Less and less time remains until amateur athlete and adventurer Joel Juht faces his life’s greatest challenge — he’ll be heading to Morocco to take part in the six-day ultra-marathon, Marathon Des Sables. Only men with strong health can take part in this killer run, and they must be examined by an experienced doctor. Joel passed the medical examination successfully and received permission to take part in the run.

You’re undertaking such a challenge that you’re not even allowed to participate without doctor’s permission?

It’s written in the rules of the Marathon Des Sables that all participants must go through a medical examination 30 days before the marathon, and there’s a special form where the family physician must put their approval of the athlete’s medical condition. The reason is simple — since this is one of the hardest ultra-marathons in the world, they presumably want to prevent excessive incidents, since there are many injuries involved. Therefore, it’s important for the athlete to be in strong health. I went through my medical examination right after my trip to Bolivia, they check your ECG, give you protective injections and other necessities. My electrocardiogram readings were excellent, and it’s important to have a properly functioning heart, since you really need it for something like a desert marathon. Sometimes it seems unreasonable that, even if you do lots of exercise, have gathered good partners, you believe you can go, and are already a little stressed from overthinking, and if you can’t go due to health issues by that point, at least I would be thoroughly disappointed in the project as a whole. I even thought before the examination, what if all the readings aren’t alright? You know they are, but what if it shows the opposite? You never know what can happen! But now it’s in the past, now I don’t need to think about it, now I can think of what’s to come.

Speaking of walking, you haven’t hidden the fact that you had inflammations in your feet and you were in pain?

Before I started running, I really did have inflammations in my feet. I’ve run my feet back into health.

Can you find a logical explanation for this?

The logical explanation is that I did all I could to heal my feet. First I switched my running shoes for softer ones, to lessen impact on the feet. Secondly, I went to physiotherapy and massages, thirdly I even had inflammations during my training in Thailand and I went to strong trigger point massage sessions every day there, where I was outright screaming. I’ve never been massaged as painfully as there.

What could you compare this pain to?

It can be compared to having an inflammation and someone forcefully pressing down on that spot and holding it there for 30-45 seconds. It’s extremely painful and even forces you to laugh. 30 seconds of pain is pretty crazy. I also got all sorts of snake venom based gels, applied those, I also got some ointment to spread on myself in the evenings, I’ve been constantly rubbing my feet to get the blood flowing. I don’t have any pains by now, they’re all gone. The doctor gave me a green light for the marathon.

*Authors: GoodNews journalists Jüri Kükk and Elviira Eessaar