The 2023 Oman Desert Marathon today concluded with a 22km test concluding at the Jawaharat Bidiah Resort.
A flat day that had varied terrain, hard plateau, dunes, rocks and a backdrop of dunes, mountains and trees. It was a beautiful route.
The men’s race was really over before the day begun with Mohamed El Morabity holding a large lead over his brother Rachid.
In the early km’s Rachid was so relaxed he was almost at the back of the race, he did eventually start to chase but it was a casual affair.
From experience, I would say he was using the day as a test, allow his brother to take a lead and then in the latter km’s speed up and see how much he could close the gap.
And boy did Rachid speed up… With 10km’s to go, he turned the after-burners on and started to pick of runner’s ahead. He got 5th, 4th, 3rd and then the 2nd, Saleh Alsaidi.
With Saleh by his side, Rachid eased up allowing Saleh to finish 2nd and himself 3rd. Mohamed took a well-earned stage and overall victory.
For the women, the question was, good Corina take back 10-minutes from Aziza in 22km’s? Surely not?
The duo started together, both no doubt marking each other, however, this strategy would only play in to Aziza’s hands. With almost 5km covered, they were still together. A truce had been called?
No, before CP1, Corina went and started to sped up. Watching on, I was convinced that she had moved too late, it would require over 1-minute faster than Aziza over the final 10km!
Corina ran to the line, arms aloft, victory for the stage and then the stopwatches were started. With 5-minutes to go, Aziza was not in sight and the possibility of closing the final km in less time was not possible, however, we had to wait to be sure.
Aziza crossed almost 15-minutes later, Corina was the 2023 champion, what a run! No doubt Aziza has a story to tell and maybe she payed the price for two stunning fast days on stages 1 and 2.
Aziz Raji rounded out the podium with an excellent 3rd place.
Of course, every runner has a story. It has been a tough 4-days and 165km here in Oman, tears have been shed. But a medal and fellow travellers to enjoy the journey make it all worthwhile.
Now time for rest and recovery. A gala dinner at the Jawaharat Bidiah Resort and tomorrow, onward travel to Muscat and home destinations.
Oman has offered a great experience and excellent hospitality. What better way to explore and see a place than by running? It’s a full and immersive experience and now, race director Said and his team, will look ahead to planning 2024.
Stage 3 of the Oman Desert Marathon followed a long stage 2 of 55-km. For perspective, Mohamed won the stage in 5-hours 11-minutes, while the last runner came in close to the midnight cut-off. When you consider the 06:30am start, that is a long day on the feet.
Morning of stage 3 was rest in camp and the scheduled 3 start times would commence at midday, followed by 2pm and the final wave of top-12 runner’s departing at 4pm. Ahead 42km with all runner’s spending time in some darkness before arriving at the finish.
With a flat section to start the day, a small and beautiful dune section, and then a relatively flat run in to the line, on paper, stage 3 was by ODM standards an easy one.
If Rachid had agreed with his brother that victory was Mohamed’s to take, Rachid did not run the last stage without a fight. Actually, the contrary, he seemed to be pushing hard and looking for the advantage.
Mohamed followed at all times looked relax.
The duo exchanged the lead at multiple times and it was during darkness that Mohamed took the lead and finished strongly ahead of his brother 3:23 to 3:40 elapsed respectively, the 2023 Oman Desert Marathon is now almost certainly his!
Behind Saleh Alsaidi once again ran a very strong stage, he never came close to the Moroccan’s but his podium place is secure.
If Aziza El Amrany thought stage 3 would be an easy one, she would need to think again… Corina Sommer had the bit between her teeth and the duo pushed a hard pace. Just before CP1 Aziza got a gap, was the writing on the wall?
No! Corina fought back, caught and passed her and then opened up her own lead. As darkness came, the lead extended and it was a nail-biter to the line, Corina crossing in 4:21:09.
The clock ticked, Aziza was losing her huge lead, eventually she came and crossed in 4:36:06. Now Corina is just 10-minutes behind with one stage to go… Is it possible to get back that time in ‘just’ 22km?
Aziza Raji was off-the-pace today and finished 3rd.
Stage 2 of the 2023 Oman Desert Marathon was a 55-km soft-sand and dune festival in intense heat.
With an 06:30 start, the early hours had a chill as the participants ran a relatively flat first 25km to the second aid station.
From here, the big dunes waited and what a magnificent sight they are. Stretching far and wide, they are a relentless rollercoaster of torture for the participants.
Crossing the first set of dunes could take less than 15-minutes for the top-runners, but for many, it was over an hour of exhaustion.
On the other side, a relatively flat and straight run, before another climb, a short section of dunes at CP3 at 35km.
Now the march to the line through relentless soft-sand and only CP4 at 45km offering some rest before the line.
