Marathon des Sables, 29th Edition, Race Preview

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It begins again, the Marathon des Sables! Now in its 29th year, the epic multiday race in the Sahara is considered by many the Father of stage racing. Often called ‘The Toughest Race on Earth’ we all know that it isn’t but one thing is for sure… it’s no walk in the park.

all images ©iancorless.com – all rights reserved

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 Participants from France will represent 30% of the field and over 45 other nations make up the remaining 70% with the UK providing the largest contingent. The provinces of Errachidia and Tinghrir will host the 2014 Marathon des Sables over 6-stages with a total distance of 250km’s. An easy day will be 30km and the longest day, 75km. It’s a wonderful way, albeit a tough and challenging way to embrace the Moroccan dessert.

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The 2013 edition of the race was noted as ‘one of the toughest’ in the races prestigious history, 2014 will be no different; traversing ergs, djebels, stony plateaus, dried-up lakes (wadis) and of course lush oasis. Occasional passing traditional villages and encampments of nomads, the 29th edition of the Marathon des Sables promises to be a ‘secret garden’ of the Sahara.

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Described by race founder, Patrick Bauer as ‘the greatest show on earth’, his comparisons to a circus are apt. The Marathon des Sables really is a large circus like operation on a scale that is second to none. Volunteers number 130 to supervise the race, 430-general staff support the race and 300-local Berbers man the bivouac. All-terrain vehicles number 120, 8 ‘MDS’ planes, 25-buses, 4-dromederies, 1-incinerator lorry, 5-quad bikes and 2-helicopters keep the show on the road. Add to this 52-medical staff, journalists, photographers and you really have what I have come to call, the ‘Cirque de Sahara’, it’s quite special.

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A race with a history, the Marathon des Sables dates back to 1984 when Patrick Bauer, aged 28, ventured into the Sahara to traverse solo a 350km journey with a pack weighing 35kg. It was an ultimate self-sufficient expedition that lasted 12-days.

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Inspired by the experience, in 1986 the first edition was created, just 23-pioneers embarked on what must have been ‘the ultimate’ expedition. Who would have thought those formative years would have laid the foundations for what is, without question, the father of multiple day racing. The race has had memorable moments; in ‘1991’ the Gulf drama had an impact on the race, ‘1994’ the arrival of Doc Trotters, ‘1995’ the 10th anniversary, ‘1996’ Mohamed Ahansal participates for the first time, ‘1997’ Lahcen Ahansal wins his first MDS one of many),  ‘2000’ internet arrives in the Sahara, ‘2001’ the ‘long’ day exceeds 70km, ‘2002’ a week of sandstorms and wind, ‘2009’ flooding at the MDS, ‘2010’ the 25th edition and finally, in ‘2013’, solar energy arrives in bivouac. What does ‘2014’ hold for us…?

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Results recap

2013

  1. 1. Mohamad Ahansal (MAR) 18:59:35
  2. 2. Salameh Al Aqra (JOR) 00:41:40 deficit
  3. 3. Miguel Capo Soler (ESP) 1:19:56 deficit
  1. 4. Meghan Hicks (USA) 24:42:01
  2. 5. Joanna Meek (UK) 00:00:59 deficit
  3. 6. Zoe Salt (UK) 02:21:57 deficit

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2014 Preview

Ladies

2013 female winner, Meghan Hicks unfortunately will not return to the Sahara this year. Meghan would have loved nothing more than to defend her title, however, Meghan has received an injury and has had no other option but to retire; a real shame.

Laurence Klein

Laurence Klein

Jo Meek and Zoe Salt will not return, this leaves the floodgates open for 2011 and 2012 champion, Laurence Klein (Fra) to return and dominate the race. Laurence dropped from the 2013 edition of the race with dehydration whilst in the lead. I have no doubts, Laurence will return, 1-year wiser, 1-MDS wiser and with lessons learnt. Laurence raced at Gruissan Phoebus Taril 50km in February this year and won, in the process, she also placed 20th overall. She’s in form!

Nikki Kimball

Nikki Kimball

Nikki Kimball (USA) looks to be the hot US replacement for Meghan Hicks and I have no doubt that this formidable lady can push Laurence all the way to the line. It’s a showdown that I am really looking forward to watching unfold. Nikki returned to Western States in 2013 and placed 2nd, she was also 2nd at Run Rabbit Run 100-miler… would you like to bet against her? *UTWT entrant

Simone Kayser from Luxemburg has 3-MDS (2002, 2004 and 2005) victories and returns in 2014. With past experience, knowledge of multi-day racing and an understanding of the Sahara, Simone will also test the podium positions. However, her current form is unknown.

Men

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Salameh Al Aqra and Mohamad Ahansal have battled ‘royal’ in the dunes of the Sahara for years. In 2009, Ahansal won, Al Aqra was 3rd, in 2010 it was Ahansal 1st, Al Aqra 2nd, 2011 Ahansal placed 2nd and Al Aqra 3rd, 2012 Al Aqra took honours relegating Ahansal to bridesmaid, however, last year, Ahansal once again regained his crown with Al Aqra chasing the locals heals. Both return in 2014 and based on past records you have to tip Ahansal with his 5-victories and 9-second places to dominate once again.

