Join the 1st EYE OF THE SAHARA Ultra Marathon – Mauritania, December 2024

  • I’m also organising a ‘normal’ Mauritania in December 2024. If you want to do that, without the 150km ultra marathon, don’t worry. You can do that! Check out my Mauritania Tour page to join that one instead. But really though, be a legend, and come join this one. You can do it.

What is this all about?

The Eye of the Sahara Ultra Marathon is a multi-day endurance event run yearly, with 2024 being the first year it’s held. One of the hardest marathons in the world, but also one that ANYONE can do!

150km (that’s 90ish miles for our American friends) ultra marathon through the Sahara desert, completed over 3 days. Where you run/walk/hike/hobble approximately 50km (30ish miles) a day, and then reach our Berber Camp for the night. Regroup, sleep and get ready for Round 2 on Day 2, and Round 3 on Day 3. Simple as that. Like an epic, more hardcore version of the famous Marathon Des Sables in Morocco. More on that below.


running the Marathon Des Sables

Wait, but what is this ‘Eye of the Sahara’?

Visible from the space and shrouded in legend, the Eye of the Sahara is a call to all adventure travelers. Located deep in the Mauritanian Sahara, a giant, bullseye-like formation smack in the middle of the desert!

Also known as the Richat Structure, this mind-blowing natural wonder in Mauritania is the starting point of our ultra marathon. Now, here’s where it gets juicy – some folks believe the lost city of Atlantis is hidden beneath its rings. Our camp will be slap bang in the middle. Pretty f*cking cool.

The Eye of the Sahara Mauritania
The Eye of the Sahara, Mauritania

Who Am I?

My name is Johnny Ward, an Irish blogger.

You can read more about my story here, but long story short? Father in prison, grew up in a single-mother house in Ireland on welfare for a decade or more. Also dreamed of living an epic life. So the day my education finished, I flew one-way out of Ireland and never returned. That was 2007.

I recently became the first person in history to complete the ‘Ultimate Explorer’s Grand Slam‘ which consists:

I also did some pretty cool other stuff over the years. Like rowing across the Atlantic Ocean unsupported, running plenty of crazy ultra marathons (from 200km straight-shot runs, to a red wine marathon where you drink wine every 1km instead of water), or cycling from Malaysia to Laos during COVID.

My Everest summit day

So how did this concept come about?

My 2 passions in life are fitness and REAL adventure. They bring about true self-development. So it’s time to bring them together and share them with the world.

I have been organising epic group trips to wild countries over the last decade, to places like Central African Republic, Mali, Afghanistan, Yemen and I feel a huge sense of privilege being able to show people these wild places, that perhaps otherwise they wouldn’t venture too.

As I’ve been doing that, I’ve been doing all the crazy stuff physical challenges above, and I knew how beneficial those experiences have been to me. How huge a part they’ve played in me becoming who I am. Of me feeling fulfilled, content. How it’s help keep me motivated to become financially free, but also to know I’m reaching my potential. Even though most of the experiences are absolute torture while I do them!

So, now, since turning 40 this year. I want to share that with the world. I want to show people that I’m not special. I’m not some elite athlete. I’m just a guy who decided to do some epic stuff. Then some more, and more. And now I’m here. I want to create an event where you’ll be the hero of the story. Not some guy or girl you follow on line. So sure, 150km through soft sand will be hell. But you’ll be a legend when you finish it. And finish it you will. So come with me.

The first edition of Eye of the Sahara Ultra Marathon is this December, 2024. It will be a yearly event, hopefully a huge one in years to come. Come suffer with me on the first one.

Mauritania Tours
That’s me! And it’ll be you too soon….

How Does the Ultra Marathon Work?

If you have never signed up for a multi-day event, don’t worry. I’m going to make it super simple for you.

How does the multi-day event thing work?

