The 34th edition of the iconic Marathon des Sables got underway today. A race of 32.2km heading south through the mixed and wonderful terrain that Morocco has to offer.
As per usual, camp was full of nerves and tension after a somewhat cold night left some runners wishing they had packed more clothes. Breakfasts were cooked, bags were packed and the pre-race anticipation was tangible.
The race was underway at 0900 after Patrick Bauer, the race creator, provided his usual morning briefing two the assembled runners who totalled more than 800.
With the buzz of the helicopter and AC/DC’s Highway to Hell, the race was unleashed.
In MDS terms, day-1 was considered an ‘easy’ day – a nice introduction to the Sahara. The wind was almost non-existent the heat gradually built throughout the day as the 800+ had to cross mini dunes, soft sand and rocky plateaus.
It may come as no surprise that the El Morabity brothers of Rachid and Mohamed dictated the day, pushing ahead together. It was only in the closing km or so, that Rachid, the six times champion forged ahead to win in 2:19:00 exactly, 1min 28secs quicker than his brother. Abdelaziz Baghazza arrived 90-seconds later to round out the day’s podium.
The ladies race was dominated by IAU World Trail Champion and Skyrunning World Champion, Ragna Debats, running hers first ‘MDS!’ Ragna is a past winner of The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica, also a multi-stage race but importantly, not self-sufficient! Today she ran like an experienced multi-day runner, her pack causing her little issues. Her time of 2:42:24 quite incredible providing a top-20 place overall.
Moroccan Aziz Kaji will have made the home crowd happy placing 2nd in 3:07:58 and in the 3rd, the Queen of ‘MDS,’ Laurence Klein from France who has won the race on many occasions in past years.
It is only day-1 but the race is already taking shape. Day-2 at 32.5km is already obtaining much talk as it include 13km’s of the infamous Merzouga Dunes, the highest and the most challenging dunes in Morocco.
Results Top 3:
- Rachid El Morabity 2:19:00
- Mohamed El Morabity 2:20:28
- Abdelaziz Baghazza 2:22:58
- Ragna Debats 2:42:24
- Aziz Raji 3:07:58
- Laurence Klein 3:12:56
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