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Sand madness. The athlete lost his way in the desert, but survived

In the already distant 1994, Mauro Prosperi could not even think that he would become famous not because of his sporting achievements, but because he would survive in unbearable conditions. He was 39 years old, behind him – a rich experience in modern pentathlon, and after – the successful career of an Italian policeman. A man lost his way in the desert, drank his urine and blood of bats, tried to commit suicide, but still after 10 days of sandy madness he went out to the people.

“Sandy Marathon”

Forget about all the marathons you heard about before. Because the fact that for 32 years in April is spent in Morocco, is the real king of marathons, a battle with nature and himself for survival.

The rule is simple: in six days on the sands of the Sahara you need to go 250 kilometers. It is advisable to do this faster than other participants, who are now recruited more than a thousand. For participation in the exhausting race you have to pay more than three thousand euros. For this money, the organizers of the marathon will take you from Paris to the launch site and provide 12 liters of water per day. The rest is at your expense.

This is how the marathon goes today. Photo: outdoorfood.com

In April 1994, the “Sandy Marathon” was not as much promoted as it is now. In that year, instead of a thousand participants, there were fewer than a hundred people. Many of the means of communication and search available today could only be dreamed of. Of the navigation at the disposal of desperate goals were only a little informative map and compass.

However, Mauro was neither a desperate head, nor an adventurer. To the race he prepared carefully – daily ran for 40 kilometers, got used to dehydration. Of course, the family’s enthusiasm for the man was unhappy. The wife did not understand why her husband participate in the event, which can literally kill (before the race it was necessary to sign a paper with an order regarding the place of delivery of the corpse). The three young children also did not know why the popes were not at home all the time.

Mauro Prospery. Photos: robinpostell

But the Italian was captured by the desert. “When I got to Morocco, I discovered an amazing thing – a desert. It fascinated me, “ – he recalls the man later. The dunes captured him so much that they were almost killed afterwards. I wonder how the marathoner would treat the desert if he knew what would happen next? Funny, but most likely, he would love her even more.

Storm, longing

At first everything was fine. About 80 people started on April 14. Gradually, the runners built a chain, the distance between the “links” of which was increasing and increasing. Mauro was not among the leaders or among the laggards, the Italian kept somewhere in the middle, avoiding several of his compatriots.

In the backpack full of food, water, sleeping bag, compass, knife, tiny signal flare. It was the fourth day of the marathon – almost two-thirds of the distance was left behind. A point with drinking water was about to appear. Hurry to get to it, because the jar is already half empty.

Suddenly, a sandstorm began. A second ago the sun was scorching the calm smooth surface of the red sand, and this sand is everywhere. The strongest wind tossed small grains of sand into Mauro, which seemed to bite the needles into his face. Visibility dropped to zero, it was impossible to breathe normally – each breath clogged the nose and throat with sand.

It was impossible to stop here and now, because you could easily fall asleep. The Italian shook his head with a handkerchief, somehow protected himself from prickly sand, and just wandered, as it seemed to him, along the route. The man found a tall bush, which came up as some kind of shelter. There it was possible to wait out the bad weather.

The storm lasted all day. Mauro’s miracle did not fall asleep. When the sand settled, it became obvious – it was dusk, continuing to move further is dangerous, because no landmarks are visible. After waiting for the night, the next day the participant of the race understood three things. First, you can not count on winning – most likely, he is disqualified for being late. Secondly, now it’s not up to victory and not even participation – to go out again to people, and on this adventure can be considered complete. Thirdly, it is unclear how to do this, because Mauro found himself in an absolutely unfamiliar terrain.

Yes, there is a map and a compass, but what’s the use of them, if you do not understand where you are at all. A small man in the midst of endless sand. Yesterday the dunes were there, today here. Where should I go?

Mauro went at random, where, as it seemed to him, a path with runners should pass. At first the man believed that a little more and he would meet the travelers, who would complete the damned marathon together. Four hours later, optimism evaporated: for all this time, there was not even a trace of people. Then despair came.

But this did not deprive the Italian of the opportunity to think rationally. The marathon runner recalled the stories of his grandfather about the war, when soldiers were forced to drink their own urine after the exhaustion of water supplies. The main thing is to assemble it as early as possible, while the body is not depleted of dehydration and there are not so many salts and decay products in urine. Under this, as he thought, the emergency case was fitted with a spare bottle – in the main water splashed about a liter.

