The women’s race may not have had the nail biting action of the mens race, nonetheless, it started with Sylvain Cussot and Anna Comet Pascua running together to Cp1 and beyond. Anna, no doubt running with reserves and safety ensuring that she did nothing to put at risk her overall lead on the general classification.
As the race progressed, Anna eventually moved away from Sylvaine and increased her lead to cross the finish line in 9:43:19 – an incredible time and one that brings her ranked highly on the GC overall. It’s yet to be confirmed but she may well be in the top-10?
Sylvaine has embraced the MDS and has revelled in the conditions, always smiling, always happy. She crossed in 10:10:53 and now her 2nd overall is secured.
Aziza Elamrany once again ran a brilliant day and her 3rd place on the stage in 10:23:20 ahead of the 2021 chapion, Aziza Raji in 11:17:12, now places her 3rd on GC.
Notably, Beth Rainbow from the UK had a great day and finished 5th in 11:34:19.
The long day is feared for many reasons, the distance, the weather, the night, the unexpected… As in every edition, there are demons to be fought and mental battles to be won. Conditions were, in general, kind, with less heat, some cloud, the odd rain shower and a cooler night. As I write, some are still battling to achieve a finish, the main priority is to keep ahead of the camels!
Tomorrow, stage 5 is marathon distance and the 2022 champions will be crowned. The women’s race, barring a disaster will be a formaility with Anna, Sylvaine and Aziza placing 1, 2 and 3.
The men’s race will be a nail biter. Early in the week I disclosed that I was convinced that the El Morabity brothers had a plan and strategy, that came to fruition yesterday. Now with the marathon stage to go, the duo will mark Aziz and make sure he is kept under control so that 1st place and 2nd is secure. At some point, Mohamed will allow his brother Rachid, to take over the front of the race and gain the 37-second deficit that currently places him 2nd and therefore will allow him his 9th MDS victory. Can Aziz mess up this plan?
It may well have been one of the most exciting days in the history of the Marathon des Sables… It was the feared long day of 85.8km. A long one for the 36th edition but the longest came in 2009 with 92km!
As I write, the top men have finished and the first woman is to cross the line, so, I will update on the men and follow up on the MDS ‘rest day’ with a report on the women’s race.
Today was all to fight for. Aziz Yachou was in 1st place, Mohamed El Morabity in 2nd and surprisingly, 8x MDS champion, Rachid El Morabity was in 3rd – 9-minutes behind the leader.
Some had said Rachid was not in form. I doubted this… To me, all along, Rachid had respected and feared the ability of Aziz and he had to race smart.
Rachid started day 1 from the front to build time over Aziz, he won the stage but his time gain was minimal. He therefore had to rethink and place doubts in Aziz’s mind about his fitness and strength. He set out on day 2, once again from the front but relinquished the lead and lost time. On day 3 he ran for over an hour in the lead and was then caught and passed, once again losing time. His brother however raced strong.
Come the long day, my thoughts were Rachid would play his ace and his brother would defend and block helping facilitate his brothers 9th victory. Of course, this plan was risky. It required superb form and confidence from Rachid. It also required Aziz not to be a strong.
It was a masterpiece day. By 10km Rachid had 2-minutes, at 20km 4-minutes, then 6, 8 and at 50km the lead was over 10-minutes. It was incredible to watch.
Behind, Mohamed marked Aziz but sensing Aziz fading at the 50km mark, Mohamed also made a move and pulled away from his fellow Moroccan. Now bridging the gap to his brother.
Racing comes no better than this. Chess in running.
After a stunning day of racing, King Rachid crossed the line in 7:27:04. Mohamed crossed in 7:30:46 gaining a great deal of time on his brother from the 50km to 85.8km finish. Finally, Aziz crossed 7:39:48.
Of course, everyone was keen to know the overall classification? With 15:25:26 elapsed, Mohamed El Morabity leads the 36th MDS. Rachid is in 2nd just 37-seconds behind and now Aziz is 3rd 4:34 behind Mohamed.
One thing is for sure, the ‘marathon’ stage is going to be a nail biter as the El Morabity brothers put their final phase of their plan in to action.
Wow, what a day!
Now the race continues for the many hundreds who will see darkness disappear and they enjoy a journey through the night. The allocated time to complete is 35-hours.
By MDS standards, today was not a hot day. Cloud moved in and out, once or twice it rained and as the sun disappeared, the wind started to increase. It may well be a cold night for many!
