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Run, Cactus, run

Consisting of 140 miles through the Sahara Desert, the six-day Marathon des Sables in Morocco is one of the toughest races on earth. And this year, a dog has run almost the whole thing. 

Runners and organizers are calling the pooch Cactus, and he joined the legendary race midway through Monday’s second stage. Since then the dog has been inseperable from the rest of the pack, running alongside the people and holding up just as well as any of them. 

The biggest test came on Thursday for the grueling 47-mile “long stage” that proves to be a make or break moment for competitors. Runners were given 31 hours to complete the segment, but Cactus needed just 11 hours and 15 minutes. 

According to the New York Times, Cactus is being well cared for and appears to be in good health.

He is being given water at checkpoints on the course and food by runners and officials at various places, including the campsite. The medical crew said he appeared generally healthy.

While dozens of human runners line up daily to have their battered feet attended to after long days in thick-sole shoes and gaiters to keep out the sand, Cactus appears to be doing fine in bare paws.

“No blisters, nothing,” Anthony Serena, a podiatrist, said.

In the early mornings, Cactus makes his rounds at the runners’ tents, posing for photographs and rolling over for belly rubs. Then he trots easily to the front of the starting line and takes off with the pack as AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” blares over the loudspeakers.

Cactus has become such a celebrity that race organizers gave him a collar with a GPS tracker so fans could monitor his progress through Friday’s marathon-length stage. 

As of this writing, Cactus was nearing the finish line in 20th place, having run a total of over 100 miles. 

Cactus usually hangs out at an inn owned by a British woman, who plans to pick him at the finish line on Saturday after the final stage, a race spokesman told the Times.

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