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16-year-old Canadian to tackle 251K Marathon des Sables

Though not old enough to compete at many Canadian marathons, 16-year-old Jack Davison of Fort Langley, BC is about to start one of the world's most gruelling ultras

Though many Canadian marathons would not permit a 16-year-old to register, Jack Davison, of Fort Langley, BC is about to start not just a marathon, but six in a row, in the Sahara desert. He is one of 10 Canadians registered in the 251K Marathon des Sables in the Moroccan Sahara, which starts tomorrow. Jack is there with his father, Aaron Davison, who has already completed the MDS three times–in 2008, 2014 and 2016.

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According to a story in the Maple Ridge-Pitts Meadows News, The Davisons did two MDS half-marathons (120K) together in 2018: the Fuerteventura des Sables half-marathon on the Canary Islands in September, and one in Peru’s Ica Desert, in December. Jack, who now is a grade 10 student at Meadowridge School, ran a 30K race at age 12 and a 50K at 14, but the MDS halfs were his longest races to date.

Long distance running is not even Jack’s main sport. He is a provincially-ranked tennis player who was eighth among U16 players in BC last year. He hopes to secure a scholarship at a US university and eventually to turn pro.

Photo: Facebook

Marathon des Sables is actually a stage race, and according to British ultrarunner and Inov-8 ambassador Damian Hallthe cutoffs are generous, since many participants hike rather than run. Many runners, Hall says, are able to complete each daily stage (the length of a marathon, except for the final stage, which is two marathons) with hours to spare, so there is time to recover, refuel, and get to know one’s fellow racers. That’s not to say it isn’t still extremely challenging. The difficult parts are having to carry all your gear and food (except for tents and water, which are supplied), the very hot temperatures, and being covered in sand for a week.

For an amusing description of what Marathon des Sables is really like, read Hall’s description, here.