The relentless wind and sand storms eased during the night to reveal a clear day that was considerably Warmer than those that had gone before. Another windy day was forecast and of course sand would be blown about, hopefully the full-on no visibility conditions of the previous day would not reappear – everyone hoped! As afternoon came the wind constantly increased making conditions challenging!
Stage 3 at 32km is a beautiful stage with two exposed ridges split by Cp1, a flat plateaux crossing, the climb of Jebel El Otfal from the normal side and the descent using the gully which the runners climbed on stage 2. At the bottom, a small section of dunes and then flat terrain all the way to the finish. For some, me included, one of THE best stages in all of MDS history. The two ridges and Otfal provide more climb, exposure and challenge and if you like the mountains and vertical, this is a Sahara dream.
Rachid, once again, went off from the front and set the pace. Three days in a row he has done this – most unusual. I chatted with him in camp before the stage. He was having breakfast with his brother. I asked how he was, his reply simple, he winked and said, “I am very good my friend!”
I am convinced he and his brother have a plan!
Rachid controlled the front of the race for an hour or more and then relinquished the lead to Mohamed and Aziz. The duo pulled away and crossed the line together in 2:36:43.
Rachid, once again for the 2nd day finished 3rd and lost more time, his finish coming in 2:38:21.
For those in the know, Rachid never concedes time and does not not finish 1st often. To allow his brother and Aziz to pull away only confirms for me that he has a big plan ready for the long day… It’s risky, he is now nearly 9-minutes behind the race leader, Aziz. My thoughts are that he wants Aziz to believe that he is not in good form, that he is struggling and then on the long day, he will unleash a ferocious pace, take back the lost time and gain time to take the lead. Of course, Mohamed will be used as a distraction and a game maker to make this happen. It’s exciting to see how this will play out.
Of course, the other scenario is that Rachid really is tired and not on form? I don’t believe that.
Anna Comet Pascua once again delivered a solid performance and with her skyrunning background, I am sure she will have revelled on the ridges and climbs. She won the stage in 3:26:49 ahead of Sylvaine Cussot in 3:35:51. A smaller margin than yesterday but no doubt Anna was conserving energy for the 85km long day.
Aziza Elamrany once again finished 3rd in 3:49:11 ensuring that the Moroccan home ground will be happy with a podium ranking.
Tomorrow is the long day and as always it will be a key day that will dictate the potential outcome of the 36th MDS. Nothing is guaranteed, anything can happen on a day of this length and in these conditions. Each runner will need their ‘A’ game to run to their potential and dreams.
Rachid went off like a shot again… Pushing the pace and behind everyone pursued. Then suddenly, in the space of a couple of km’s he relinquished the lead and hovered somewhere around 10th. I am not sure if there had been a ‘natural break’ requirement or if this had been an intentional move? Certainly it wasn’t blowing up!
His brother, Mohamed took over the lead and on a climb before Cp1 was pushing the pace with Aziz following.
Rachid was now further back. It all made sense, in my opinion, the brothers were playing a tactical game on Aziz. I guess my cycling background is at work and my conclusion is Rachid has sent Mohamed out as a decoy, to allow Aziz to take over the lead in the race and placing Mohamed in second. This is a great move potentially. It would take pressure of Rachid to defend and force Aziz and Mohamed to control the front of the race and thus allowing Rachid to pounce… Rachid will need to feel very confident for this move, if not, his 9th victory may not happen!
After Cp2 and climbing the stoney side of Jebel Otfal, Mohamed descended first and he continually looked over his shoulder for Aziz. Aziz followed not long later, within 60-seconds. It was however 4-minutes before Rachid appeared, now in 3rd. Was Rachid tired, or was he playing the tactic as mentioned above?
At the line, Mohamed crossed in 3:07:40, Aziz in 3:08:52 and Rachid 3:16:22 for the 38.5km stage. You don’t usually see a result like this in the early stages of MDS for Rachid!
The overall placing Aziz in first, Mohamed in 2nd and Rachid in 3rd, 5:13:29, 5:17:56 and 5:20:38 respectively.
The 36th Marathon des Sables is now Aziz’s to defend and the brothers to pursue. What an exciting 36th edition this is going to be.
The women’s race was strung out with Anna Comet Pascua dictating from the front with an incredibly strong performance. I said yesterday, she came her to win and this is being proven with her result in stage 2, crossing the line in 4:06:17.
Sylvaine Cussot as on stage 1 pursued and always with a smile, she finished a strong and convincing second in 4:18:46.
Aziza Elamrany had showed promise on stage 1 for a podium place and today that came true finishing ahead of the 2021 MDS champion and fellow Moroccan, Aziza Raji, her time 4:39:38.