Mohammed Ahansal

Mohamad Ahansal

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Salameh Al Aqra

Rachid El Moriaty won in the race in 2011 and in doing so placed Ahansal in 2nd by just 7-minutes. He’d do well to repeat that performance.

Miguel Capo Soler is arguably the hot prospect to place Mohammed and Salameh under pressure, his 2013 3rd place will without doubt have ignited a fire and a desire within him to take his performance one step further and move up one notch on the podium and if all goes well, two notches to reign supreme.

Carlos sa

Carlos sa

Carlos Sa, 4th in the 2013 edition will do all he can to infiltrate the podium and if his form is good, he may very well upset the front of the race. His 2013 season was quite spectacular, in particular, his win at Badwater a highlight and his 4th at the 2012 TNFUTMB establishes him as ‘hot’ for the podium at the 29th edition. *UTWT entrant

Miguel Heras certainly is a surprise entrant for MDS and I guess this is a significance of the *UTWT flexing its muscle and introducing runners who we would not normally see at a multi-day race. This is a good thing! However, Miguel had to withdraw from Transgrancanaria with injury issues and I am not sure currently his status? Should he race he will without doubt bring an interesting dynamic to the race. When in form, he is world class and one of the best ultra runners in the world, Miguel has proved this time and time again and is 2nd place at the 2013 TNFUTMB proves this. I hope he’s fit, firing on all cylinders and ready to bring his ‘A’ race to the Sahara.

Danny Kendall

Danny Kendall

UK hopes are in the legs and lungs of Danny Kendall. A ‘regular’ at the MDS, Danny has consistently worked hard on his training, racing strategy and in in 2013 he placed 10th overall, the best ever performance by a Brit. The podium may well be out of reach but anything higher than 9th will be something to celebrate and embrace.

Cyril Cointre also takes a *UTWT place and will be a potential force at the front of the race. Cyril placed 8th at Transgrancanaria and 11th and HK100 in the last 2-months. Will he be recovered.

Wild card may well be Abdelkader El Mouaziz who has 13 sub 2:10 marathons! He hasn’t run the MDS before and that speed may well transfer well to the dunes and terrain of the Sahara, however, one has to wonder what if? Mouaziz won London Marathon in 1999 and 2001; in addition, he also won New York in 2000 and Madrid in 1994. He may well be nowhere near his glory days but Mouaziz is an exciting addition to the 29th edition.

Who else to watch:

Christophe Le eaux

Christophe Le Seaux

Marco Olmo

Marco Olmo

Christophe Le Saux – 9th at MDS 2013

Marco Olmo – 13th at MDS 2013

Anything can happen and without doubt, 2014 will throw up some surprises and names that we have never heard of before. 2013 was no different and that is what makes this sport so exciting and exhilarating.

What does the 2014 course look like?

Leg No.1 – Sunday 6 April

We get straight to the point and attack hard with a good fifteen kilometers or so of dunes in total on this first leg. Our imagination transports us into the shoes of British explorer, Sir Wilfred Thesiger, or to the very core of superb cinema, which were a wonder to us all!

Leg No.2 – Monday 7 April

This is coloured by fields of dunettes on the mountainside and a vast reg plateau, where the marathon runners will be able to really show what they’re made of at over 16km/hr. An abandoned adobe village, a dried-up lake crossing, a small erg with some beautiful dunes, an extensive plateau of black rock, the negotiation of a remote village and a djebel climb will make up the varied menu of this long second leg, where managing ones effort will take on its full meaning.

Leg No.3 – Tuesday 8 April

After 8km of running on fair terrain, the sand will put in an appearance again prior to a djebel ascent where a fabulous erg can be perceived at the bottom of the valley. There the runners will again negotiate some high dunes to make CP2, from where they will discover an ancient town, in ruins and perched on a hill, before making the night’s bivouac.

Leg No.4 (referred to as the long leg or the 80) – Wednesday 9 / Thursday 10 April

An ultra flat plateau running along a series of dunettes will form today’s backdrop before the runners traverse a wadi and hopefully get a bird’s eye view of the desert from up high after a tough little climb of around thirty-minutes. The landscape is truly breathtaking! Once you make it to the valley, you can make out a fabulous little erg followed by vast plateaus and a succession of djebels. The images here are strikingly beautiful and herald the discovery of an impressive sandy valley. Here, a laser beam will guide runners surprised by the cover of darkness. Participants will then link onto terrain dotted with crevasses before traversing a long, winding, sandy wadi and finally the bivouac. It will be important to follow the markers!

Leg No.5 (Marathon leg) – Friday 11 April

A long plateau of black reg will lead the runners into the ‘Out of Africa’ valley before they link onto a mountainous path, which will guide them to the bottom of a deep wadi. It’s a place where a number of villagers have taken up residence along this dried up river in which the palm trees are kings and agriculture is the only resource. A vast plateau peppered with dunes and dunettes will lead the competitor to the bivouac in this final timed leg.

