It would be a lie to say that the running is the easy bit, but the most common questions I get asked after running say the Namib, the Sahara, or in the Namib desert is around kit, and specifically being a doctor, around medical kit. Here are the lightweight things that I carry, and maybe of help during for example to Marathon des Sables or other races and events like this.
Running day after day in the desert, your feet swell up. I use a pair of shoes ½ a size bigger than my standard shoes. For a lightweight shoe that is comfy and has a bit of grip, I use the Merrell All Out Rush
Having worked at many desert ultras as well as raced them, if you are racing on sand, do not leave home without sandgaiters. These prevent sand getting in your shoes and causing blisters. The best on the market by far are “Sandbaggers Gaiters” made with parachute silk. Stitch these into your shoes rather than glueing, as the glue will melt in the heat.
The key thing is to have clothing (including socks) that are lightweight and wicks moisture away from the skin keeping blisters and overheating down to a dull roar. Some clothing has the additional bonus of sun protection. I use the Merrell clothing range which suits me perfectly
Do not skimp on this. Buy high factor sunscreen that stays where it is when you sweat, and only needs applied once or twice a day. P20 has never failed me, while Himalaya is great also
- Blister Kit
The largest study of blisters in ultra-runners showed 85% of competitiors got blisters. This number would probably be even higher in the desert. So take some Sterets to clean the skin, some sterile needles to pop the blisters, (pop at the lowest point, squeeze fluid out, and leave to dry until the morning), and zinc oxide tape to put over the blisters in the morning to prevent them getting worse
Stick small amounts of this in the areas you are vulnerable to getting chafing
- Hand Sanitiser Gel, and toilet paper
Use the hand sanitiser as directed, to cut down the prospects of getting diarrhoea nad vomiting, one of the most common causes of medical withdrawal from races. Drink bottled water, and avoid foods that look dodgy.
- Med Kit
Paracetamol, 2 tablets 4 times a day is good for pain. NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory meds like brufen and voltarol) should not be taken for endurance running. There is a risk of stomach ulcer, kidney failure and other badness. Lyprinol likely has anti-inflammatory actions and I take (batch tested) version of this to combat this. Immodium/ loperamide is worth carrying in case diarrhoea and vomiting does occur
Like a car, if the human body is out of fuel, it will not go anywhere. Small amounts of carbohydrate taken regularly in any race longer than an hour boost performance. I use Science in Sport gels, and carbohydrate and electrolyte powder, whilst post exercise REGO helps by providing carbohydrate to replace used up stores, and protein to repair damaged muscles
- Ear plugs
These and eye masks help sleep on flights, as well as in noisy tents. Well worth the 6 grams