The overall podium after 2 stages placing Anna and Sylvaine 1 and 2 ahead of Aziza Raji in 3rd, 6:58:37, 7:15:11 and 7:45:03 respectively.
It’s all to fight for on stage 3!
Stage 2 was marked by extremely strong wind and sandstorms that battered the runners. There was also an increase in temperatures recorded at cp2 of +10deg in 1 hour. At the time of writing there have been 49 drop outs today.
The 2022 Marathon des Sables got underway today, the 36th edition coming quickly after the 35th which took place in October 2021.
Conditions in March are very different to those encountered in 2021 with cool nights and relatively mild daily temperatures for the Sahara.
Of course, anticipation was high in bivouac, a mixture of excitement and nerves. However, Patrick Bauer, as per usual, calmed everyone from the roof of his Land Rover with his daily morning introduction to the day. The race was underway at 0900 as planned.
Unusually, Rachid El Morabity went to the front and set the pace. He meant business! He was followed by Julien Chorier and within 400m they had already opened a gap… This was a very unusual Rachid tactic. He usually bides his time, eases in to the day and the slowly speeds up; not today.
Rachid started as he meant to go on and won the day! But why did he start so hard? Quite simply, in my opinion, he knows he has a race on his hands this year with Aziz Yachou who pushed him last year and had he not had a time penalty, the result just may have been different?
After the fast start, Aziz pursued and at the line had closed the gap, Rachid 2:04:16 and Aziz 2:04:37. So close!
Julien Chorier faded to 5th in 2:16:12 and Mohammed El Morabity after a slow start moved in to 3rd 2:10:16 with Cédric Fleureton 4th in 2:14:40.
One thing is for sure, Rachid will need to work his year and it is clear that he knew this before the start. He looked leaner and fitter, not that he has ever looked any different. But pre-race there was a different look. It’s subtle. The cheeks just a little gaunt and his legs more defined.
The women’s race was a different story with a more gradual start to the day with a clear strategy forming. Anna Comet Pascua came here to with the race and although she had run with others in the opening km’s, by Cp1 she had taken the lead and she went on to win the stage in 2:52:20.
Sylvaine Cussot finished 2nd in 2:56:25 and the 2021 champion, Aziza Raji finished 3rd in 2:59:41. Amelia Culshaw from the UK was 4th ahead of multi MDS champion, Laurence Klein, 3:06:10 and 3:13:01 respectively. The women’s race is set for an exciting battle as the terrain becomes more challenging and the distances increase.
The stage one route was just over 30km’s, flat but had plenty of soft sand and several small hills and dunes but nothing substantial to make the day difficult. It was a good day 1 for all to ease in and for the top men and women, a fast one! Rachid’s time was incredible… We are in for a fast men’s race.
Who would have thought that Kilian Jornet would leave his sponsor, Salomon?
The duo seemed in perfect synergy:
Salomon is Kilian.
Kilian is Salomon.
As Kilian said on the 30th November 2021, ‘I remember like it was yesterday in the summer of 2003, a friend of a friend gave me a few pairs of trail running shoes. This guy was the director of marketing for Salomon Spain. From that moment on, Salomon not only came a sponsor but a life partner…’
Together, Salomon and Kilian dreamed big… ‘From winning trail and skimo races to climbing high mountains. I was able to make dreams come true that I didn’t even believe possible, and it was in large part thanks to this team.’
For many of us, me included my journey in trail, mountain, ultra and skyrunning coincides with Kilian’s meteoric rise to be the ‘GOAT’ – Greatest Of All Time. We have absorbed his journey, jaws have dropped at his ability, we have had our minds blown by his escapades but now, a new period of history will be made.
I first met Kilian in 2012 and I feel lucky to have shared his journey, notably in skyrunning which Kilian holds very close to his heart. Ask Kilian who provided him the motivation to pursue his dreams and set goals and he will respond with, ‘Bruno Brunod, Fabio Meraldi, Marino Giacometti and Marco De Gasperi.’ This was reflected in his ‘Summits of my Life’ project and particularly his record on the Matterhorn.
Since November, we have all looked back and remembered our journey with Kilian and wonder what is next?
Notably, there have been significant changes for Kilian in recent years. His relationship with Emelie Forsberg, his life in Norway and the arrival of two children most certainly would make one assess and look ahead to a different future. But importantly, the planet, environment and going ‘Green’ has been a very important part of the ‘new’ Kilian. So, it is or was fair to assume that any new project would have ecology at its core.
We have been teased. On the 2nd of February Kilian posted a video of him running with his shoes blurred. He called it, ‘Testing.’
