This is Cactus, a Moroccan runner who completed the grueling Marathon des Sables through the Sahara Desert earlier this week. He is talented and he is also a dog.
Cactus linked up with the race after Sunday’s opening 20-mile stage, sticking around for the next four stages and 120 miles of running. The Marathon des Sables is a famously difficult race, where competitors have to run an average of 23.5 miles per day for five days straight through the sand, sun, and wind of the unforgiving Sahara of southern Morocco. It’s not the sort of thing anyone does primarily for fun, excepting of course Cactus, who seemed to enjoy his time with the race.
According to the New York Times, Cactus just sort of showed up and ran 15 miles alongside the race’s human competitors. Race officials assumed he would eventually wander back home, but instead, he slept in camp with runners and was fed and watered. When runners took off every morning, he ran along with them. One runner told the Times that Cactus even helped guide him back to the course after he accidentally strayed a bit. Stage 3 was a 47.4-mile slog that cut through a sandstorm. Cactus dominated it:
While the nearly 800 human runners were given 31 hours to complete Wednesday’s ultralong stage, Cactus needed only about 11 hours 15 minutes, some of it in a sandstorm, which would have put him 76th in the stage results. Then he ran a couple of extra miles to cool down.
Race doctors regularly checked him out and didn’t even find any blisters on his paws. He had to take a break during the 47.4-mile queen stage (understandable!) but he still finished in style. He did seem to have plenty of energy after the long stage.
The owner of the inn where Cactus, who might also be named Diggedy, lives said on a Marathon des Sables Facebook post that Cactus usually ran about 25 miles a day for fun anyway. She said she’d let him keep running because she knew he was having fun:
I am the owner and was told he had left the camp yesterday... If I can pick him up I will but I also know he’s having the greatest time so please people let me know where he is now and where you are heading tomorrow... I miss him but he’s having fun. He is a nomad dog and often travels 40 Km a day around this area...just for fun. Please look after him and get him home...
Here’s a highlight reel:
Cactus, who was eventually given his own tracking number and official race profile, finished the race yesterday and received a finisher’s medal.