Basically, all the ‘athletes’ (cough, cough) start on Race Day 1 at the same starting point, around sunrise. You have approximately 50km to get through today, before sunset. Ideally you run, but most people will walk due to the heat and the soft sand. That’s ok too. You follow the markers, and despite all the people competing at different speeds, you eventually all meet at Camp at the end of race day 1. Where your time is logged. You then eat together, cry together, and sleep in the pre-setup tents.

Race day 2, sunrise again, you eat brekkie together, meet at the start point, here the buzzer, and go again. 50km more today. Meeting at the next Berber Camp 5-15 hours later, depending on your speed. Your time upon arrival at camp is logged, and added to yesterday’s time. Dinner, cry a little more, and sleep.

Race Day 3, brekkie in the morning, together, start point together. Buzzer. And again, 50km to go until the finish point. Celebrate in a world of pain and pride. You’re officially a legend.

Is the race self-sufficient?

NO! I’ve competed in self-sufficient races before, and I hate them.

A self-sufficient race is a race where you have to bring EVERYTHING for the enroute duration of the race. All your food, all your sleeping stuff, all your gear. 3,4 or 5 days worth. The bag is heavy. It’s uncomfortable.

So, when designing my own event, I want to make it more enjoyable. Why? firstly, our race doesn’t follow the ‘easy route’ through the desert, like all other races. So we direct, as the crow flies, the surface is soft sand. IT’S BRUTAL. That’s hard enough.

So our local Berber team set up a wonderful camp for us each night. They provide delicious Berber and Arabic Mauritania local fare, both for meat eaters and vegetarians alike. The camp will be waiting for us as we hobble into camp. Each person will be in a private tent for 2, complete with 2 camp beds. A welcome site after 50km through the unforgiving dunes of the Sahara.

The only thing you need to carry is a GPS locator for emergencies, 2 water bottles, and snacks for that 1 day. Easy. Well, not easy, but you know what I mean.

How About Water?

There are water stops every 5km. You can refill at will.

Won’t we get lost?

It’s (almost) impossible. We have a team of 10 off-road vehicles driving back and forth the 50km route each day. You also have a GPS coordinator. And finally, the route is ‘as the crow flies’. So you literally go in one direction the whole time. Your compass can’t fail you there.

You only have to make it 5km until the next check-point. All good.

How about Medical Care?

Your feet will get chewed up. That’s a fact folks. We have a nurse at camp each night, staying with us, who tends to all our wounds at will.

We also have a doctor on call.

Eye of the Sahara Camp
Eye of the Sahara Camp


WRONG! I want these events to be for EVERYONE. With 3 months or more, ANYONE can do this. Don’t limit yourself. Honestly. I’ve been to events with 150kgs people doing ultra, 70+ years old. It’s all in your mind. YOU CAN DO IT. Doing something epic the first time is tough, I know that. But once you’ve done it once, watch your life take off. You can do anything after this. It’s life changing.

And you’ll have me at some point during the 3 days. I know that. It’s tough being my friend. Many get dragged along for wild adventures, and physical challenges. And many curse the day they met me during the event. But at the end? It’s a different story. We’ll all get through it together. And you’ll never look back.

Why Do This In Mauritania?

Because life should be a wild ride. For too long, too many people watch life pass them by. Not us. Not now.

I want to be in a local bar in Dublin, Tokyo or Cape Town at 80 years old telling people about the time we ran 150km through the REAL Sahara. Not the Chinese fridge-magnet and tour bus Sahara of Morocco or Egypt. But REAL, AUTHENTIC, MAURITANIA SAHARA.

Oh, and after our 150km ultra? We have the option to hop on board the iron ore train, hitching a ride through the Saharan night. Pretty f*cking epic.

Where even is it?

So, Mauritania is a country in West Africa. It’s south of Morocco (and Western Sahara for any county counters out there), and north of Senegal.

