A stray dog has become the first canine ever to finish the grueling Marathon des Sables in Morocco.
The Marathon des Sables concluded Saturday after a 3.8-mile run for charity. That’s after a total of 136.9 miles that were run over 5 days in the intense heat of the Sahara Desert. It takes a certain brand of crazy to sign up for the Marathon des Sables, and an even more specific brand of crazy to finish.
And then there’s Cactus. Cactus is a dog, as you can see, and he’s become the first dog to ever finish the Marathon des Sables.
Cactus appeared during the latter part of the second stage on Monday. He just sort of showed up and started running alongside the marathoners. People began tweeting that the pack had been joined by a dog, and since nobody knew his name and they were running in the desert, they named him Cactus.
(It should be noted, however, that cacti only grow in the Americas, and there is not a single native cactus species in the Sahara.)
He left briefly after that second stage but returned in time for the start of the third stage. Since then he’s been living with the nomadic caravan of marathon runners, getting water, food, and pets when they all bed down for the night, and setting off at a trot at the beginning of each stage of the race.
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The MDS’ dog 🐕🌵☀️ After running the second part of Stage 2, he stayed the night at the bivouac and took the start of the third stage this morning! And guess what, he just ran the whole third stage (37,5km) and has now reached the camp (with a good ranking actually). Congratulations buddy 🐕 #MDS2019 #MARATHONDESSABLES
According to the New York Times, Cactus even ran the entire distance of Wednesday’s grueling 47.4-mile stage. The human racers were all provided 31 hours to complete this portion of the marathon, but Cactus only needed 11 hours and 15 minutes. This actually placed him 76th overall in the race’s standings.
He did it! Cactus ran the whole long stage of 76 km 😮— MARATHON DES SABLES (@marathonDsables) April 10, 2019
He is in a very good shape, has eaten, drunk, he keeps running everywhere in the camp 😅#MDS2019 #MARATHONDESSABLES #CactusTheMdsDog pic.twitter.com/NJDo7ci6lD
Sadly, Cactus was never given an official standing because he technically started the race late. Nevertheless, when he completed the final stage among the first of the marathon’s finishers, he was given a medal just like everyone else. Then he ran around looking for pets and treats.
Karen Hadfield, a local hotel owner in Morocco, will make sure Cactus is returned home to the village where he lives after the race. She usually takes care of him, although she stops short of calling herself Cactus’s owner. He’s a bit of a desert nomad, you see.