Amateur athlete and adventurer Joel Juht, who is presently preparing for the Marathon Des Sables ultra-marathon, is not merely training himself before the greatest challenge of his lifetime, but also searching for and preparing equipment. All gear being taken along must weigh little, and only consist of necessary survival supplies, from food and water to a snake venom removal pump and suitable clothing and footwear for a desert trip.
How many backpacks worth do you need to take, and what exactly will be inside?
On the topic of food, there’s breakfast and lunch, which you’ll be eating during the run, but there’s four meals in a day — in the morning, next during the run, then after the run you have red recovery – a recovery meal – them some sort of snack and finally supper. You should get 2000 kilocalories a day at minimum. I’ll be taking more food along just in case, as you can always throw away any leftovers.
The portable foodstuffs is contained in packages, I have around two crates of it. For the mornings I have Kellogg’s and puree, you pour on some water and you have muesli, this is a hard dose of carbohydrates and around 500 kilocalories. After this meal I go for a run, and after the run it’s time for a stronger meal, eating my fill.
Do you have a lot of equipment besides food?
I’ve also got with me a sleeping bag; a head lamp with backup batteries; 20 safety pins, although I haven’t figured out what these are for yet, probably to pin on your number; a compass; a survivor packet; a tiny metal pocket knife; skin care patches and powders, with separate alcohol wipes since you can’t wash there; a venom pump for snake bites; a signaling mirror; a whistle; sun screen, of course; 200 Euros; a passport; a bag and special running outfit. I’ll definitely take some solar batteries, which are not mandatory; a camera for filming; I’ll also be taking my phone despite there being no service, since I can play games or read a book on it to motivate myself, as well as listen to music. Since the temperature gets below 10 degrees at night, I also have a change of clothes, 2 pairs of socks including toe socks and cover socks to keep out sand. The sneakers also have separate covers with velcro attachments to protect against sand, there are compressors to protect the shins, also protective sleeves for the arms, special headgear also worn by Arabs, as well as a tube scarf, which is handy in all situations, such as covering oneself up in a desert storm, or while sleeping at night for warmth. For a change of clothes, one option is lightweight long warm underwear, which looks like a painter’s outfit and is worn underneath clothing. This sums up my equipment.
There’s also constant supplementary letters regarding this equipment. For example, for going to the toilet you have plastic bags, which are sealed and left in a designated spot. Bottles are numbered, you’re not allowed to leave empty bottles anywhere or you’ll be fined. You need to note down all of your things at stopping points, they give you a special card with a spinner.
Can you keep in touch with the rest of the world?
Everyone gets to check their e-mails once a day, but this requires standing in the world’s longest queue which I have no intention of doing. I can be contacted by e-mail through the Marathon Des Sables website. Once a day, they bring everyone a paper with e-mails, and then people also use that paper for all sorts of other things. You’re not allowed to use a cell phone, even if there’s reception in the area. If you use it within these six days, you get fined again. You can use a satellite phone on the spot, where one minute costs two Euros. You get to use e-mail from three to eight every day. There’s no electricity anywhere, you can’t charge anything, you’ll simply have to take your own batteries along with you.
*Authors: GoodNews journalists Jüri Kükk and Elviira Eessaar