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Mike’s Marathon Des Sables, 2024!

Netball NI S&C Coach Mike Bentley is taking on the unimaginable challenge of the Marathon Des Sables, a gruelling 250km journey through the unforgiving Sahara desert.

This race is not for the faint-hearted, with temperatures soaring to 45-50 degrees, treacherous terrain including roads, gravel, rocks, mountains, and sand dunes, and the added challenge of carrying all supplies for the entire event – food, medical, clothes, sleeping bag, you name it. The only luxury is a shared tent and rationed water at the end of each stage. 🌡️💪

He is running to raise awareness and funds for the awesome ‘Hope For Children’ that provides opportunities and supports so many children in need across the world.

If you would like to support Mike, and Hope For Children, you can click here.

We had a chance to catch up with Mike before he heads off on his challenge on Wednesday 10th April, see below what he had to say!

What inspired you to take on the challenge of a 250km race across the Sahara desert?

My inspiration is my family firstly, and all those that have supported me, I want to make them proud. Secondly seeing the work Hope For Children are doing giving children a chance at a childhood inspires me, what those children go through everyday just to survive and keep going is inspirational. I also want to see how far I can push my body, how far I can challenge my self mentally and physically. This is one of the ultimate challenges in the world, in one of the harshest climates and is known as the toughest or one of the toughest races in the world.

Can you describe the preparations you’ve undertaken both physically and mentally for such an extreme endurance event?

I have spent a lot of time running!! My weekly running mileage has been anywhere from 100km a week to 190km a week, I have also managed to keep on track of my gym sessions which have been 2-3 gym sessions a week and on average 2 hot yoga sessions a week. Mentally I have spent a lot of time in my own head good and bad, tried to find ways to cope with difficult situations. I have been fortunate enough to have 2 awesome coaches that I have worked with who have helped me physically and mentally prepare. I have tried to put myself in situations I might find myself in out the in the desert. I think I have turned over every rock to be as prepared as possible. I have spent a lot of time cycling in saunas to try and get acclimatised to the heat and used to sweating a lot. As well as preparing my nutrition so that I know what will suit me when I am out there

What kind of terrain and weather conditions are you expecting to encounter during the race, and how do you plan to navigate through them?

The conditions of the race are pretty extreme, temperatures can be anywhere from 35 to 50+ degrees. The terrains we will be racing over will vary from sand dunes, dried out salt lakes, rocky roads, mountains and gravel. On top of this we have to carry all of our food and a supplies. The only thing provided by the race is rationed water and open air Berber tents. I am expecting it to be hot and uncomfortable. I will lather up in sunscreen try and stay as hydrated as possible with water, electrolytes and loads of salt to help with water absorption and retention.

How do you manage your hydration and nutrition during such a long-distance race in a desert environment?

I plan on having 2 x 750ml bottles one for electrolytes and one for water, aiming to keep my salt levels high and setting a timer on my watch to make sure I am eating and drinking regularly through out each stage

What are some of the biggest challenges you anticipate facing during the race, and how do you plan to overcome them?

The biggest challenge I think is going to be dehydration and foot care. Those are two things that I have pretty strict routines for after each day. And during each day. Make sure I am taking on enough fluids and making sure my feet are well looked after. Some of the pictures and stories from previous competitors tell a gruesome tail lol

Can you share any previous experiences or races that have prepared you for this particular challenge?

I have completed an Ironman and a couple of marathons. But I have never done anything of this scale before!! This is all new to me, a true challenge

How do you stay motivated and focused during the grueling moments of the race, especially considering the vastness and harshness of the desert landscape?

There are going to be some really really tough moments. The biggest thing will be to remember my “why”…. My why is my family and all the people that have supported me, that will keep me going, the charity I am running for and all the children the money I have raised will help. Those are big motivators for me and I know when it gets tough I can lean into those things.

Are there any specific strategies or techniques you employ to pace yourself throughout the race and ensure you have enough energy to finish strong?

My race strategy at the moment is to combine running and walking, trying to run for 20mins walk for 10mins, eat every 20 mins, and take it one check point at a time. I am also carrying with me about 3000 cals a day which should be just about enough to refuel me for the next stage, I hope!

Given the extreme nature of this challenge, are there any safety measures or precautions you’ve put in place to mitigate risks along the way?

Not really any specific measures, I will hopefully recover well each day and spend time after each stage recovering and trying to get my body back to neutral to hopefully minimise injury risk. Keep hydrated and keep the food coming in so that I can compete.

For those who are inspired by your journey and wish to support your cause or contribute to your efforts, how can they donate or offer their support?

I am raising money for Hope For Children who are a fantastic charity that provide so many wonderful opportunities for children who have nothing to succeed and have a childhood. I am fortunate to have had a wonderful childhood with many opportunities given to me by my family, being a dad I am able to hopefully do the same for my children but unfortunately not all children get to have a childhood and that’s what Hope for children is doing. Offering hope to so many children that may not have hope, if people or companies would like to make a donation or contribution I would be hugely grateful, they can find my page below.

You can also track me live:

Any messages of support are always welcome and can find me at instagram @mikebentleysc