The 35th Marathon des Sables drew to a conclusion today with stage 5, the last official timed stage of the 2021 race. Tomorrow is the compulsory charity stage which is not taking in to consideration for overall ranking.
It’s a classic marathon stage and as such has become a tradition of the MDS. Just 351 runners started the day, 50% of the original line-up that started day-1.
The 35th edition was always going to be memorable after three postponements, and while many thought this edition would be about handling a safe race around Covid, the reality was far from this. Covid has arguably not been mentioned or discussed since the start of stage-1. Instead, intense heat has been a major consideration, the death of a runner on day 2 and diarrhea and vomiting spreading through camp like a fire. The combination of self-sufficiency, rationed water and food, heat and sickness has all been too much for many and this is reflected in the finishing numbers. People were exhausted. Currently the exact cause of sickness is unknown or confirmed, it could be hyperthermia, bacteria, a bug, virus or maybe a combination of elements?
Starting in two waves, 0700 and 0830, runners had 12-hours to complete the course. The men’s race came down to a furious sprint with Mohamed El Morabity pipping a revived Mathieu Blanchard to the line.
Young sensation, Aziz Yachou placed 3rd and the boss, Rachid El Morabity placed 4th and in the process won his 8th Marathon des Sables.
The ever smiling and happy Tomomi Bitoh won the ladies race with a strong run. She was full of emotion and tears at the finish. The realisation of an intense week coming to a dream ending.
Aziza Raji finished 17-minutes later but her overall victory was secure and finally, a Moroccan female top-slot on the podium was a reality, the last occasion being 2008/ 2009 with Touda Didi.
Aicha Omrani had a tough day finishing down the field and although she retained a podium place, the strong run bt Tomomi elevated her to 2nd and placed Aicha 3rd overall.
Needless to say, it was an emotional day as the 351 starters streamed in. Every and any finish at MDS is coveted, but this 35th 2021 edition may well just be the most coveted. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster for all concerned. Considerable highs and lows have taken its toll and the elation of the marathon day finish line and the sight of a medal is a pleasure for all.
For now, it’s time to celebrate the race and finishers. Send our love to the fallen and his family and remind all those who this year who were forced to withdraw, that they were in the arena.
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” – Roosevelt
- Rachid El Morabity 21:17:32
- Mohamed El Morabity 21:32:12
- Mérile Robert 22:39:02
- Aziza Raji 30:30:24
- Tomomi Bitoh 34:39:17
- Aicha Omrani 35:47:48
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