Diabetic athlete Peter Van Rompaey
finishes legendary Marathon des Sables
BY ENDURANCE NEWS STAFF
The Marathon des Sables is described by many as one of the toughest footraces on earth. Everything that one needs to complete the 5-day, 5-stage 250K foot race needs to be carried in a backpack weighing roughly 12kg while negotiating some of the harshest terrain imaginable. Temperatures can soar up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit–dangerous conditions for even the most fit of runners. April 7th marked the kickoff of the 2017 edition with 1350 athletes poised to race through the sand dunes and inhospitable rocky terrain of the Moroccan Sahara Desert. Among them was Hammer Sponsored Athlete Peter Van Rompaey who set out to become just the second diabetic athlete from Belgium to complete the course.
A few months prior to the Marathon des Sables, Peter completed a 50K training run on the North C. Trail which winds through the dunes of Koksijde, Belgium. “I have said since I was first diagnosed at age ten: diabetes will not stop me,” he recalls. For the last 32 years, Peter has had to closely monitor his diet while taking daily insulin injections to properly balance his blood sugar. Peter credits Hammer Nutrition for providing the fuel he needs for his rigorous training. HEED, Race Caps Supreme, Mito Caps, Perpetuem, Hammer Bars, and Recoverite are among his favorite training companions. The dunes of the North C. Trail provided a tough test before his trek to Morocco.
Peter has found a great deal of inspiration from his fellow diabetic Belgian athletes. During a recent long-distance race, Peter met Olivier Kronal from Heverlee. In 2015, Oliver succeeded in his quest to become the first ever Belgian with type-1 diabetes to finish the legendary Marathon des Sables. “That was beyond inspirational for me,” says Peter. He also looks to former professional soccer player on the Belgian Anderlecht team, Pär Zetterberg, as someone who demonstrates that athletes with diabetes can compete at the highest levels in sports.
Part of Peter’s desire to complete the Marathon des Sables is to raise money for the youth department of the Diabetes League. “I want to raise money for camps and awareness, but I also want young people to know that they can still live an active life despite being diabetic. I hope to raise more than 1,000 euro.”
With only four weeks before to his departure to Morocco, Peter was physically and mentally ready for the wear and tear he would subject his body to in the desert. Figuring out how to carry all his necessities in his backpack was another challenge that required serious consideration. The majority of his backpack would be filled with food. Room would also be needed for a mattress and sleeping bag. Thankfully, race directors would provide tents at the end of each stage with seven athletes occupying each tent. The two large water bottles he would carry could be refilled at each checkpoint. Peter also had his fueling plan dialed in with Perpetuem, Endurolytes Extreme, Anti Fatigue Caps, Hammer Gel and Hammer Bars. “I carry a Freestyle Libre, a small wireless device that connects with a sensor on my arm and displays my precise blood sugar,” explains the athlete.
Peter got the green light to compete in the race from Dr. Pascale Abrams, Endocrine Disease Specialist at the Saint Augustine Hospital. Peter reassured his wife Kristien, also a type-1 diabetic, that he would keep her and their four children briefed on his progress and condition during the multi-day event. “I was a bit scared,” confesses Kristien.
Peter completed the grueling event in 55:56:14, achieving his goal. His biggest challenges were the heat, short rest periods between stages, wearing a 12kg (26.5 lbs) backpack, and the limited amount of water available to drink. Monitoring his blood sugar was a constant challenge and the 86K Stage-4 was the toughest day.
When asked if he had advice for athletes who want to participate in the event, Peter replied, ”take a full year to train and train on tough terrain with 12kg (26.5 lbs) backpack and get plenty of rest between training sessions. Get used to climbing on rocks and sleeping on the ground. During your race, don’t forget to enjoy the moment. Proper fueling is essential for this. Go with Hammer Nutrition!”