Lonely Planet Writer

A wandering dog joined Morocco's gruelling marathon across the desert and won a medal

A local dog has become a celebrity after he joined in one of the toughest races in the world across the Moroccan desert, and ended up running alongside the other competitors to the end. The adventurous dog joined the race on the second day of the 34th Marathon des Sables, a 140-mile course that takes six days to complete through difficult conditions.

Cactus the dog ran the 140-mile marathon and was awarded a medal. Image: Marathon des Sables

The organisers and runners began referring to him as “Cactus the MDS Dog,” although they later discovered that his name is Diggedy. He ran alongside competitors from more than 50 countries, and became a mascot as the race progressed. The adventurous dog was cared for as he ran the gruelling marathon, and was given food, water and checked over for injuries. Race organisers gave him a GPS tracker so that people could follow his progress throughout the race, as there was great interest in him.

When Cactus finished the race, he was awarded a medal and was then returned to his owner, Karen Hadfield. She is the founder and director of Cafe Tissardmine, and Cactus, aka Diggedy, adopted her last year during her annual birthday camping trip. When the marathon runners passed by the small village of Tissardine, the adventurous Diggedy decided to join them, and while Karen pursued them, she was soon left behind.

Runners in the fourth stage of the 34th edition of the Marathon des Sables. Image: Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP/Getty Images.

Karen told Morocco World News that Diggedy could sometimes travel up to 40km while exploring the area around Tissardmine. She kept in touch with race organisers to make sure he was okay, but allowed him to continue the race as he had become such a mascot. “I couldn’t bring him back as he was just so inspiring to the runners,” she said. “I would have been everyone’s worst enemy.”

People compete in stage 5 of the 34rd edition of the Marathon des Sables. Image: Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP/Getty Images

Diggedy is now safely back at home and his race medal is hanging up next to the fridge. Karen knows that it probably won’t be long until he is off again on another adventure.

For further information on the Marathon des Sables, please see here.