Leg No.6 (the solidarity leg) – Saturday 12 April

As they make for the small village that will play host to the final finish destination, the competitors, sponsors and families that form the caravan will be able to appreciate the beauty and softness of the landscape in the ambience of closeness and sharing that is synonymous with this UNICEF leg (which supports projects benefiting disadvantaged children). For the majority of participants, this walk gives them time to reflect on this beautiful human adventure and collectively realize their accomplishments before getting back to civilization.

Links:

Follow the 2014 Marathon des Sables on www.iancorless.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/talkultra and on Twitter @talkultra

Updates will be posted daily as and when possible based on wifi connection and gps. Please be patient. I will do all I can to upload images and daily reports.

Info:

*UTWTIn 2013, the event became part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour Series, which groups together the major Ultra Trail races across all the different continents. The MARATHON DES SABLES will represent Africa in this circuit, where the distance (at least 100km), the site, the participation (at least 500 at the start), the internationality (at least 20 nations) and the length of existence (at least two editions) determines which events are selected. Beyond these sporting criteria, moral and ethical values, sporting equity, respect for oneself and others, as well as a respect for the environment, must be brought to the fore. Such values have always been conveyed by the MARATHON DES SABLES. 10 races, 5 continents, 150 global elite athletes… the Ultra-Trail® World Tour 2014 draws together the superlatives to provide the biggest number of runners with a world tour of the most prestigious races off the beaten track. Indeed, through their specific features, the #UTWT races illustrate the true diversity of the trail. Their sporting formats call for participants to have a real ability to adapt. As such you need a range of very different qualities to be a contender for victory! The MARATHON DES SABLES, the 4th leg of the 2014 tour, ranks among the ‘series’ races. As such, the number of points won in this event is increased, which makes it a decisive race in the bid for the #UTWT 2014 champion’s title. Participating in the Ultra-Trail® World Tour gives everyone a chance to discover unique cultural and sporting features. All the continents will be visited: Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania. So many opportunities to enrich one’s sporting culture, to create new friendships and to feed on emotions and perhaps, one day, be a ‘finisher’ in every one of the events!

 

Marathon des Sables – Trail Magazin

Really pleased to have a six page photo article on the 28th edition of the Sultan Marathon des Sables in Trail Magazin.

http://www.trail-magazin.de

The magazine is available for download for just 4 euros from this link: HERE

Trail Magazin - Marathon des Sables. iancorless.com

Trail Magazin – Marathon des Sables. iancorless.com

MDS ‘Snapped’ Running Fitness

NO OVERTAKING ALLOWED!

MDS snapped RF 0713Running Fitness ‘Snapped’ July 2013.

Sometimes the nature of running courses mean that, despite our best efforts, overtaking the competitor in front is simply not possible. It might be too narrow, it might be too boggy, but it’s not often that overtaking is precluded by the mother of all sand dunes!

This striking images taken by our man on the ground (or in the desert) Ian Corless shows competitors in this year’s Marathon des Sables doing battle with the course – rather than each other!

The 28th running of the epic multi-day race in the Moroccan Sahara, this year’s race added a killer wind into the equation – as if it wasn’t hard enough already. We’ll be bringing you the full report in the August issue of Running Fitness.

Links:

  • Order the magazine and subscribe HERE
  • Images from the Marathon des Sables are available to purchase for personal use HERE

 

 

FACES on TrailChile

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Faces por Ian Corless

Posted by 

Cada cara cuenta una historia, fatiga, cansancio y falta de sueño, cada línea de la cara como un campo arado listo para nuevos cultivos. Las mejillas se han vuelto cuevas, excavadas y colocadas bajo los pómulos.

Miradas fijas faltas de emoción. Los ojos se han vuelto hoyos en el espacio; miras en ellos y encuentras nada.

Esta es la 28va edición de la Marathon des Sables. Terreno rocoso, calor abrasador y dunas implacables empujas a todos hasta el límite pero es la cara de cada corredor la que muestra el dolor o la gloria, lo ves, sus rostros cuentan historias.

La Marathon des Sables ha sido descrita como una de las carreras de resistencia más duras en el planeta. Son seis días de autosuficiencia en el Sahara Marroquí. Cada corredor debe cargar todo lo que él o ella necesita para lograr terminar, la única excepción es el agua, la cual es racionada cada día.

El marroquí Mohamad Ahansal, cuatro veces ganador de esta carrera, vuelve por una quinta victoria. Su cara lleva confianza, su sonrisa ancha y brillante. Meghan Hicks, solo la segunda americana en la historia, después de Lisa-Smith Batchen en ganar dentro de las mujeres, se ve fresca y casi como un querubín con sus dos racimos de pelo salen de los lados de su cabeza.

  • You can read the full article HERE
  • Puede leer el artículo completo AQUÍ

You can view FACES OF MDS HERE

TrailChile HERE

  • Ian Corless
  • Marathon des Sables 2013
  • iancorless.com
  • Texto Original y fotografías: Ian Corless
  • Traducción: Matías Bull

Darkness to light – Marathon des Sables

Water splashed over the large brimmed hat, Gilles poured and poured on Didier’s head to help reduce his temperature. Droplets floated in the air like stars in space and as they made contact they exploded with dramatic effect.