On February 14th he ran a 100-mile race, the Tjörnarparsen Ultra in Skåne, much of the attention was about what was on his feet.
February 23rd he announced his 2022 calendar: Pierra Menta, Zegama, Hardrock 100, Sierre Zinal and UTMB. It was a classic KJ year starting with skimo, a return to the iconic Zegama, Hardrock 100 which is maybe Kilian’s favourite race, the fast and athletic Sierre Zinal and the surprise, UTMB.
On March 5th, Kilian announced he would no longer partner with Suunto, a significant departure as Suunto and Salomon go hand-in-hand. On March 7th, he announced he had joined Coros.
Finally, March 21st we are teased with, ‘Want to find out what’s behind the pixels of the last few months?’ There were some clues in the post, notably the sign-up details linking to The Normal Company, S.L. Which in turn links to Mountainlife SL and again links to Lymbus who manage Kilian. One thing was for sure, links to Mallorca and the brand ‘Camper.’
Well now, that future is disclosed.
It seems a lifetime since November 30th but today, March 2022, Kilian announces his project.
NNormal – Kilian Jornet and Camper will blaze a new trail with NNormal.
A new outdoor sportswear brand, designed and tested between the coasts of Mallorca and the fjords of Norway. The brand’s first products will be launched this Fall. The name reflects the Norway/ Mallorca (Nor-way + Mal-lorca) – designed in Mallorca and tested in Norway.
Kilian speaks on the new project:
“Sharing the same values was a strong motivation to start this project. We agreed that we need a new way of thinking and acting in relation to our environment and outdoor activities… We want to be very honest on how we produce the equipment and on the role the company wants to play for the society and the environment. This means transparency and working to avoid overconsumption by building products that are durable.”
Notably, CEO of Camper, Miguel Fluxà commented:
“Building a new brand is always a very exciting adventure, although we are aware of the challenges involved… We are complementary partners of NNormal. Having the opportunity to conceive it with someone like Kilian is unique: to combine performance with personal responsibility strongly resonates with our DNA. He brings his strong product development expertise and unique vision of the outdoor world, while Camper brings innovation, shoemaking, and design know-how.”
The NNormal assortment will be launched in FW22 in Europe & North America via nnormal.com and specialist outdoor and running stores. The first drop will be limited, focusing on footwear, apparel and accessories for trail running and hiking. Kilian Jornet—the first ambassador of the NNormal team which will be revealed in the coming weeks—will wear them during this year’s race season.
Welcome to NNormal. Your Path, No Trace.
As mentioned above, until early March, Kilian’s new project was a ?. However, with research, it was possible to find out certain things and all my research led to Mallorca and Camper, so, it’s interesting to see that confirmed. Tofol Castanyer is ex Salomon and lives on Mallorca – no doubt instrumental in helping Kilian. As for the new team, it goes without saying Emelie Forsberg will join NNormal but it is not confirmed. There are also some other key names linked if you know where to look… For now, I will hold those names for fear of upsetting any future announcement. However, they can be seen here: https://www.nnormal.com/en/community/
As expected, a strong reference to respecting nature and ecology is paramount and the mission statement includes a reference to products that should be repairable, reusable, or repurposed or recyclable. Camper have already pioneered this with several projects. https://www.camper.com/en_GB/content/social_responsibility
The brand wishes to explore new ways to do things with product, sustainability, business, and social responsibility.
Of course, Kilian and his team will be able to pave a new way and lead by example. That will be relatively easy with Camper backing the project. Of course, the question mark will come how paving a new way still makes the business profitable and viable.
One thing is for sure, this new project will raise a few eyebrows. Camper and run shoes are not the obvious synergy. But Camper has the money and experience and no doubt, this partnership with Kilian must go back many months if not years. A shoe takes a long time to develop, especially a shoe that Kilian will endorse.
“All talk and no action equate to nothing. We know it’s not what we say, but what we do, that defines who we are.”
To conclude, the NNormal manifesto
We run for simple reasons and with a clear mind.
1. We blaze our own trail
Someone once said, we are our dreams… and if we don’t dream, we are no longer
alive. Our unique creative path drives us to give back to people and the planet.
2. Our home is outdoors
We’re passionate about outdoor sports—but above all we’re people. Reaching
the summit is also about the emotions and memories of everyone who’s come
with us on our journey.
3. We empower simplicity
Simplicity means that with less, we can do more. The simplest solution will be
the most efficient, but also the most difficult to imagine.