Why visit Mauritania? I live in Thailand these days. And I love Thailand, I’ve chosen it as my adopted home. I have friends in Mexico, Bali, Portugal, etc who say the same. And these are places that are great to holiday in. But adventure and travel? REAL travel? Those days have gone. Mass tourism. Bloggers (sorry!), YouTubers, etc. It’s hard to find genuine epic travel experiences in our beautiful world.

Well, for people who love REAL travel, Mauritania is one of the final frontiers. One of the least visited countries in the world, home to ancient holy cities, legendary nomadic tribes, sand dunes in the true Sahara, and one of the most hardcore travel experiences on the planet – hitching a ride on the IRON ORE TRAIN.

What’s this Iron Ore Train thing all about?!

A train that connects an obscure iron ore mine lost in the Sahara, to the coast of Africa. A train where you can meet along the way, throw your bags on top of the iron ore, and dig a kind-of ‘bed’ for the night. Spending the next 800km, through the pitch black of a Saharan night, until you reach the coast the next day, some 15 hours or so later.

It’s uncomfortable, it’s filthy, it’s disorganized, there’s a chance the train never arrives, it’s in the middle of the Sahara desert, it’s hot during the day, and freezing during the night, it’s loud, and despite all that, no BECAUSE of all that, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. You’ll arrive tired, filthy and feeling more alive than ever before.

NOTE: This is an optional part of the Eye of the Sahara Ultra Marathon. If you just want to run the event, without riding the train, that’s 10000% possible too. Although, you’re here already, let’s complete the adventure!

iron ore train
Riding the famous iron ore train

Eye of the Sahara Ultra Marathon Itinerary

DAY 1: Arrival.

Arrive in Nouakchott anytime. Our event is officially recognised by the Mauritanian Government. Immigration know why you’re arriving. The visa is on available on arrival for everyone competing in the event. No prior organising necessary. Just get yourself to Mauritania’s capital, Nouakchott.

My team will meet you at the airport, and drive you to our starting hotel. We have a briefing at 6pm today, and then a group dinner with all the other maniacs taking part.


You can fly here via Paris (Air France), Casablanca (Royal Air Maroc), Istanbul (Turkish Air), plus a few others.


DAY 2: Road Trip to the Eye of the Sahara

Early brekkie in the hotel, then we take our transports deep into the Sahara. Sh*t is getting real now folks.

It’s a 9 hour drive, punctuated with tea stops, lunch breaks, and photo opportunities. The adventure is just getting started.

The transport is comfortable, even if the road is not, with 3 people per air-conned SUVs.

Eye of the Sahara Ultra

DAY 3: Preparation Day

Prep day. We wake up and eat, eat, eat, and eat some more. 

Gear check. Medical check. Stretching. Downtime. If you’re feeling antsy, we have an optional trip to the ancient town of Ouadane in the afternoon. 

The Eye of the Sahara
The Eye of the Sahara

DAY 4: Race Day 1

Today is the day. We start at sunrise. A group breakfast, prepared by our local chef, then we prepare our snacks, our water, and we hit the start point. The gun goes off, and we’re good to go.

50km to cover today. 5km check-points with water. One foot in front of the other.

When you get through it, camp will be waiting for you. Hot food, cold water, and a bed. You can do it. Eyes on the prize.

eye of the sahara marathon

DAY 5: Race Day 2

Waking up this morning will be hard. But nothing food in life comes easy. Everything the same. Brekkie once more, sunrise once more, starting gun once more. The legs, however, they won’t be the same. Suck it up. 50 more kilometres today.

Today will be the hardest today. Just get through it. Tears, blood, whatever it takes. Tomorrow night, you made it.

The Marathon Des Sables


Listen. I’m going to give it to you straight. Legends aren’t made through comfort and 8 hours of sleep. So yes, waking up this morning will be tough. Painful. You’ll feel like there’s no way you can eat another 50km. But you can.