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Dried salt on cheeks and lips disappeared but moments later re-appeared as the searing 50+ degree temperatures evaporated the water that continued to pour.

It was very early on in the longest stage of the 28th edition of the Marathon des Sables. It was midday. Gilles and Didier had only dented the distance needed to be covered before the 34-hour cut off would be imposed.

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Moving onward, Didier embraced Gilles arm for stability. A very sore and enflamed right knee could give way at any moment. Gilles as ever, faithful to the cause provided the support and self-sacrifice to ensure that Didier’s journey to the line was safe and as trouble free as possible.

Twelve hours after the start, darkness approached and with it some food and rest. With a new lease of life the two continued into 13 km of relentless dunes that reached two to three meters in height. In the distance a green laser shows Gilles the direction he needs to go. Didier follows, two become one and as the sun rises and the heat returns, victory and the opportunity to fight another day seems possible.

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From the finish line I see two shadows on the horizon. It is 1600 in the afternoon. The warriors have been on the trail for 32-hours. Tired, weary and emotional they approach the line. I see Didier’s tattoo glisten in the scorching light. An MDS logo on his arm with nine stars around it, a star for every MDS finish. Next to the 9th, a space, would he obtain that 10th star at the 2013 edition of the race?

In the final meters to the line you can hear the shouts from MDS staff,  “Bravo Gilles”, a marshal shouts “Allez Didier” and then the clapping and whoop whooping starts. It’s done, they cross the line an incredible 75.7 km’s completed over some of the most demanding conditions possible.

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Didier falls into the arms of Gilles in an embrace similar to a small child who has just found a lost mother. Tears stream down his face as he sobs uncontrollably. Gilles, all smiles, pulls away and kisses him on each cheek with a passion seldom seen. It’s a moment I will never forget. It epitomized all that the Marathon des Sables represents. It shows a bond between two people and confirms all that is good and pure in human nature.

You see, this is no ordinary achievement, Gilles is a guide and Didier is blind.

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Marathon des Sables STAGE 6

The final day of the Marathon des Sables is ‘usually’ an easy stage. Your finish is guaranteed! Almost….

Not so for the 2013 edition of the Sultan Marathon des Sables.

For the fast runners, one days rest had preceded the final competitive stage of the 28th edition of the race. However, for the slower runners who had taken over 24 hours to complete the 75.7km of the long day, rest was minimal.

The final leg was over the classic marathon distance. It was by no means and an easy day. When you add to this, plenty of sand, dunes and searing heat, it was going to be tough.

Tired limbs, sore and blistered feet moved to the start and after the obligatory briefing they were off, straight into dunes. Golden rollercoasters providing a light and dark palette. It was by far the most impressive start stage start of the entire race

In reality, the front end of the field was not going to see much change. It was guaranteed that barring a disaster; Mohamad Ahansal and Meghan Hicks would be crowned winners off the 28th Sultan Marathon des Sables.

However, Aziz El Akad and Jo Meek had different plans. Both of them ran incredibly hard over the 42km and secured two impressive stage wins. El Akad crossed the line in 03:18:36 and was awarded his medal by Patrick Bauer. In true MDS tradition, Patrick waits on the line and welcomes every runner on the last day. Jo Meek in particular ‘chicked’ many of the men with a time of 04:14:34. On the finish line the emotion and realization of what she had achieved took hold. As the tears rolled down her face she just said, “I can’t take it in. I came here to race but I never thought I would achieve second overall. Today’s distance, the classic marathon, is MY distance so I wanted to run hard”.

2012 winner, Salameh Al Aqra from Jordan finished a great 2013 race with second place in 03:26:34 and Mohamad Ahansal was close behind in 03:29:40. Danny Kendall had an inspired day and finished the race as he started with 6th on the stage with 03:46:19

Meghan Hicks finished second on the stage in 04:26:53 and after a relatively reserved crossing of the line she suddenly jumped, bounced and whoop whooped! Finally she was topping the podium at one of the most iconic races in the world.

Finishing the podium was another Brit, Zoe Salt. It really has been a year when the Brits have made a resounding presence felt and for sure, the ladies race looks very strong for the future.

The final day is all about medals and completing a journey. The finish line is a place of emotion. Every single person has a different emotion. Cheers and screams follow blank faces and hollow eyes. Tears roll down a cheek and arms are raised above heads and you hear a “yes! YES! I did it”.

The emotion, the camaraderie and the bonding of all was personified late in the evening when Didier Benguigui and his guide, Gilles arrived at the finish followed by a convoy of cars with flashing lights. An impromptu alleyway of staff with head torches and the support of many runners cheered, clapped and applauded as Didier crossed the line to complete his 10th Marathon des Sables.

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Races are memories. Didier and Gilles summed up everything that one could witness in any race; devotion, sacrifice, suffering and ultimately victory.

