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Chico State

To the Brink and Back

Ed’s feet all taped up.

After some of the toughest days of his running career, Ed Hudson returned to the states after finishing the Marathon Des Sables, through the Sahara desert in Morocco, in 60 hours and 14 minutes, 107th in his age group. (See our earlier blog below.)The 151-mile race left Ed with an experience that will stay with him forever—as well as some pretty torn up feet.

I sat down with Ed a couple days after he returned to the states to discuss the Marathon Des Sables. Here is a snippet of our conversation.

Overall, what was the experience like running the Marathon des Sables?

Ed: It was the hardest thing I have ever done, both physically and emotionally. It was just really, really tough; but it was incredible. The logistics, the comradery, you turn into a small town that picks up and moves every morning. I think it will leave a footprint on me for a long time.

Ed with camels in the background - stage two.

What was the toughest moment during the race?

Ed: The second day was incredibly windy. It was just blowing wind probably about 40 miles an hour all day. At the end of the day was when my feet were really starting to get messed up, and I was just a couple of miles from the finish, and I was like, I don’t know if I am going to be able to finish this thing. Everything you hear beforehand is that day three is the really hard day, and I was at the end of day two—like wow, if day three is the really hard day and I’m feeling like this, and have just been buffeted by these winds and the heat and the sand all day… I think that was the toughest moment. Just like, wow, am I going to be able to finish this, because I really wasn’t sure I was going to be able to.

Ed's feet all taped up.

Was there ever a moment when you just wanted to quit? What kept you moving?

Ed: I never wanted to quit; I was just worried I wasn’t going to be able to [finish]. Different things kept me going. At one point, I knew it was going to be hard, but I had to just keep going. In the beginning it was, wow, I don’t want to come back having not done this. How do you explain that to people? They aren’t going to get how tough this thing is. After the end of day two, I got up the morning of day three and just said, okay, just focus on today, just focus on the next check point, focus on just getting through this moment. Don’t think about the long stage, don’t think about tomorrow, just focus on one step in front of the other.

Hiking up a sand dune in the Moroccan desert.

What was the most memorable moment during the race?

Ed: There were a lot of memorable moments. At the end of the long stage, which was 51 miles, I thought to myself that I can normally run a 10K in 44 minutes. So I got to the last checkpoint in the long stage, and I had 10k left to go and it took me over three hours. This is when my feet were really messed up. There was another competitor, a woman, who last year got pulled out of the race because she was stung by a scorpion. She had walked with me through most of the night. We were coming across this huge plane of big rocks. They were really sharp and my feet were really, really hurting, and at some point I just got mad and frustrated and thought, I’ve just got to do something different. I finally started running with about three miles to go and after a while my feet just stopped hurting because they were numb. We got to the finish and I lost it and completely broke down. I was very, very emotional and it was funny because I heard her say “give the guy some room,” and I looked up and there was a TV crew from France with the boom mike and everything. I thought, oh gosh guys, really? This is when you are going to get my picture, when I was just completely laid bare. That was very memorable for me.

Sunset at camp.

Was the race anything like you had expected?

Ed: A lot of it was. My endurance was fine, my training had been fine. I didn’t have any problems with that. My food I had experimented with. A lot I expected how tough it was going to be. I didn’t expect how hard the terrain was to run on. I think knowing what I know now, if I were to go back and do this again, I would have worn different shoes. The rest of the stuff was what I thought, but on a grander scale; everything was much more.

The rocky terrain of the Moroccan desert.

Would you run the race again in the future if you had the chance?

Ed: Wow, that’s a really interesting question. People have asked me that and of course at the end of the race I was like, yeah, right. It was an incredible experience, and I would probably run it again for the experience. On one hand, if I went back and took 20 hours off of my time, it’s not like I would get anything different than what I got. But it was an incredible experience, so I would say that I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t go. I am going to have to wait and see. I wouldn’t say no.

Though still a little sore from the grueling race, Ed is back in Chico, ready to tackle the next big race. This summer he will captain a relay team in the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey and work the Western States 100 mile race as well as some small local races. In the near future he hopes to conquer the TransRockies and a 50-mile race.

To see more pictures of the Marathon des Sables and Ed’s experience click here.