Q: What is the ARC Association mission statement?
A: ARC Association is aiming to pair up with a Moroccan Cancer Association, and create an educational program for young people, especially males, because it is a men's disease, but also their entourage as Family is key in helping the detection process. The aim of this programme is to provide the male population with facts, knowledge about the disease and encourage the detection and screening of this disease in the early stages and to tell them that it doesn't cost much. Because that is a problem in Morocco: health care is very expensive, but it isn't if it is diagnosed early, and treated properly at an early stage. The longer you wait, the more expensive it gets; and it gets even more expensive when you lose a loved one.
So the message is simple: get screened, so you can get treated early; that way you don't suffer, and you don't cause suffering for your loved ones, and you can live even longer than expected.
Q: What attracted you to the Marathon des Sables?
A: I was attracted to the Marathon of the Sands completely by accident. My entire history of running was an accident. My real motivation is the fight against prostate cancer. I lost my father in January 2012 to the disease, so I chose this race in order to lift the veil of this disease which is still taboo and a rather mysterious and ghostly illness in Morocco. So I have chosen this race to try to demystify all this for the people around me, for my native country and especially for men, since it is a men's disease. It has become a passion that keeps me alive every day and I take every day as it comes.
Q: What does participating in the MDS represent for you?
A: What is particularly important for me about the MDS, is that it takes place in the region where I was born, in the South of Morocco, a region I know very well. It is one of the most difficult races in the world. This race receives a lot of media coverage, it is surrounded by people who have been organising it for 29 years next year. It is a challenge that takes me into the desert, into the heat. I wanted to find a sportive challenge somewhere, but I don't know the mountains well, I'm more at home in the Mediterranean and the desert. I hope this will be the beginning of a long path that will help me carry the message of the fight against prostate cancer far, and for the memory of my father I am prepared to go very, very far! My father was quite athletic, always physically active, going for a jog every morning, and he fought until the end, until his last breath. I told myself I will do this in his memory; and thanks to my wife, family and circle of friends I will ! I also want to salute my mother, because caregivers are sometimes forgotten, but it is also a challenge for them to accompany someone they love until the end, and because of all that I will go all the way to the finish line, and will try not to disappoint any of you.
Q: Have you spent much time in the desert? Tell us what you like & dislike about the desert.
A: Despite growing up in the South of Morocco, in Ouarzazate, and even though Ouarzazate is called the door to the desert, I can't say that I have spent much time in the desert. I know the area, and its dunes, and I've seen it as a tourist, and shown it to friends, but I've never run in the desert.
What do I like about the desert well, I am someone who loves nature. And the desert is something mysterious, something silent; I think it is like the ocean: it doesn't leave any trace, it is really immense, and when you cross it you will never leave any trace behind you; so that adds to its mysteriousness, and that's what I love, and what seems great to me. I think it is grandiose!
As for what I dislike about the desert, I guess that's what I'll find out, I suppose, by running through it with the other competitors, as we cross it. I will probably discover some negative aspects, but for the moment I admire this marvellous landscape.
Q: Do you have any expectations about the MDS?
A: Given that it is 250 km in the desert over 6 days, that you sleep in 5 degrees and you run in 50 degree temperatures, being self-sufficient and carrying your food on your back - only water is supplied - what more is there to say! It is one of the toughest footraces on earth, but as I have said before, I'm doing it for the best cause, the fight against prostate cancer. When I saw my sick father fight against this disease, and when I see all the cancer patients in the world today, it is a challenge for them to overcome all that. So I tell myself that 7 days or 6 days of a difficult challenge, knowing that is a challenge both sportively & mentally, and for a good cause it can only be something great! So as far as expectations go, I only have positive ones.
Q: You have just met a well-renowned competitor of the MDS. Tell us about your encounter and what advise he gave you.
A: Indeed, I met a famous competitor of the Marathon des Sables who has run it about 15 times, and next year he will take part in the 29th Edition which means he has participated in more than half of the Editions since its creation. We actually met totally by accident, we met for a drink. He is Moroccan, he lives in Morocco, his name is Ait Amar Moustapha, we chatted for a good few hours and it was great to get his perspective on things. I had my Western point of view since I'm living in France, as someone who just wants to do the race, and get to the finish line in order to lift the veil off this cause, which is cancer. For him, this is his passion, and he trains every day for three or four hours, caring more about perfection than mere participation. So it was fun to talk to him. And to see that on the other side we train but after working really long days and we use pre fabricated products such as energy bars, and are careful about what and how we eat. He spoke to me more about natural products such as rice, dates which shows that natural and organic products remain the best option. It's was interesting to discuss these points with him. We also spoke about gaiters, it's true when you look at the MDS official site and also other sportive sites they propose a selection of high tech gaiters, and he told me that he uses a piece of tissue held in place by a chain wrapped purchased from the cobbler in his street and with that he goes off running. For us we are more geared towards gadgets than the actual physical effort. So it was very interesting to have the opportunity to discuss with him.