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Subduing the scorching Sahara

The gruelling multi-stage six-day event requires participants to traverse 253.5 kilometres across the dunes and jebels of the punishing Sahara Desert in extreme temperatures, all while carrying survival necessities throughout.
Last Updated : 03 May 2024, 20:21 IST
Last Updated : 03 May 2024, 20:21 IST

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Bengaluru: When it comes to testing the limits of human endurance, no foot race comes close to matching the physical and mental demands of the Marathon Des Sables. 

The gruelling multi-stage six-day event requires participants to traverse 253.5 kilometres across the dunes and jebels of the punishing Sahara Desert in extreme temperatures, all while carrying survival necessities throughout.

Colonel Jangvir Lamba was one of the 900 participants from 60 countries who completed the 38th Legendary Marathon Des Sables held in Southern Morocco from April 14 to April 20. Col Lamba completed the race in 67 hours and seven minutes.

"The Marathon Des Sables is the toughest foot race of the planet," Col Lamba told DH. "The Sahara is an inhospitable and a rough terrain, and the temperatures range from 46 to 53 degree celsius. Because of the distance and the heat, running, walking and jogging were quite challenging. 

"Through practice, I knew how long I would sustain on a single energy bar or a single gel. The preparation was thorough, but it became quite a fight from the second day as about 65-70% of participants developed blisters on their feet," he added.

Col Lamba's journey from a bodybuilder and triathlete to competing in endurance sports is an inspirational tale. After a medical diagnosis required him to lose weight, Lamba, who hails from Jaipur, decided to get involved in Ironman events.

"Three years back I had got diagnosed with a certain medical condition in my spine. I got severe pain in my right shoulder and numbness in my right hand. That is when I got to know there was a nerve pinch, and I got an MRI done, which revealed a disc bulge in 10 places and disc herniation in five places. It was a worrisome condition.

"Since I was 49 then, the army doctors told me that the condition will deteriorate, and the best thing to do was reduce my weight. That is when I decided to shift from burst energy bodybuilding sports to endurance sports. I decided on the toughest event in the world and started training. Within eight months, I did my first Ironman in Goa, second in Australia (Asia Pacific championship) and third in Malaysia. Once I got these done, I turned my focus to the Marathon Des Sables," Col Lamba detailed.

Being part of an Indian army regiment and his attributes garnered from bodybuilding and participating in Ironman events helped Col Lamba train and prepare adequately for the Moroccan race.

"Bodybuilding is a total sport. It brings about muscularity, develops strength of mind and a sense of discipline. You eat correct and train hard. I had these attributes from bodybuilding and then got into Ironman, which is all about endurance, and since I had already been running in endurance events for one-and-a-half years, it was not very tough to train for and do the Marathon Des Sables," Col Lamba said.

"Being from a training establishment where we had training on a daily basis, running was part of the regiment. I have been into service for the last 28 years. Once you have patience, passion and hard training along with discipline, it builds you up as a man and these are the traits which the army builds up in you. It becomes easier to face such challenges and adversities and with comfort and makes you more resilient," he added.

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Published 03 May 2024, 20:21 IST

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