Get to the starting gun. And focus on metre by metre. The finishing point awaits. The sands dunes of the ancient city of Chinguetti awaits. As does a hot shower and chilled bedroom. Legendary status incoming…


Did someone say there’s a group of absolute heroes sleeping in Chinguetti? Congrats folks. You can never be an average person again. You have 150km through the soft sands of Sahara under your belt. No-one can ever take that away from you. Today you rest.

Chinguetti is a sleepy outpost in the desert. It’s also home to ancient Islamic Libraries, so if you want to experience a bit of culture, we will take you there to experience an ancient way of life. If you just want to sob in your room all day, knock yourself out. Either way, you’re a beast!

chinguetti tour


We have 2 programmes available as part of your Eye of the Sahara Ultra Marathon expedition.

  • OPTION 1; No Iron Ore Train experience.

If you’re in a rush, or the thought of a hitching a ride on the back of a train AFTER an ultra marathon doesn’t appeal (who can blame you?!), then Day 7 is the dive back to Nouakchott. You’ve completed your punishment, and you can fly home tonight. See you on the next one.

  • OPTION 2: EOTS + The Iron Ore Train

If you’re an actual psychopath, welcome! The trip is extended a couple of extra days to allow us to ride the Iron Ore train. And on Day 7, we live Chinguetti and drive to the train tracks, via Atar (to buy the gear we need for the train). Tonight, we live our Dune fantasies by riding on the longest train on the world. All being well, the train will arrive around 5pm. We climb on, make our beds, and stay on it for the next 15 hours or so.

Mauritania Tour
Join me on my Mauritania Tour!

*(OPTIONAL) DAY 9; Arrival in Nouadhibou

One of the WILDEST of nights of your life is over. Sunrise on the train is something you can’t prepare for. This is living life.

That being said, you’ll welcome the early arrival into the port town of Nouadhibou. Here we’ll have an early check-in to our hotel for a WELL EARNED shower. You’ll be filthy from the iron ore. I mean filthy!

I may know a guy who knows a guy in Nouadhibou. So despite Alcohol being illegal here, stick with me kid. It’s time to celebrate!

*NOTE: This is only part of the itinerary if you have selected, and paid for, the additional add-on


*(OPTIONAL) DAY 10: That’s all folks. Hometime.

That’s the end of the line. We have a bus transfer back to the Capital City, it takes about 6 hours or so. Depending on your flight time, you can stay an extra night or leave the same day, we can help organise that stuff for you.

*NOTE: This is only part of the itinerary if you have selected, and paid for, the additional add-on

What’s Included in the Eye of the Sahara Ultra and What’s not?


  • All transport
  • Airport transfer upon arrival
  • All accommodation for the whole expedition
  • Berber camping and dining during Race Days
  • All water during Race Days
  • All meals
  • All activities and entrance fees
  • Local guides
  • A Western Guide (kinda. I’m here, but I’m also running the race, so not sure how much help I’ll be!)
  • Price based on per-person sharing (but don’t worry, you can come solo and I’ll pair you up, most people who travel with me come solo).
  • Travel Bragging rights for the rest of your life


tour to mauritania
Filthy after the train!

Eye of the Sahara Ultra Marathon Dates

There are 2 date options:

  • The EOTS Ultra Marathon trip (8 Days): December 4th to December 11th, 2024
  • The EOTS Ultra + The Iron Ore Train Experience (10 days): December 4th to December 13th, 2024

Eye of the Sahara Ultra Marathon Pricing

THIS YEAR IS AT ALMOST COST PRICE. It’s my first time running an event like this, so I’m running it at a heavy discount (probably at a loss!). So please bear with me while we iron out any issues etc.

There are 2 pricing options:

  • The EOTS Ultra Marathon trip (8 Days): $2499
  • The EOTS Ultra + The Iron Ore Train Experience (10 days): $2999

NOTE: A $300 non-refundable deposit to secure your spot to be paid, Full payment due 90 days before Day 1. That means full payment is due before September 6th 2024.


