Cactus dog Marathon des Sables

Cactus the Dog Finishes Stunning Desert Ultramarathon, Wins the Internet

Mauricio Odio Truque Diggedy, nicknamed ‘Cactus,’ became the first four-legged finisher of the grueling, 140.7-mile Marathon des Sables.

“Remember anything is paw-sible.” Perhaps the most inspiring tweet from the harrowing 6-day ultramarathon across the Sahara Desert last week came from a dog.

Though he joined racers from across the world on Day Two of the Marathon des Sables — and thus was ineligible for the overall win — Cactus the dog won the hearts of both competitors and countless fans online.

“A dog followed runners at the end of stage 2 and he keeps following them during this stage. Now more than 10.7 km in the race, and he’s first of his category!” the official race account tweeted.

The hashtag #CactusTheMDSDog spread across Twitter, drawing in onlookers who’d never heard of Marathon des Sables. Dubbed the “toughest foot race on Earth,” the Marathon des Sables comprises roughly six marathons, one each day for a week across southern Morocco’s Saharan Desert.

Cactus the MDS Dog

But when Cactus joined runners, seemingly out of nowhere on Day Two and again for stages three, four, and five, he amassed a faithful following. Competitors gave him water (and post-race belly rubs), and he even earned a headline in The New York Times.

In response to the fanfare, race organizers gave Cactus an official race number — “000” — and a SPOT GPS device so followers could track his progress.

He even found time to launch a Twitter account (@DogMds), where he provided post-race photos and heart-melting puns.

When he crossed the finish line at the fifth and final stage, Cactus had run more than 100 miles through the desert. He even ran the entire 47-mile third stage, which he finished in just over 11 hours — well under the 31-hour human cutoff. Race organizers even awarded Cactus his very own medal after he crossed the finish line.

According to The New York Times, Cactus belongs to inn-keeper Karen Hadfield. Hadfield wrote on the race’s Facebook page that Cactus runs about 25 miles a day “just for fun,” and that he was “having the greatest time” in the race.

Racers and officials fed Cactus along the way, and he was safely collected by his owners after the finish.

There’s no word on whether Cactus intends to better his time or run every stage next year. At present, he stands as the all-time top canine finisher in the Marathon des Sables.

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Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie - from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.

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