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!
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