As they walked past the line to the applause, cheers and celebrations of all, in bivouac a rock band started to warm up to provide some entertainment for tired and emotional bodies.

It was an incredible 2013 race and one that I feel honored to have witnessed

Overall Results:

 Men

  1. Ahansal (MAR), 18h59’35
  2. Al Aqra (JOR), 19h41’15
  3. Capo Soler (ESP), 20h19’31

First Brit: Danny Kendall (GBR), 21h46’03

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Ladies

  1. Meghan Hicks (USA), 24h42’01
  2. Joanna Meek (GBR), 25h41’01
  3. Zoe Salt (GBR), 27h03’58

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 LINKS TO PHOTOGRAPHY

Marathon des Sables – a race in images

A portfolio of selected imagery from the 28th edition of the Sultan Marathon des Sables is now on line in individual galleries for each day.

Please follow the links for each gallery.

Before the race – link HERE

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Stage one – Link HERE

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Stage Two – Link HERE

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Stage Three – Link HERE

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Stage Four – Link HERE

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Stage Five – Link HERE

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Stage Six (non-competitive charity stage) – Link HERE

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Marathon des Sables, Day 1. The depart!

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It is all excitement and buzz as hundreds of helpers and volunteers mobilise to the get the ‘Marathon des Sables’ show on the road.

It’s exciting!

It’s like moving a whole village. Vehicles line up in rows, khaki clad men and women run back and forth with bags. It is organised chaos. Everyone knows and understands what is required and slowly but surely bags, crates, water, food, tents and all manner of packages disappear and with a sound of engines, one-by-one they embark on the 5-6 hour journey into the Sahara to ‘base camp’.

Two days adapting to the environment and then on Sunday the race begins.

The greatest show on earth!

Runners testing themselves against heat, dunes and dehydration.

Let the excitement begin….

Read my race preview HERE

Read my interview with MDS RD Patrick Bauer HERE

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Patrick Bauer – The Interview

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Patrick Bauer has a passion and a love for the Marathon des Sables that the passing of the years has not suppressed. Back in 1984 he ventured into the Algerian Sahara to cover 350km’s alone in a self sufficient manner. Little did he know that his journey would not only change his life but also so many lives of so many others…

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Translation services provided by Niandi Carmont

IC Patrick, welcome. In 1984 you took a solo journey across the Algerian Sahara. Why, what inspired you?

PB In 1984 I decided to take a self-sufficient journey of 350km. It took me 12 days; because of my self-suffiency my pack weighed 35 kilos. I needed enough food water for the whole journey. I had no help. It was an incredible undertaking.

IC What was the motivation, It must have taken some planning?

PB I had lived in West Africa for two years. I was employed to sell Encyclopedias to teachers and books on medicine to doctors and pharmacists. Returning to France was difficult. I had no desire to stay… I just wanted to leave again. During my 2 years in Africa I had crossed the Sahara five to six times by car but I wanted to cross on my own, on foot. I remember it well, I had returned to France, I had no apartment so I returned to my parents. I was back sharing a room with my brother. I woke up one morning and said

“I am going to cross the Sahara on foot”

My brother said, “Ok, go to sleep… you had a nightmare”

I said to my brother you must help with a camera and sponsors. Just three weeks later I left to take the journey.

IC That journey influenced the rest of your life but importantly it changed your immediate life in the mid 80’s. In 1986 you decided to share that experience and create Marathon des Sables. What gave you the confidence to create such a race? How did you know you would have a market?

PB I realized when I did a presentation to my village. I had friends and sponsors present. It was a thank you but I had awoken curiosity and interest. Local runners did not want to make the journey alone, so, I decided to organize it. No other event compared, maybe Paris-Dakar. It was a ground breaking moment.

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IC In the early years, was participation mainly French?

PB Yes, French with the exception of one Moroccan. We had 23 runners at the first edition. It took 24 months to plan and create. Little did those 24 know that they would be the pioneers of one of the most beautiful stories that will soon be 30 years old?

IC In the early 1990’s you contacted ‘The Best of Morocco’ to introduce British and Irish runners, was this a long term plan to expand the race?

PB We already had contact with this agency (Best of Morocco) but by 1990 I had already done 5 editions of the Marathon des Sables. I wanted to expand internationally and I wanted as many countries present as possible. We started in a tentative way and today we have as many English runners as French and potentially more in the future.

IC British entries have reached 250+. The race is known worldwide. Did you know it would become so big?

PB I would never in my wildest dreams have imagined it would be what it is today. When a race is over, I start immediately on the next year. I have a passion and I don’t think about it all the time.  I want to be more strategic with my long-term vision. 2015 is the 30th edition; I like to plan 3 years ahead so I already anticipate higher demand for 2015.

IC What is it that makes the race so special. You appeal to novices and experienced runners. It is a difficult balance but you do it so well.