4. We take responsibility
In the outdoors, just as in life, you rely on the strength of your partners. We won’t
lose our way because there is no set way. We’re responsible for all our actions,
good or bad.
5. We act louder than we speak
All talk and no action equate to nothing. We know it’s not what we say, but what
Imagine starting in the far north on a volcanic island and travelling to the southern tip by foot. During a night, a day and maybe even another night, it is possible to cross mountain peaks, run through deep valleys, past incredible rock formations, through pine forest and along dry riverbeds taking in the flagship race that makes the Transgrancanaria ‘Classic’ race – now 20-years old.
“I love Transgrancanaria because it’s the ultimate race. It has everything. Technical paths, flow paths, heat, running through the night and both terrain and time of day change. The atmosphere is top notch, both among the runners and those who cheer.” – Margrethe Fjetland Løvold
A rollercoaster, both mentally and physically, the trip will require you to dig deep, but in the process create unforgettable memories. Night trails to Teror and Artenara. The village of Tajeda. Sunrise at Roque Nublo. The steep climbing and descent to San Bartolomé de Tirajana and then the dusty, rocky and sandy trails that lead to the finish in Maspalomas.
“Transgrancanaria is a race I have dreamed of for several years. Standing on the starting line with 700 other like-minded ultra-runners in an insane mood is difficult to describe. There are people everywhere on the trail, at all hours of the day, cheering you on. One of my highlights as an ultra-runner!” – Frode Wiggen
This is Transgrancanaria! A point-to-point race that allows one to experience some of the best trails that Gran Canaria has to offer. The race is world famous and attracts thousands of runners from around the world. Here the elite gather to compete for the honor and glory in Europe’s first big race of the season.
It’s a race for all, not just the elite. The 2022 edition was won by Pablo Villa and Ragna Debats, but most who start just dream of a finish. Winning in 13-hours for the 128km race is far removed from those who will battle one day and two nights to finish in under 30-hours. No matter what time, the welcome is incredible.
The 2022 edition will be remembered for a wild and challenging night – cold temperatures, strong winds, rain and even snow. It was a challenge for all! But soon after Roque Nublo, dropping below the cloud, the weather changed and warm sun and blue skies welcomed participants. It was unbelievable to witness and no doubt challenged each runner as they tried to adapt.
Pabo Villa paced himself through the night and took a convincing lead as daylight arrived. He was pursued by Pau Capell – the duo finished side-by-side in 2020. However, Pablo was too strong and he took an incredible win ahead of Pau and Pere Aurell.
For the women, Abby Hall lead the way through the night feeling very strong. However, Ragna Debats eventually caught the adidas athlete and passed her to forge ahead for victory in 16:21:29, a lead of 21-minutes over Abby. Claudia Tremps completed the podium.
In the Advanced race, Tom Evans had one of those classic stories that you read in many magazines… Plagued by injury, he had some serious operations in 2021, started a long rehabilitation process and then returned to a big race and won! What a story. Aritz Egea pushed the adidas athlete but in the end, Tom was too strong, Aritz finished 10-minutes later. Matthieu Delpeuch finished 3rd.
Ariana Wilhem finished ahead of Johanna Antila and Leah Yingling for a closely fought female Advanced podium.
In the marathon, Sebastian Ljungdahl and Sara Alonso ran too incredible and fast performances to take victory. Sara’s performance a course record. Despite the speed, they were close races with Marten Boström and Antonio Martínez completing the men’s podium. For the women, Toni McCann had a great first race in Europe placing 2nd and Anna Comet placed 3rd.
Full results listed below.
The Classic and the Marathon races feature in the Spartan Trail World Championships.
Transgrancanaria has distances for every runner, the organization realise that a north-to-south journey is too much for many. Therefore, they offer multiple options: Advanced (62km), Marathon (43km), Starter (26km) or Promo (15km) – all taking place on sections of the full route.VK El Gigante, new for 2022, is a great 1000m climb starting from San Pedro in the Ageate area of the island.
Experienced ultra and mountain runner, Abelone Lyng toed the line of the Advanced race after a full-on week pre-race, exploring the island.
“The weather was wild in the first 30 km with gusts of wind that almost blew me over a couple of times. We had mud and believe it or not, snow! But the last half of the race was cloudless skies and scorching sun. I liked the trail after Roque Nublo, it was steep and technical.”
With stunning beaches, sea, stunning weather, trails and mountains, this island in the Canaries is one of ‘the’ go-to places for racing or training. It’s no coincidence that Transgrancanaria is now in its 21st year – a clear example of why this island is a Mecca for trail and mountain runners. So, what are you going?