Dogs often participate in their activities even when these people are strangers, but few dogs are capable of what a dog nicknamed Cactus did when it joined several hundred people running the Marathon des Sables participated in the Sahara in Morocco. This race is 156 miles long and will be run over six days over a distance of six regular marathons in difficult terrain.
Many contestants take years of training to prepare for the race and completing it is the accomplishment of a lifetime. In contrast, Cactus just jumped in and ran it for fun, even running extra miles for at least one day as if following a trainer’s instructions to cool off after the race. To be fair, he skipped day one and entered the event on day two, but the athletes and race organizers graciously viewed him as a finisher, and he even received a finisher medal in recognition of his performance.
Cactus is owned by Karen Hadfield, who owns a guest house and cultural retreat in Morocco. She picked him up at the finish line and revealed that his real name is Diggedy, although the nickname Cactus has been and may remain picked up by journalists around the world. Hadfield reports that the dog regularly runs 25 miles a day during his hikes in the area, so the circuit was within his ability. Although he vomited once and then rested in the shade for half an hour, he looked quite fresh when he finished running that day as the evening temperatures dropped. The medical staff reported that he was in good health. Most notably, his feet were in good shape, unlike many of the swollen and bloody feet of human runners.
The experience of the nearly 800 participants in the race was definitely enhanced by the presence of Cactus. They cheered him as he finished every stage of the race and went wild as he crossed the finish line on the final day. His location was passed down from runner to runner throughout the event, and his appearance at the campsite each evening was eagerly awaited. Runners, support crew members, race organizers and journalists looked after him together and offered him their own precious water and food. Cactus was happy to receive these gifts as well as a lot of affection before and after each exertion of the day. Because of his hiking trails, he is used to being with strangers.