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Marathon des Sables. In conversation with Ryan Vander Weit.

In just 2 days, Walking With The Wounded’s (‘WWTW’) biggest Marathon des Sables team will be heading to out to Southern Morocco to run the world’s toughest footrace.

We sat down with MdS runner, Ryan Vander Weit, to find out what inspired him to sign-up to the incredible challenge and why he’s running with the WWTW team.

Why did you sign up for the MdS?

This unique challenge was presented to me as an opportunity to raise funds and awareness around military veteran and family care as well as elevate the platforms of two amazing non-profit organizations, Walking With The Wounded in the UK and Home Base here in the US. It is something I feel privileged to be tapped to participate in and an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

Why have you chosen to be part of the Walking With The Wounded team?

The simple answer is the mission. I am a US Army veteran and I work with an organization in the United States called Home Base. Home Base is a non-profit dedicated to healing the invisible wounds of war for veterans and their families through world-class clinical care and wellness.  WWTW has a similar mission with a different approach by providing a pathway for disadvantaged veterans to re-integrate back into society and sustain their independence. Both organizations are providing a much-needed service for the betterment of those who served. The UK and US are allies and that doesn’t end on the battlefield. We train together, we fight together, we bleed together, so we should heal together. I am proud to be a part of the WWTW team and to help support their mission in addition to the mission of Home Base.

How’s your training going – what have you done so far, which milestones have you hit and are you happy with where you are so far?

Training has had a lot of ups and downs, especially with Covid-19 causing the race to be cancelled multiple times and pushed back. Over the last couple of years, I have found a new love of trail running that I didn’t know existed. Going into this event, I feel that I have prepared the best I could with what I had. Unfortunately, I spent a lot of time in physical therapy thanks to some reaggravated injuries, so I did not get to reach the level of training that I hoped for. That being said, I am doing my best to stay positive and enjoy the experience. At this point, I’d rather be under conditioned and injury-free going into the race.

What do you see as the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge in my eyes is going to be taking care of my feet, managing pain, and making sure I’m properly hydrated throughout the event.  After that, it’s all mental. Which is definitely going to be its own unique challenge.

What luxuries will you treat yourself to during the MdS?

I have been lucky enough to have amazing support for this event. The team at AT&T were kind enough to donate a satellite phone for the event. It’s extra weight but will be nice to talk to my family back home. Other than that, I have some music to keep me motivated.

What item of food are you taking which is your treat?

One thing that brought me a lot of joy when I was deployed to Iraq back in 2003-2004 was ramen noodles. There is something comforting about them. So, I made sure to pack plenty of those. Packed some brownie bites also to calm my sweet tooth.

What will you be listening to to help you through the marathon?

Music is a very powerful thing for me. I have a very eclectic playlist that includes, hip hop, R&B, lots of rock of various genres, as well as some audiobooks. What I listen to will all depend on how I am feeling in that moment or what I need to hear to help pick myself up. Music is something that I can get lost in and helps tune out distractions or negative thoughts, which will come in handy when things get tough.

Is there anything which you know you will be looking forward to at the end, before even beginning...

I am really looking forward to the whole experience, especially forming bonds with my team other racers. Then having a beer or two with them at the end. These kind of events and experiences are very unique in that an individual will undoubtedly learn something about themselves and I’m excited to find out what it is for me and to be able to share that with my family when I return home.