Rachid and Mohamed, not surprisingly, dictated the pace from the start, often running side-by-side and chatting. They are true masters of this terrain and they make it look ridiculously easy.
Aziza El Amrany once again set the pace for the women and like the El Morabity brothers, she looks at ease and at home on this terrain.
As almost a repeat from stage 1, the Omani men chased hard and eventually the Alsaidi brothers would head the chase to the Moroccan duo.
For the women, Corina and Aziza spent much of the day together chasing Amrany.
In many resects, the writing was on the wall and it was once again Mohamed who beat Rachid to the line, this time, just by seconds. For the Alsadai brothers, Saleh finished 3rd and secured his 3rd overall on GC.
Aziza was too strong for the chasing duo and took another victory. This time, Corina broke away from Raji and managed to claw back over 4-minutes for the GC.
The 4-stage, 165-km, 2023 Oman Desert Marathon started today with a challenging 47-km stage.
After a 3-year hiatus due to the Covid Pandemic, it was once again a pleasure to see runner’s travelling through the Oman Desert in self-sufficiency. The only items provided to participants is water and a place to sleep at the end of each day.
The atmosphere at the start was one of celebration with local vip’s present and many locals who would participate in the ‘free’ 10km, 5km and a 2km kids race.
The ODM Classic had the same start but quickly branched left and headed in the direction of the Oasis of Alwasil.
As expected, Rachid El Morabity dictated the pace for the men and Aziza El Amrany for the women.
The first day in a stage race is always a cautious one, nobody wants to go too hard and the race was close for much of the day.
Rachid was followed by his brother Mohamed and a strong contingent of Omani runner’s, in particular Saleh Alsaidi and his brother, Sami.
Aziza was followed by Corina and surprisingly, Aziza Raji, the pre-race favourite was further back.
Rachid and Mohamed played cat an mouse but in the last significant dune section, with just over 10-km’s to go, Mohamed opened a gap which he held to the line crossing in 3:53:31. Rachid surprisingly came in over 7-minutes later. The earlier hard pace set by Sami Alsaidi took it’s toll and it was Saleh who finished 3rd.
Aziza El Amrany looked very strong for the first two-thirds of the day but later looked to be suffering in the heat. She never lost her lead though and finished in 5:31:29. Despite Corina looking strong all day, Aziza Raji played the waiting game and pounced in the latter third of the day taking 2nd place in 5:37:53 to 5:45:57 for the Swiss.
Caldera Trasera is a wonderful loop from our base location, Club La Santa. It provides a short and hilly technical route that more ‘more’ exposure than many are used to. The Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp is all about pushing boundaries and learning.
Hands-on action provided some mega smiles, especially when the summit was reached. The level of comradeship was superb, everyone supporting each other to achieve their goal.
When the morning session concluded, a 3-hour break provided a time to recovery before the long afternoon run, with ‘MDS’ pack scenario.
With 20km in the legs, an overnight bivouac of self-sufficiency. The only provisions for the runner’s was rationed water and the carrying of a tent.
Darkness and it was time to eat and test out dehydrated meals that you can use on a multi-day adventure.
In comparison to 2022, the 2023 was relatively calm. Of course, wind existed, it is Lanzarote after all… However, it was a calm night.
Interested in joining us? 2024 is open for booking HERE
Day 3 of the Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp and a long run that included soft sand practice. It was a perfect day… Clear skies, hot temperatures and an opportunity to understand how to run up , down and across soft sand.
It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to be in this environment and putting to test the skills required come Marathon des Sables or similar race.
The on-hand and advice from the guides invaluable. It doesn’t matter about ability, everyone on the camp is a sponge trying to soak up the advice.
After a break, the afternoon session on ‘Fast and Light’ provided an insight on Fastpacking by Ian Corless and Abelone Lyng. While an emphasis was placed on Marathon des Sables, other races and environments were considered, such as rainforest, mountain and snow/ ice.
Once again a short recovery run concluded the day.
Tomorrow, participants will spend a night under the stars, in bivouac, fine-tuning their self-sufficient skills in a real environemnt, with rationed water and just a tent provided.
Interested in joining us? 2024 is open for booking HERE
Day 2 of the Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp kicked off with a nice easy run/ warm up to the infamous volcano hill-rep location.
At just 70 (ish) meters of vertical, the route may well not seem to hard, however, when you repeat it enough times, it becomes very tough. The target was 10-reps, of course it varies what each individual can achieve…
The decent is a single-track trail of loose stone and gravel and the ‘recovery’ phase is a flat gravel road back to the start. It’s always a great session.
In the afternoon, a ‘How To Use Poles Session’ gave an introduction to the technique required to effectively use poles for a trail or mountain race.
This was followed with adidas Terrex athlete, Tom Evans, holding a talk on Process over Outcome and then a Q&A.
