Affectionately known as the toughest foot race on the planet, the Marathon des Sables is a six-day ultramarathon, covering around 250km of the Sahara Desert.
An elite event
During the day, the temperatures easily soar to a sweltering 50 degrees; at night, it is near freezing. And with the exception of water, competitors must carry on their backs everything they’ll need to eat and sleep over the six days. It is an event in which a high number of elite athletes participate
To Ted Jackson however, who turned up to run the event in a synthetic camel costume, it appears to be some kind of fun run. 'This time Ted had a running partner – his 21-year-old son Oscar, whose age made him the youngest British competitor in the whole race.'
It is the second Marathon des Sables in which Ted has competed, the first being in 2014. The difference this time was that (notwithstanding the camel) this time Ted had a running partner – his 21-year-old son Oscar, whose age made him the youngest British competitor in the whole race.
A family affair
Together, the men were running to raise money for OMS, in recognition of the hope that Sophie (their respective wife and mother) saw in the program following her diagnosis of MS in 2009, and the support she feels she received from it.
So, how did it go? Well, had the camel been carrying Ted, and not vice versa, then his Saharan story might not have come to the early end it did. But after covering 34km in the costume on Day 1, Ted’s race was virtually run.
Dehydrated and describing himself as having nothing left in the tank, Ted arrived just 10 minutes too late for the cut-off point at one of the checkpoints on Day 2 and, sadly, so strict are the rules of the race that he was not allowed to continue.
One man down
Oscar however was still in, and between Ted and Sophie (one in Morocco and one at home in the UK), they tracked his progress online. On Day 4, the longest and toughest stage where competitors have to run 87km through the day and night (after running over 100km in the previous three days), Sophie was up until 3am tracking Oscar’s progress. He then had to do another marathon the next day.
We contacted Sophie at the conclusion of the race, and she said that Ted was gutted not to have made it further, but the fact that Oscar was still in it, and going strong, really softened the blow.
A real feat of endurance
Similarly, knowing Ted had left the competition spurred Oscar on even more to finish. Sophie said that Oscar considers the Marathon des Sables to be the best thing and the worst thing that he has ever done all at the same time!
And she also said that Ted now realises what it is like for the rest of the family when someone takes off on a mad challenge and you don't have any contact with them, and no idea how they are doing physically or mentally.
An anguish he has put them through (albeit in great causes) on a number of occasions! The morning after the boys returned home, Sophie described herself to us as bursting with pride and happiness.
“I'm so pleased that Oscar has had such an amazing experience. It is so good to have them both home safe and sound.”
A grateful appreciation
At OMS, we are truly grateful to Ted and Oscar Jackson for what they have undertaken and we thank them, and their entire family who support them in their challenges, sincerely.
It is entirely thanks to the efforts of all our fundraisers and their supporters that OMS is able to continue the work it does. And whilst Ted was unable to complete the race, we’re delighted to hear that he was justly given the ‘Best Dressed in the Desert’ award. This, according to Sophie, made him very happy. If you are interested in supporting OMS through a challenge or event, click here for some inspiration.