You can DM me on, or email me on

Even easier, you can book using the green ‘book now’ button here:

Or, you can go HERE to book too:

FAQs about My Mauritania Tour

Is It Safe to Travel to Mauritania?

Perfectly safe. Islamophobia is rife, but the people of Mauritania welcome foreigners with open arms. Big smiles, offers of local tea, wide-eyed smiles. For any of you guys who have been to places like Yemen before, expect the same kind of warmth. It’s beautiful.
That being said, many of the older generation in Mauritania have outdated views on women traveling alone and on LGBTQ issues. Everyone is welcome to travel with me, but we would keep our partner choices personal. One day the world will catch up, I’m sure.

Can Americans/Canadians/Irish etc Visit Mauritania?

Mauritania is open to every nationality.

Can Woman Travel to Mauritania?

100% yes. But much easier to travel with a tour group and guide (like us!)

Can ANYONE really do the Ultra?

YES. I PROMISE! While everyone shows photos of them running during ultras, 90+% of the time, people are walking during this endurance events. Can you keep walking when you’re in pain? Yes. So yes you can do it.

How Would I Get To Mauritania to Start the Trip?

You can fly directly into the Capital City, Nouakchott. Normally you fly via either Paris or Casablanca. Tunis and Istanbul are also possible. If you need help with flights, let me know, it’s pretty easy.

What about refunds if I can’t go?

The deposit is non-refundable, and full payment is due 3 months before the trip. After full payment has been made, no refund is possible.

What if there is a problem with the Iron Ore Train?

The train runs everyday, but there are no tickets to hop on board. So there is always a chance that the train doesn’t come! This has never happened with my guy, but just to be aware if there is a problem with the train, it’s out of our control and we’ll take other transport to continue our trip. Rest assured, this should ‘t happen, don’t worry!

What is the accommodation/level of luxury like?

This is an adventure trip. Like real adventure. We’ll be staying in tented accommodation in the desert and basic guest houses in the city, and the night on the train is as basic as it gets! Wifi will be tough to come by, if at all available, and hot water would be a welcome surprise. Certainly don’t expect it. If you want adventure, you’re in the right place. If you’re after what G Adventures or Intrepid Travel like to call ‘Adventure Trips’ then this kind of trip isn’t quite for you. No shame in that 🙂

How about training for something like this?

If you’ve never done anything like this, don’t worry. I can help. I can offer a basic training plan for free, or if you need some advanced coaching I can offer that too. But don’t think too much! Paralysis by analysis is real. Just do it. Be a legend. I promise you can do it.

Remember, never travel without travel insurance! And never overpay for travel insurance!

I use HeyMondo. You get INSTANT quotes. Super cheap, they actually pay out, AND they cover almost everywhere, where most insurance companies don't (even places like Central African Republic etc!). You can sign-up here. PS You even get 5% off if you use MY LINK! You can even sign up if you're already overseas and traveling, pretty cool.

Also, if you want to start a blog...I CAN HELP YOU!

Also, if you want to start a blog, and start to change your life, I'd love to help you! Email me on In the meantime, check out my super easy blog post on how to start a travel blog in under 30 minutes, here! And if you just want to get cracking, use BlueHost at a discount, through me.

Also, (if you're like me, and awful with tech-stuff) email me and my team can get a blog up and running for you, designed and everything, for $699 - email to get started.

Do you work remotely? Are you a digital nomad/blogger etc? You need to be insured too.

I use SafetyWing for my digital nomad insurance. It covers me while I live overseas. It's just $10 a week, and it's amazing! No upfront fees, you just pay week by week, and you can sign up just for a week if you want, then switch it off and on whenever. You can read my review here, and you can sign-up here!


So if you’re ready to…..

1) Change your life
2) Travel the world
3) Get paid to travel
4) Create a positive influence on others
5) Be free of offices and ‘real world’ rubbish

Then Sign Up Below and Let’s Get Started!

Follow me on Instagram @onestep4ward