The day concluded with a short recovery session of 30-minutes as the sun set over the lagoon and sea that surrounds Club La Santa. It was a perfect day and stunning weather. Tomorrow, soft-sand.
Interested in joining us? 2024 is open for booking HERE
It was day-1 of the 2023 Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp and what a perfect day! The rain from ‘arrival’ day disappeared leaving a perfect sunny and windy day.
The morning was a 24km ‘Coastal Run’ that had over 50-participants moving along some wonderful, technical single-track on the outward route and easier gravel trails for the run home.
Spilt in to three main groups, Tom Evans and Pierre Meslet guided the faster runners, Ian Corless and Abelone Lyng the middle group and Inge Nijkamp, Kevin Webber and Steve Diederich guided the run/ walker and walkers.
The trails here a stunning and the backdrop superb. Technical trails are compensated with easier non-technical trails but the group bonding, chats and views help the km’s fly past…
After a lunch break, the afternoon was taken up with two talks: the inspirational Kevin Webber told his story of his Prostrate Cancer diagnosis and Steve Diederich (UK agent for MDS) gave an informative talk around MDS logistics.
A 5km recovery run conclude the activities of the day and then relaxation was the order of the day, with some good food, as plans were made ready for day-2.
Interested in joining us? 2024 is open for booking HERE
It’s countdown time to the 2023 Oman Desert Marathon.
Now in its 8th edition, the Oman Desert Marathon will take place January 21st to 24th. A self-sufficient race, the race takes place over 4-stages with a total distance of 165-kms.
January offers excellent conditions for a desert adventure, with highs anticipated and 25-degrees and lows of 17-degrees.
A unique race, the route provides participants the opportunity to explore and discover untouched sands and the highest dunes of Oman while running 47, 55, 42 and 21km.
“The OMD, changed my perspective on ultra-marathon running for the better. The desert is magical and beautiful, but will test you mentally and physically to your limit, but you will be a better person from it. The OMD event should be on every runner’s calendar.” – Adam May.
Arrival in Oman will be on January 20th with transfers to Al Jawharat Resort in Bidiyah. The afternoon will taken up with admin protocols and a race dinner.
Stage 1 – 47km
Satge 2 – 55km
Stage 3 – 42km
Stage 4 – 21km
Daily start times fluctuate and interestingly, Stage 3 has three starts, 1200, 1400 and 1600.
Stage 4 has an 0800 start with the race concluded by 1300 at the Al Jawharat Resort in Bidiyah resort. In the evening, an award ceremony and prize giving will take place.
While Omani runner’s will make up the majority of the field, there are participants from Spain, France, Ukraine, Italy, Germany, Poland, Britain, Belgium, Switzerland and not surprisingly, Morocco will have the main contenders for overall victory.
King of the desert, Rachid El Morabity, 9x winner of the Marathon des Sables will once again lead the field and he is without doubt, the hot favourite for overall victory.
Rachid’s brother, Mohammed, will be his main contender and should Rachid have a bad day, his brother will be able to pounce.
For the women, desert specialist, Aziz Raji, also a winner of Marathon des Sables, will be the main protagonist not only for the female victory, but quite possibly, a highly-ranked overall placing.
How to follow:
Daily reports and images will be issued on this website (connection allowing) each evening and a full and detailed race summary will follow after January 24th. On IG, @iancorlessphotography and @marathonoman
We look forward to welcoming you to the Oman Desert Marathon experience.
Trail, mountain, and ultra-running is booming and it’s clear to see. Circuits have increased, prize money has increased, ‘pro’ runner numbers have increased, and it must be accepted, with the potential rewards both financially and egotistically, there will be some tempted to dope.
Mark Kangogo at Sierre-Zinal an example. And now, Esther Chesang!
Trail running, unlike athletics, be that on the road or track, is unpredictable; tough and varied, with ups and downs, rocks, scree, and technicality, it draws comparisons to mountaineering, not road running. It’s the experience, the doing, the completing that brings the rewards. Take a marathon, on the road you may be able to complete in say 3-hours… On trail, the same distance could take, 4,5, 6-hours or even longer for the same runner. Road running rules don’t apply, a trail runner’s needs are different, except maybe for the sense of fair play, truth, and integrity.
Well, times are a changing
Look at cycling, athletics, and other financially lucrative sports. Doping has been a problem. Trail has been relatively void of positive cases. Note, I say positive cases, not void of doping. It’s fair to assume that doping has happened, but it’s impossible to confirm at what levels. The 2015 case of Gonzalo Calisto testing positive for EPO at UTMB was the writing on the wall. I wrote at length about the case and issues. Read HERE.
It was a call to awareness with the #cleansport tag being used on social media and many prominent trail runners backed up the call. It all got a little muddy with the blanket of the Quartz Program which effectively was/is as useful as a chocolate teapot.