Coffin with mummy, blood of mice and suicide attempt

It was necessary to go, otherwise the man threatened death. Mauro moved in the morning and evening, when it was not so unbearably hot. During the day, I had to look for some kind of shelter.

One day, salvation came! Almost. One evening, Mauro heard the sound of the helicopter’s blades cutting through the air. That’s all – this is exactly the search team. The Italian jumped up, lit the signal lamp, started waving his arms … It is still unclear what happened, but the helicopter did not react to the efforts of the man. At the same time the car flew very close, it was clear the interior of the cockpit and the helmet of the pilot.

Perhaps the pilot thought he was greeted by a mad tourist? Maybe he did not see a signal fire in the twilight? Who knows. However, after this event, all participants of the marathon are forced to take with them large signal lights instead of small ones, the size of a fountain pen.

Mauro went on and in a few hours hardly once again did not believe in salvation. Stonework appeared behind the dunes. People!

Photos: Taringa

The Italian came across a good home of a hermit. Alas, there were no living people here – the owner of the house in the form of a dried mummy rested in a coffin. Well, at least there was at least some kind of roof over my head. It’s a pity that there was no water here either. At first, Mauro prepared food for himself on the urine, and soon, when the meager supplies of normal drinking dried up, he began to quench his thirst for urine.

Still counting on salvation, the man climbed onto the roof of a low turret and hung an Italian flag over it. Suddenly, who will notice? Nobody noticed. But under the roof was found a lot of bats.

“I decided to drink their blood, do what they did with their prey. I grabbed a handful of mice, cut off their heads, let go of the insides and sucked out the liquid. I ate raw at least 20 pieces, “ Prosperi later recalled.

Photo: offgridweb

Mauro stayed in the hermit’s house for three days. Once he heard the sounds of an airplane. The situation with the helicopter was repeated – he ran out, lit a fire, waved his hands. Probably, again did not notice …

Fighting with despair became more and more difficult: “I was very depressed. I was sure that I would die and it would be a long and painful death. Therefore, I decided to accelerate everything … I was not afraid of death, and my decision to end my life was based on logical reasoning, and was not the result of desperation. “

With the help of a piece of coal, Mauro left a farewell message to his wife, opened his veins and lay down. However, the blood curdled and did not flow. The next morning the man woke up and realized that his time had not yet come.

Behind the clouds, for salvation

Returned determination. We must fight for ourselves, for children, for the future. The Italian left his temporary retreat and went behind the clouds. He remembered that somewhere he had heard that the deserted “lossy” must find clouds in the morning and go in their direction.

Photo: offgridweb

So three more days passed. During this time, Mauro otoschal, having grown thin from 60 to 45 kilograms. Due to dehydration, it was no longer possible to urinate, so the urine was lost as a means of drinking. But on the way he caught snakes and lizards, drinking their blood and eating raw. From time to time came across plants like cacti, from the pulp of which it was possible to strain the juice.

On the eighth day, the exhausted marathon runner came upon a deserted miracle-an oasis. Finally, you can get drunk! Prosperi plunged into the pond and slowly, with a rapture, drank – for five or six hours.

Photo: offgridweb

Filling both bottles with clean water and gaining strength, Mauro moved on and the next day saw a herd of goats. Soon he was taken to the Berber camp, where they gave milk to goat milk and fed what they could.

In the morning for Prospery local police arrived. No courtesy – the Italian, who was blindfolded, constantly shouted, poking machine guns. As it turned out, Mauro crossed the border and wandered from Morocco to Algeria, deviating from the original route by almost 300 kilometers.

Photo: offgridweb

When they sorted out the formalities and found out that this is the same man who disappeared during the “Sand Marathon” and everyone is looking for, the poor fellow was finally taken to the hospital, where he could call his wife.


For several months, the Italian could only eat liquid food. The full restoration took more than two years. And four years later he again came to the “Sandy Marathon”. This may seem strange, but Prospery, in his own words, literally fell ill with a desert – he could no longer imagine without it.

Mauro looks 61-year-old cheerful. Photo: ecosport.it

Oh, yes, the wife of such a rhythm could not stand it and divorced from Mauro, who continued to run year after year through the deserts. “This is me. I can not change myself, “ – says this crank. By the way, in 2012 he still passed the “Sand Marathon”, taking 131st place among more than a thousand participants. The victory almost always goes to the Moroccans.

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