PB I think it is the concept. The cocktail of the desert, running and the self-sufficiency. Nobody at the beginning thought it would be possible to run with a pack. The expedition was an extra bonus…. You need to manage everything; calories, water, clothing, rest etc. All these elements combine to create the ultimate experience. It was new! Today we have additional security. Runners tell us that the safety element is key. Believe it or not, the average age is 40yrs+. These participants have families and children so risk is not negotiable. We want to offer security and safety for all these participants. We have helicopters, planes and insurance to make sure everyone is protected. Finally, it is about testing your limits; in our busy lives we find going back to basics a wonderful experience. Under the stars with friends, sat around a campfire, simple conversation and no luxuries. It is primal. It brings out true values that we may have forgotten. Because the desert facilitates all that is around us, the stars, the universe, you don’t need a book to tell you that ultimately we are all insignificant.

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IC What is it that makes runners that go back year after year?

PB Yes, we have some people returning for the 22nd or 23rd time. But it is not the same for all. If everyone came back we would have the same race, this would not be good. But we have a faithful family that we have created from the start. We have affinity and we love to find each other in the desert. We are also happy to find new friends. Maybe we have people return years later to celebrate a key moment such as a 50th birthday. We have a fraternity side, we share values. We have a respect for difference and other countries. All the languages that are spoken. These are the experiences that make the event. It is the combination of so many elements that make it great. We have an edge I think and that brings people back.

IC What is the future of the race? Will the race become bigger with more runners?

PB Yes, I think we will have more participants in 2013. We will have 350 from the UK. We had a meeting with worldwide representatives some time ago and it was decided that we would all work together on a communication strategy and we discussed the 30th edition. We have had great demand; we have refused more than 2,000 entries. I get messages about the 30th edition asking if it will be 300km as the 25th edition was 250km. Because of the worldwide economic crisis we may need to take more entries so that we can ensure the quality of the race such as safety. This is why we prepare 3 years ahead.

camp

IC As a race director can you give us an insight into the Marathon des Sables?

PB The advise to the runners is repeated every morning, like, hydration, protecting your head, sun block and more specific advice concerning the course. Storms can just arrive and then last a half-day or even 4-5 days. A few years ago we had floods… that year we had to plan from day-to-day. It wasn’t easy. The biggest problems are usually weather related. For the rest of us, it is a safe country. We have government backing should we have a problem, for example we have military assistance. We have trucks and soldiers who transport the tents everyday and we have 400 people who work on the event. If you add journalists, drivers, volunteers etc. then we have more like 450 people.  I have 110 people who directly report to me.

JPCERVELMDS2012-04-08--4466

IC It is so impressive, the tents, the staff, and the helicopters. A circus!

PB It is a little like the circus. Up and down, load up and move. I am always impressed. It is fantastic.

IC Since the beginning can you pinpoint any highlights?

PB The feeling you get from every event. We have an extraordinary experience. We share values with participants and it creates a bond. Some say ‘never again’ and then two years later we see them again. We all strive for equilibrium to balance the experience and we all strive for positive thoughts. If we have them then we can share beautiful things.

IC In 2005 you had an Opera singer to sing before the start. A magical experience.

PB Yes, for the 20th anniversary we had a spectacular start with an Opera singer and musicians. She was Japanese. It was a moving experience. Classical music is in harmony with the desert. At the beginning the runners are still fresh so they can enjoy the experience.

IC What do you think of Olympian James Cracknells performance at Marathon des Sables, he is not your ‘typical’ desert runner?

PB He was an excellent champion, a top-level athlete who understood how to test the limits. So I think he had a new experience in the Sahara. He asked himself what he was doing at the race several times I think. Discovery Channel did a documentary on him. He demanded respect as an athlete. As a man I did not get to know him but as a sportsman I am sure he has great values.

IC Has the race become easier over time or have you made adjustments to make the experience more challenging?

PB The race is not easier. The distance has increased over the years but water can be a key issue and we now have great water supplies which was not so in the past. In the past water was an issue. But we all have short memories. We forget the hardships. Every year has new demands. We now have more positive incline. We used to spend time in the valleys.

DRAYMDS2012-04-11-9798

IC True, we all forget hard times very quickly. We always remember the good times and they are our memories.

PB At the end you have sore feet and blisters… but your mind is selective. We filter the negative to retain the good. The human and sport experiences. We forget the soreness and remember the positive.

IC Do you still run, do you have the time?

PB Yes, I run after the sponsors, I run after my planes, I run after my trains… I started cycling a little and I do a little running. It’s not a good time for me. But then again, I always have an excuse. It is difficult but I am motivated to try to be more regular with my own exercise.

IC Patrick, it really has been excellent to get an insight into such an iconic race. Thank you so much.

PB Merci beaucoup

2013 RACE PREVIEW HERE

Patrick Bauer, Marathon des Sables copyright www.lest-eclair.fr

Patrick Bauer, Marathon des Sables copyright http://www.lest-eclair.fr

MARATHON DES SABLES 2013 Preview

copyright Marathon des Sables

copyright Marathon des Sables

MARATHON DES SABLES 2013

The 2013 edition of the Marathon des Sables is a self-sufficient race in the South of the Moroccan desert, the event will take place from 5th to 15th April 2013. For the 18th consecutive year, it will be run under the patronage of his Majesty King Mohammed VI.

