"To train for this MDS, I walked 1,300 km"


In Japan, the MARATHON DES SABLES – locally known as the Saharan Desert Race – is very famous and has been attracting quite a few Japanese competitors (47 in Morocco last April). For this first edition of MDS PERU, more than thirty competitors (three times more in terms of percentage) crossed the Pacific Ocean, among which Naho FUKUNAGA (D193-JPN): “I liked the idea of being a pioneer, of entering history,” she says with a big laugh. And who convinced her to register? “A Japanese walker who took part in the MDS MAROC, loved it and decided to invite as many fellow Japanese as possible to live that experience.” A successful endeavour, since he became the team leader of 19 Japanese competitors – of whom 9 became today Finishers of this MDS, arriving all together at the very end of the pack.


For her first time in Peru, Naho is having “a great time, with these nice views and beautiful landscapes…but the course is not easy, because of the soft sand and the heat.” Although this is her first multi-stage competition, her feet are doing fine, with just a few blisters. This may be related to her choice of shoes (Crocs just for the bivouac – unlike her friend Takura who is walking the entire MDS with such footwear – and running shoes for the actual stages), but most probably to her training: “Our team leader had decided to cross Japan on foot, from Hokkaido to Kagoshima – a total journey of 2,700 km! I joined him and walked 1,300 km in total over 29 days.”


Currently unemployed, this young pharmacist admits she’s feeling “very tired after the long stage, which made me arrive at the bivouac at 8 AM.” Since she has no appetite for running, she’s been walking the entire course, “even in the big sandy descent!” And what about the group spirit? “At times I liked to walk alone at my own speed, in silence; but at other times, I preferred walking with my friends so that we could talk.” Today, Naho is about to return home with her Finisher’s medal, and if she continues talking, there’s a great chance that her beautiful smile and her enthusiasm about the race will convince other Japanese to test the MDS experience – be it in Morocco, Peru or Fuerteventura.