes for desert and gaiters.
  4. Food: Freeze-dried meals, gels, electrolytes, and power bars.
  5. Cost of Training: Training races, product testing and special training meal plans, etc.

Note: My target is $5,550 but I will be spending upwards of $10,550 – including cost of race entry $3,500 and air ticket $1,500. So please email me at if you feel you can further support me in any way.

Work in progress: My preparation for The MDS

I knew that approaching The MDS as an amateur runner without fully understanding the risks involved could take a deadly turn. So I worked towards developing speed, strength and endurance through competitive cycling and long-distance running. To further prepare my body for this grueling challenge, I will be participating in:

  1. Urban-Ultra Night Rebel (20 km) Completed 
  2. Westin Kilo Marathon (26.2 km) Completed
  3. Abu Dhabi Half Marathon (21.1 km) Completed
  4. 7 Emirates Run (60 km) Completed
  5. Dubai Half Marathon (21.1 km) Completed
  6. Urban Ultra Desert Stinker (20 km) Completed
  7. Dubai Marathon (42.2 km) Completed
  8. Dubai Ironman 70.3 (1.8km swim, 90km bike, 21.1km run) Completed
  9. Wadi Bih solo (50 km) Completed
  10. RAK Half Marathon (21.1 km) Completed
  11. Urban Ultra Hajar (66 km) Completed
  12. Urban Ultra UTX50 Completed

We are all ‘average’ till someone ordinary decides to do something extraordinary and inspires others in the process. Thank you for taking the time to read this. If you can, please support me in my journey. If you have further questions, you can go through the FAQs section or drop me a line.


“Run if you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must, but never stop”
– Dean Karnazes

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+The Project FAQ's

Where can we reach you to stay updated about your training progress?

You can get in touch with me through the comments section here on my PledgeSports profile, through the social media links mentioned above or email me at .

Tell me more about the rewards.

You can contribute any amount that you wish. The rewards are my way of thanking you for your support, as I want to give something back to the community that has supported me in taking on the MDS challenge.

What kind of survival gear will you have to carry with you?

Aside from food, I will have to carry a lot of gear on my back. Are you ready for this list? Here it goes: a backpack, a sleeping bag, a head-torch with spare batteries, 10 safety pins, a compass with 1° or 2° precision, a lighter, a whistle, a knife, a tropical disinfectant, an anti-venom pump for when desert critters get too friendly, a signalling mirror, one aluminum survival sheet, 200 euros or equivalent in foreign currency in case we come across someone selling Moroccan rugs in the middle of the desert (we runners love a good bargain), a stove and most important of all... a touch of madness!

How much food are you supposed to carry with you?

The race organizers stipulate that each competitor must carry 14,000 k/calories. That is to say a minimum of 2,000 k/calories per day in their backpack but this is based on a daily caloric requirement of an average person sitting in the comfort of his/her home. Since I will be running an ultra-marathon under strenuous circumstances, my caloric requirements per day will be way more than these numbers.

Doesn’t the backpack get heavy with all that equipment?

Oh it does! However, we are not allowed to carry more than 15kgs, so runners get creative with their packing. I’ve heard stories of toothbrushes being chopped in half in a weight-saving frenzy. Well, stay tuned to my updates. You might just get some good packing tips!

What safety measures are deployed in the race?

The race takes place over desolate Saharan landscape under extreme conditions. Therefore, the race organizers adopt stringent measures to ensure the safety of all runners. The support includes: 52 medical personnel and 100 volunteers on the course, 400 support staff overall, 120,000 liters of mineral water, 270 Berber and Saharan tents, 100 all-terrain vehicles, 2 Ecureuil helicopter and 1 Cessna plane, 6 satellite telephones, 15 computers, fax and internet, 3 mountain bikes, 23 buses & 4 camels, 6 MDS special commercial planes, 6 000 painkillers and 150 liters of disinfectants, 1 incinerator lorry for burning waste, 4 quads to ensure environment and safety on race, 6.5 km of Elastoplast, 2,700 Compeed, 19,000 compresses, 1 editing bus, 5 cameras, and 1 satellite image station. Yup, it takes an entire village of people to make this event a success!

Tell us about the charities MDS supports.

The race organizers encourage running for a cause and have always worked on setting up projects in partnership with other associations. One such organization is SPORT EVEIL ACADEMIE. This sports initiation academy has enrolled 250 children from 3 - 5 years and from 6 - 11 years of age. They offer 900 hours of sports teaching. An original program is designed for each age group and thousands of snacks (fresh fruits, cakes, dairy products) are served to these kids daily. They also organize 3 summer coach trips into the Dadès Valley with 50 children per trip. The other organization they support is FEMMISSIMA, a welcome centre for women which offers support classes in child education, hygiene and health. It has 60 women members and conducts 400 hours of literacy lessons for them. The institution maintains 95% regular attendance and prides itself on teaching quality courses including basic math skills (addition, subtraction, etc.) and preparation of micro projects. More details regarding this can be found on

How else can we support you through the race?

I’m grateful for your monetary help. You can also support me by: 1. Spreading the word to your family and friends. 2. Following me through my social media channels and staying updated on my progress. After all, it is only possible because of your support. 3. Sharing my updates on social media to increase the buzz around my participation. 4. Telling my story to your local newspaper. Know of any sporting companies who might like to get involved in my fundraising campaign? Get in touch with me by leaving a message on this page.

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