Since its creation in 1986, the Marathon des Sables has attracted over 13,000 competitors over 27 editions. From humble beginnings, the race is now the most prestigious multi-stage race in the world.

The 2013 Marathon des Sables will see 1,091 entrants toe the line. With 45 different nationalities and a strong presence from France and the UK, the 28th edition will be a memorable one.

Taking place in South Morocco, in the provinces of Errachidia and Tinghrir the race will cover 223.8km over 5 stages. It will encompass some of the most beautiful terrain in the Moroccan desert. Eagerly awaited by one and all, the dunes, ergs and dried-up wadis will delight the thousand or so entrants from the fifty plus countries across the globe.

MDS LOGO

Race Programme:

5 April 2013: Leave country of residence for Morocco (UK entrants leave on the 4th) – Arrival in Ouarzazate, bus transfer to the 1st bivouac.

6 April 2013: Administrative, technical and medical checks – Day to acclimatise.

From 7-12 April 2013: Race in progress. (The self-sufficiency begins from breakfast on the 1st leg).

12 April 2013: Prizing ceremony in desert.

13 April 2013: Charity leg for UNICEF– Transfer to Ouarzazate.

14 April 2013: Day of relaxation, festivities.

15 April 2013: Return to country of residence.

Race Logistics

Patrick Bauer affectionately describes the Marathon des Sables as a big circus. It’s like moving a city everyday… just look at what is involved.

Race management : This team comprises more than 100 people including a race HQ, race marshals, controllers, timekeepers and ranking compilers. Since 2010, the official ranking has been achieved using a “transponder” for all the competitors.

Supervision : 400 people: technical, logistical and medical skills, 100 vehicles, 2 helicopters, 1 CESSNA plane, 4 dromedaries… and the active support of the Royal Armed Forces: 21 lorries (6×6) and 40 men to supervise logistics.

Medical Assistance : A team of 50 people under Dr Frédéric COMPAGNON, DOC TROTTER supervises the runners as much on a medical level (care of feet, resuscitation…) as a mental level, both of which fail sometimes in front of the toughness of the event and the hostility of the climate.

In the 27th SULTAN MARATHON DES SABLES, 3 tonnes of gear was transported and the medical team used : 5km of Elastoplast, 2,700 second-skin patches, 125 litres of disinfectant, 230 litres of drip solutions, 15,000 compresses, 2,800 pairs of surgical gloves,…

The Team

  • 115 volunteers on the course itself
  • 400 support staff overall
  • 120 000 litres of mineral water
  • 270 berber and saharan tents
  • 100 all-terrain vehicles
  • 
2 “Squirrel” helicopter and 1 “Cessna” plane
  • 6 “MDS special” commercial planes
  • 23 buses
  • 4 dromedaries
  • 
1 incinerator lorry for burning waste
  • 4 quad bikes to ensure environment and safety on race
  • 
52 medical staff
  • 6.5 kms of Elastoplast, 2 700 Compeed, 19 000 compresses 6 000 painkillers, 150 litres of disinfectant
  • 4 editing stations, 5 cameras, 1 satellite image station
10 satellite telephones, 30 computers, fax and internet

Marathon des Sables

Marathon des Sables – how did it start?

Patrick Bauer interview available HERE

1984 : At the age of 28, Patrick Bauer decided to make a journey into the Sahara. His objective was to traverse 350km’s of uninhabited desert, on foot, alone and without any possibility of encountering a single village, oasis or watering place. Totally self sufficient, Patrick entered the desert with a pack weight of 35kg containing all his water and food. The journey lasted 12 days and it was the starting point of what has now become the MARATHON DES SABLES.

Patrick Bauer, Marathon des Sables copyright www.lest-eclair.fr

Patrick Bauer, Marathon des Sables copyright http://www.lest-eclair.fr

1986 : The creation of the first MARATHON DES SABLES in the Moroccan Sahara. The 23 pioneers who took the start never imagined that their footprints would mark the start of a legendary event, which today has become unmissable on the schedule for major adventure sport meets.

1989 : 170 competitors take the start of the race and the rest is history.

I caught up with Patrick Bauer at the MDS UK expo in late 2012. You can listen to that interview (lasts 13 minutes):

talkultra.com

LISTEN HERE

The 2013 Race – who will be taking part?

1,090 competitors aged 20 to 76 are expected to take the start (definitive number on 6 April following administrative and medical checks) representing 45 different nationalities: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Latvia, Luxembourg, Morocco, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of El Salvador, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States.

The participants are men and women with various and varied profiles (Doctors, farmers, coppersmiths, pilots, builders, chefs, servicemen and women, students, professional athletes and retired persons…).

The 2013 MDS Challengers for the overall win

DRAYMDS2012-04-08-7945-1

The Female contenders for the overall win :

Laurence Klein 2012 MDS

Laurence Klein 2012 MDS

  • Laurence KLEIN (FRA) – 1st woman in 2007, 2011 and 2012, European 100km Champion.
  • Meryem KHALI (MAR) – 2nd woman in 2012. N°1082:
  • Megan HICKS (USA) – 2nd woman in 2009.
  • Simone KAYSER (LUX )– 3 victories in the MDS.


