Like a True Athlete

Mauro Prosperi
Mauro Prosperi

Mauro Prosperi was 39 years old and was already retired from pentathlon. One day his friend told about a fantastic marathon in the desert, it was a tough one. As Mauro Prosperi loved challenges, he immediately started training and made his mind to participate in 1994, marathon. He used to do running 40 km a day and started drinking less amount of water to get used to dehydration.

His wife, Cinzia, was worried about him. She thought it was insane because the marathon was so risky that they even have to sign where to send their dead bodies if they die during the marathon. But he made her believe that nothing will go wrong.

Finally, the day came for which Mauro Prosperi was training desperately. He was in Morocco. There were just 80 participants. Back those days, there used to fewer participants because of that Mauro was alone most of the time. His training was not a waste because he was always Italian to reach the next stage. He was putting up a flag on his tent so that they all can get together in the evening. It was fun for Mauro Prosperi.

It was the fourth day of the marathon and was the most challenging stage of it. In the morning there was quite a bit of wind. He passed four checkpoints and then entered the area of dunes, where he was alone. Suddenly a powerful sandstorm began; it was so strong that the sand was feeling like needles. Mauro Prosperi wasn’t able to see anything. It was like he was blinded because the sand was all over, and he was not even able to breathe. Mauro Prosperi turned his back on the wind, covered his face from a scarf and started walking. He got to a spot and crunched down, where he could be safe from the Sandstrom.

He waited for the sandstorm to end. It took 8 hours when everything was normal but was dark by then. So, he decided to sleep there. He was upset about the race because he could be in fourth place until the storm started. So, he thought he could make good time by finishing the race. There were 36 hours to finish for the stage of the competition. Therefore, he had a chance, so, he thought of waking up early in the morning and try to finish the race.

In the early morning, Mauro Prosperi woke up. He didn’t know where he was. So, he tried to find the way by a map and a compass, which he was carrying along. But it was so complicated without points of reference. Although he didn’t know the way, he was not concerned. Because he thought that sooner or later he will find someone, with whom he will team up and finish the race.

After 4 hours of running, he was able to climb the dune. He was shocked because still, he couldn’t see anyone. Now he was concerned because he was lost. Till now he was hoping that he will able to find someone from up the dune. He did the preparation for this type of situation. He had a compass, a map, a knife, plenty of dehydrated food and a sleeping bag but the problem was of the water. He had just a half a bottle of it. The runners were getting fresh water at the checkpoints.

He had remembered his grandfather’s story about how his grandfather and other soldiers used to drink their urine when they ran out of water. He knew when we are well hydrated at that time. Our urine is the clearest and the most drinkable. Therefore, the first thing he did was urinate in an empty water bottle.

He was wearing two hats and was walking in the morning and evening when it was cool. During the day he was finding a shelter or shade, where he could stay until the temperature gets cool. He still had the hope that the organizers will see him soon.

On the second day, in the evening he heard helicopter sound. He took out his flare and shot it in the air. But the pilot didn’t notice that and flew away.

After a couple of days he across with a Muslim shrine. He checked inside. He found nothing except a holy man in a coffin. But at least he had a shelter. He climbed up the roof to plant his flag in case if someone comes to find him will notice that. While climbing, he found bats. Later he decided to eat bats and had some of them. He drank bats blood and ate them raw.

On the third day at the shrine, he heard the sound of an aeroplane. He started a fire what whatever he had in the bag. But suddenly another sand storm started and lasted for 12 hours. The aircraft flew away.

It was his last hope, which didn’t work. He was depressed. He started thinking about his family. He thought, either way, he was going to die in the shrine or out there find the help. But outside there was less possibility that anyone will able to see him and his wife will not get a pension. She will have to wait for ten years for his death to be declared. Therefore he decided to die in the shrine. He wrote a note for his wife by charcoal and then cut his wrists. He laid down and waited to die, but his blood was thickened and not draining.

Next day in the morning, he woke up. He didn’t die, took it as a sign and was again confident and motivated. He left the shrine and followed the advice of Tuareg that he gave before the race. The recommendation was that whenever we are lost, we should follow the cloud.

During the day there wasn’t cloud so, he was using compass. He walked in the desert for days. He used to hunt snake and lizard. He used to eat raw meat as he was at least getting something.

On the eighth day, he saw some footprint. It was bright people couldn’t be far. Next day he saw some goats from a distance and then a little, who ran away when she saw him. Later she came with other people. Soon police were called, and they took him to the hospital. It took him two years to fully recovered.

He found out that he crossed the border into Algeria. He has walked 291km.
After four years he again started continuing his life as a runner.