Sweat, heat and dehydration don’t sound appealing to many people, but for long-distance runners like Brisbane’s Greg O’Meara, life without them is unimaginable.
O’Meara started running cross-country races in his early school years and it’s turned into a passion that has doggedly followed him ever since.
Despite initially thinking his interest would become nothing more than a pastime, he has nevertheless competed in what has been described as “The hardest race in the world”, the Marathon des Sables - or Marathon of the Sand for anyone needing to brush up on their French.
The race comprises six legs over seven consecutive days across the Sahara Desert.
“I was looking for a challenge. It’s definitely something to mark off in your diary,” O’Meara said.
During the Marathon des Sables, competitors roll out their sleeping bags each night under Moroccan-style tents designed to offer protection from sand and wind storms, and shade during scorching afternoons and mornings.
But the race isn’t without appeal, with O’Meara drawn by the atmosphere and camaraderie among competitors. More than 50 countries were represented at last year’s race.
Runners face conditions far more testing than conventional marathons.
Competitors must scramble over rocks to arrive at the check points, while carrying food and toiletries on their backs.
Each leg averages about 41km, with the longest day run over 81.5km.
Runners will travel a total of 251km over the week.
To put it into perspective, that’s like running from Brisbane to Maryborough.
Having competed battled the Sahara, O’Meara said he appreciated conditions afforded to athletes in urban competitions. Like roads.
This weekend, O’Meara will take on the more accommodating streets of Brisbane in the Brisbane Times City2South presented by Westpac.
However, he says he still gets butterflies before the gun crack like everybody else.
Having run the race last year, O’Meara said the course scenery and atmosphere made the City2South a winner.
For the first time, this year’s event will include a 5km event as well as the traditional 14km race.