The Male contenders for the overall win : 

Mohamad Ahansal

Mohamad Ahansal

  • Salameh AL AQRA (JOR) – 1st in 2012, 2nd in 2008, 2010, 3rd in 2009, 2011.
  • Mohamad AHANSAL (MAR) – 4 victories and 2nd place 9 times.
  • Samir AKHDAR (MAR) – 6th in 2011, 7th in 2009.
  • Rachid EL MORABITY (MAR) – 1st in 2011.
  • Aziz EL AKAD (MAR) – 2nd in 2009 and 3rd in 2008 and 2012.
  • Christophe LE SAUX (FR) – 6th in 2012, 1st Guyan’trail 2011 and 2012.
  • Anton VENCELJ (SLO) – 4th in 2010, 8th in 2012.
  • Abdelaaziz TAYSS (FR) – French Cross-Country champion 2008 and 2011
  • Vincent DELEBARRE (FR) – 9th in 2005, 1st UTMB, Réunion, Templiers, etc
  • Martin FIZ (SP) – World Marathon Champion in 1995.
  • Carlos GOMEZ DE SA (POR) – 4th 2012 and 8th in 2008, 4th UTMB 2012.
  • Marco OLMO (ITA) – Top 10 in the MDS, 2 UTMB victories.
  • Antonio Filippo SALARIS (ITA) – 7th in 2012.

In 2013 I followed two runners in the build up to the 2013 Marathon des Sables. Tobias Mews placed 21st overall in the 2010 race and Stuart Rae is toeing the line for the first time in 2013. Each interview alternated on episodes of Talk Ultra but they have been joined together in one episode (lasts just under 1 hour)

talkultra.com

LISTEN HERE

2012 results (for reference)

1st : Salameh Al Aqra (JOR) in 19h59’21’’
 2nd : Mohamad Ahansal (MAR) 21’02’’ behind 3rd : Aziz El Akad (MAR) 1h38’56’’ behind

1st : Laurence Klein (FRA) in 26h15’40’’ 2nd : Meryem Khali (MAR) 1h19’38’’ behind 3rd : Karine Baillet (FRA) 1h31’07’’ behind

iancorless.comscreenshot_217

The 2013 race route

  • 1st leg – 37.2k Undulating terrain, interspersed with small ergs representing 5km of small dunes (dunettes).
  • 2nd leg – 30.7km 3 djebels with 10 to 25% gradients – exceptional panoramic views.
  • 3rd leg – 38km 2 djebel sections, 2 dried-up lakes and lots of sand.
  • 4th leg – 75.7km a total of 13km of dunes and around 30km of sandy terrain.
  • 5th leg – 42.2km the final leg is a marathon with ergs, regs, a dried-up lake and wadi beds…
  • Total Distance – 223.8km

Mandatory Kit

One of the key aspects of the Marathon des Sables is what kit to take? Here is a list of ‘mandatory’ kit. Of course, you need to add to this food requirements, cooking equipment and any additional luxuries.

  1. Distress flare: For use in the event of an extreme emergency. A range in excess of several dozen metres once activated.
  2. Knife: Equipped with a metal blade, it’s obviously useful in the bivouac and it can be of service when useful in the bivouac and it can be of service when running too.
  3. Compass: Surpassing both intuition and signposting, the compass is the marathon runner’s signposting.
  4. Whistle: Slowed by problems with your health or astray of the initial route, it enables other competitors or the organisation to be alerted to your whereabouts.
  5. Lighter: An important ally after a day’s running, whenit’s time to make a fire to heat up your meal.
  6.  Anti-venom pump: Even though it’s rare to have an unpleasant encounter with a snake, the anti-venom pump is compulsory and can enable action to be pump is compulsory and can enable action to be taken quickly.
  7. Antiseptic: As the days go by, all kinds of injuries can crop up, even during the race sometimes. So whilst awaiting assistance from a Doc Trotter, antiseptic can be important prior to linking up with the medical team.
  8. Sleeping bag: To be carried for seven days, ideally it shouldn’t exceed 400g and should be suitable for temperatures of between 5°C and 10°C. Indeed, the nights are cold in the desert.
  9. Survival blanket: In the event of serious problems, the survival blanket enables you to protect yourself from both the cold and sun. It weighs in at no more than 60g.
  10. Signalling mirror: If lost, someone competing in the Marathon des Sables will want to signal his or her presence. Playing with the sun and a mirror may be an alternative prior to using a distress flare.
  11. Salt tablets: Not exactly pleasant tasting, they are nonetheless essential for avoiding dehydration.
  12. Glow sticks: The perfect marker during the long leg.
  13. Headtorch: once night falls or when wandering around the bivouac, the headtorch is essential.

I will be reporting from the 2013 event as the race unfolds and providing I am able to gain adequate access to internet, I will update my website, Facebook and Twitter with reports and images as often as possible. So please keep checking!