Athletic street dance pioneer Joel Juht may have achieved much in life, yet still the masculine desire to test himself in extraordinary conditions resides within him. To this end, he chose the 250 kilometer marathon taking place in the Moroccan desert in April of 2017, the harsh trials of which have outright horror stories being told.

Joel, where did you get this desert marathon idea in the first place?

I got the idea a year ago at a friend’s place, when the topic of marathons came up and we got really into it. He brought up the Marathon Des Sables marathon, and that Osborne’s son went there and withdrew before finishing, and it sounded like an extreme challenge. I started researching the marathon and encouraging others to go as well, including Markko Moisar. However, as Markko has competitions coming up, he won’t have the time. When I got my response, it turned out that I could only take part in the 2019 marathon. On the 3rd of October, however, I received an official letter stating that a spot had opened up. I was sitting behind my computer and pondering how this was possible, since people register a long time in advance, there’s only 1200 spaces! I was one click away and in thought, as the participation fee and price of plane tickets was quite large, but then it turned out you can pay in installments. I made the click and only after that did I begin to worry whether I still had my senses for doing something like this. Actually, before making that click, I sat there for three hours, thinking of whether or not to go, as there’s so many details involved, and how would I get my things done… At the same time, however, I wanted to do something awesome, get new experiences, test myself. The question also arose, however, of who are the friends I’d want along, since despite this being a personal goal of mine, I would still need the support of friends by my side. Regardless, I’ve done sports my entire life and now I wish to surpass myself and see what I’m capable of.

You’ve taken part in a ski marathon, different experiments, you go to boxing training, but does the marathon in question where you’re expected to cross 82 kilometers per day scare you, thinking that you’ll be in the desert soon?

The mileage isn’t what really scares me, rather it’s the heat and the choice of proper footwear. I’m not out to kill myself, but to give it my all. As I have the soul of an athlete, I’ll puff out my chest and run through that dust. It really makes you think, it’s not every day you run 250 kilometers.

Plenty of dust in the desert. What do you know about what’s going to happen there? Footwear, choice of food?

In terms of preparations I’ve ordered a pack for the run. If it fits, I’ll take it, if not, I’ll send it back. You need to do a lot of trials, for example making sure sand doesn’t get in your footwear. I received good advice from Madis Tiik, whom I visited in Haapsalu and I saw the official Des Sables marathon backpack which he ran with. I got some tips from him and now I need to try how the pack feels on my back. You don’t need many items for the desert, he took more than he needed out of fear and now says to only take the bare essentials, since every gram matters during the run, you feel every drop in your water bottle. The desert has spines that may puncture your heel and injure your foot. You can’t wash yourself for six days, you sleep in a tent without a door or windows, head in a sleeping bag so you don’t wake up buried in sand in the morning. There are many other details that Madis mentioned, for example that the stones are very sharp. You can’t wear regular sneakers, you need proper all-terrain shoes that can endure a long distance. Every person has 12 liters of water allocated to them per day, water and first aid are included in the price. You have to handle your calculations and tactics yourself, where you save energy, where you work harder. In addition, you never know exactly where you’ll be going, since the route is different each year and you can’t familiarize yourself with the course until you’ve got the map in your hand. There’s no internet in the desert, just you, your gear and that’s it. Before the start you give away all your unnecessary possessions and you get them back seven days later after returning from this wonderful journey.

*Marathon chats with Joel Juht are conducted by journalist Monika Kuzmina, a great fan of sports and charity.