Marathon des Sables STAGE 2

Stage 2

Distance: 30.7 km

Terrain: 3 Djebels with 10 to 25% gradients and stunning panoramic views

Inspiration comes in all shapes, sizes and speeds and today Mohammed Ahansal once again confirmed that he fulfills the ‘speed’ element by taking another impressive stage win.


But by contrast, I would like to mention Didier Benguigui. Didier this year is running his 10th Marathon des Sables. To commemorate the event he has had the ‘MDS’ logo tattooed on his arm and around it 9 stars. Next to the 9th star is a space; a space for the 10th star! Impressive you may think? For many, one Marathon des Sables is enough, but for Didier it is his passion, his dream, his fantasy… to live in the desert, with friends and challenge him self over tough, technical terrain is what gives his life purpose. Did I mention; Didier is blind!


As I said, inspiration comes in many forms and today I had confirmed what I have always thought, that Didier is without doubt one of the heroes of the Marathon des Sables. He embodies all that is great in sport and humanity and as for his guide, Giles; all I can say is absolute respect.


I spoke to both of them today after what has been described as the toughest stage of the Marathon des Sables for years. Didier was upbeat and relaxed in his Bivouac, he was preparing food.


“How was it today Didier?”


“Tough, very very technical… not good for a blind person”


As I look Giles shakes his head…


“Giles, you are Didier’s eyes, it was an extremely tough and technical day”


“Yes, incredibly tough, one of the toughest days I have shared with Didier. We had to run along the knife edge of a ridge and on either side it would have been catastrophic to fall”


I had spoke to many a runner after the stage and Tobias Mews who finished 19th on the stage and who is currently lying 21st overall said:


“It was on incredibly tough day. Three climbs (djebels) interspersed with some ridge running and flat sections between CP’s and the third djebels was a brute that included dunes, rocks, roped sections and all with a 25% gradient. It wasn’t over at the top. The bivouac was insight some 4km’s away but we had a tough rock hopping descent and then a series of dunes that teased us to the finish line. It was like running for 28km and then finishing off with a ‘Stairmaster” session. It was brutal”


So that you have I, the Marathon des Sables today created a stage that inspired and punished in equal measure. But at the front a race was going on and after some impressive results on stage 1, placing’s have moved around.


Aziz El Akad started the day by running off the front and trying to make up some lost time from day one, but Mohammed Ahansal never let him get out of sight and by the last djebels was in the lead and finished the stage in 1st place in 02:44:35. Salameh Al Agra finished second in 02:49:06 and the earl pace maker, Aziz finished third in 02:49:49.


Brit, Danny Kendall had another good day and finished 10th in 03:12:19 and Neil Talbot finished 12th in 03; 19:24


The men’s overall standings (top 3)


  1. Mohammed      Ahansal 05:35:32
  2. Aziz El      Akad 05:54:21
  3. Antonio      Solaris 5:57:33


In the ladies race, Laurence Klein once again pushed ahead in the race to take the win in 03:44:27. But the main news was American Hicks moving up the field to take second place in 03:48:20 and Brit, Joe Meek finished third in 03:58:52.


Brits once again had another great day with Zoe Salt taking 4th in 04:17:04, Amelia Watts 7th in 04:22:56, Gwenaelie Couenon 15th in 04:41:32, Edith Doyen 17th in 05:07:43 and Mari Mari Walton 23rd in 05:24:22.


The female overall standings (top 3)


  1. Laurence      Klein 07:23:40
  2. Megan      Hicks 07:41:11
  3. Jo Meek      07:44:49


Tomorrow’s stage, stage 3 has 38km, 2 Djebels, 2 dried up lakes and lots of sand

The North Face AK Stormy Trail Jacket


As the main sponsor of the TNFUTMBThe North Face fully understands the needs of every runner when embarking on the epic alpine journey. Irrespective of distance, the mountains can be a cruel and hard place.

Copyright Ian Corless

Copyright Ian Corless

Look at the history of the race. For several years the TNF UTMB has been hampered by bad weather. Just last year, 2012, the race was shortened at the last minute and ‘mandatory’ kit was increased to 4 layers to ensure the safety of every runner.

Two pieces of mandatory kit are a fully waterproof jacket with hood and taped seams but also over trousers. Now many runners, particularly the elite runners think… “I will never wear over trousers”. The 2012 edition of the TNF UTMB confirmed to many that mandatory kit, (although sometimes one may think it is over the top) is absolutely necessary.

To this end, The North Face have created two new items that tick all the boxes for 2013. The AKSTORMY TRAIL JACKET and AK STORMY TRAIL PANTS. Available in Black & Yellow


Key Features

It’s simple really…. a tailored fit to reduces excess material and flapping. A reduction in ‘extras’ as these only add opportunities for onward problems or areas were leaks may appear. Lightweight and small pack size.


The AK STORMY range do all the above and then some. Of course that doesn’t come cheap. But you get what you pay for and I certainly wouldn’t want to compromise when I am several thousand feet up in the rain and snow. Expect to pay £160 for the jacket.


The North Face Men’s AK Stormy Trail Jacket is a waterproof, breathable, hooded running jacket for maximum protection in the foulest weather. It features FlashDry technology which has microporous particles to improve and accelerate the removal of excess moisture from the skin. This means a drier and more comfortable performance for longer, in a range of weather conditions.

The jacket has a reflective brimmed, stay-put hood with an adjustable hood cinch at the rear. It has a reflective drop-tail hem for increased coverage and weatherproofing. It has minimal ‘additional’ features to ensure that 100% weather protection is guaranteed. It has a small pack size and low weight and can be rolled up so that you can store the jacket in its own hood.



Copyright Ian Corless

Copyright Ian Corless

The jacket is a snug fit. I am a 38″/40″ chest and I have a small. It is perfect. The important thing is to try this jacket with the anticipated under clothes. I wore a TNF long sleeve run top as this would probably be my normal under garment when wearing a jacket like this. I also then added a TNF thermal layer jacket. The AK Stormy allowed room for both underneath without restrictions. Under the arms have been tailored to allow for movement. A big plus. It is a no frills jacket, so, don’t expect pockets! It has a small chest pocket which has been glued in place. Gluing means no seams. No seams, no leaks. The zippers are fully waterproof and the neck goes high but not too high. The hood has a brim and an adjustable toggle on the rear to get a good fit.

I personally found the hood was most comfortable when wearing a peaked cap underneath. This is a personal thing. The addition of a peak stops the hood working forward and offers additional protection.

I have been out in the wind, rain and snow and the AK Stormy has been spot on. Full comfort and 100% protection. It is most definitely designed for rough weather but not at the compromise of additional weight. A difficult balance to get right. As such, this jacket will always be in my pack when heading out for longer days or most definitely when heading to the mountains. It has no ventilation but I was extremely surprised that I never found the jacket too hot.

If you are racing in the UK when our weather is extremely unpredictable, I couldn’t recommend this jacket enough. Certainly, it would be the perfect kit for the Lakeland 50 or 100.

It goes without saying that The North Face have designed this jacket (and additional over trousers) with the UTMB in mind and without doubt it would be my ‘top of the list’ when full weather protection and light weight is required.

Very small pack size and weighs 220g
Very small pack size and weighs 220g
Adjustable hood
Adjustable hood
Glued chest pocket and waterproof zippers
Glued chest pocket and waterproof zippers
Reflective piping
Reflective piping
Brimmed hood
Brimmed hood
  • Reflective brimmed hood with stay
  • Adjustable hood cinch
  • Glued chest pocket
  • Reflective drop-tail hem
  • Stowable

available S,M,L,XL


The North Face HERE