Now, the iconic Sierre-Zinal has had to suffer and endure two positive tests for the respective male and female winners. Ridiculously, the female positive was announced January 2023! She was confirmed positive in May 2022 after a road marathon! Oh, my word, we have a long way to go.
Is now the time to act, before the sport we love heads in a southern direction? If left alone, we may not be able to turn the tide.
But how prevalent is doping in trail, mountain and ultra?
A research paper published August 2017 (HERE) stated that : ‘estimated prevalence of past-year doping was 43.6%’ (from one event) –from a survey of 2167 athletes at two sporting events. That’s an horrendous statistic. The conclusion, ‘doping appears remarkably widespread among elite athletes, and remains largely unchecked despite current biological testing.’ Now this wasn’t trail running, but, one has to maybe assume, the situation is worse than maybe we think…
Skyrunning in many ways paved the way with testing, admittedly not at all events due to cost. But at key events, World Championships for example, WADA tests were conducted. Here is a quote from 2014:
“In compliance with the WADA protocol,11 anti-doping tests were carried out across the three disciplines, which included two for EPO (Erythropoietin). The tests were based in part on arrival order and in part random which included several members of the podium in each discipline. All results were negative.”
UTMB incorporated testing in 2015 and look what happened, Gonzalo Calisto was caught.
Trail runners are effectively hippies. We are on the outside, a weird and wild bunch of adventure and adrenaline seekers who do not want to be confined by rules. This rings true for well over 90% of us, but for those at the top, the pinnacle, who are now becoming professional, this is a business. In any business, corruption can take a hold and doping steals rewards, glory, and recognition.
ITRA, IAAF, WMRA, USATF, Skyrunning and the list goes on. Is it time for trail, ultra and mountain running to be incorporated within one Global Federation where rules and regulations could be imposed? Until now, the answer has been no, the excuse being trail running would lose its freedom and spirit. Many are opposed that a ruling body should not only dictate rules but also profit from ‘our’ sport. Look at the current divisive arguments on the growth of the ‘by UTMB’ and Ironman merger, they only reflect and affirm these thoughts for some.
Do we want in-competition and out-of-competition rules that includes comprehensive random drug testing?
Pro-runner or not, at the end of the day, I think it’s fair to say that you (we) got into the sport not for rewards, glory, and money but through heart. First and foremost, we had a need for nature, adventure, freedom, and open spaces, this was the motivator, not a podium and a cheque.
Of course, rules do already exist, ‘no doping’ is a rule for all sports, mandatory kit (for some races) is a requirement, and the list goes on. But the list in many cases is left to the RD, race organization and more importantly, budget. There is no one set of rules that should be adhered to worldwide and this can be part of the problem, which is why the IOC had the Lausanne Agreement.
Is it time for this to happen?
The fear of cheating, being ‘found out’ and the ongoing disgrace, public humiliation and shame may well have served as a deterrent in trail, until now.
The IAAF finally stepped in to suppress the ever-growing problems of doping with a set of rules to help control a rising problem. The IOC then took this one step further at the Olympics with one set of codes, rules and regulations that blended all anti-doping restrictions in one with theLausanne Declaration. This was a pivotal moment and within one year, WADA (World Anti-Doping Association) was created.
WADA oversees testing of several hundred thousand athletic blood and urine samples annually: ‘…of which 1–2% test positive. Measures using the Athlete Biological Passport suggest a higher mean prevalence of about 14% positive tests. Biological testing, however, likely fails to detect many cutting-edge doping techniques, and thus the true prevalence of doping remains unknown.’ – August 2017
It was like the Lord of the Rings – One ring (rule) to rule them all.
Simple huh, WADA produce a list of banned substances. You, as an athlete, look at the banned list and DO NOT use anything that is listed.
Argh, but there is always a loophole. The wonderful TUE – Therapeutic Use Exemption. Amazing how many asthmatic runners are out there. Yes, WADA had to accept that some athletes have a legitimate medical condition that allows the use of a TUE.
The TUE has been used to gain an advantage, no question.
And what about NSAID’s? Read a report HERE about Parkrun. Running 5km is a long way from trail and ultra, but it shows a trend. Now WADA do not list these on the banned list, but, UTMB have gone one step ahead HERE.
Should we just relax? After all, if the winner of Sierre-Zinal takes drugs, it doesn’t really impact on me or you, the slow guy or gal who is out running for fun and adventure, does it?
Well yes, it impacts on the core and the ethos of the sport, the sense of fair play.
So here we are, 8-years on from Gonzalo Calisto at UTMB, a pivotal moment, and now we are once again fuelled by discussion of the two positive cases at Sierre-Zinal. Of course, there have been other positive cases in this interim period.
But the doping fire has been re-ignited.
Update, just hours after this post, Kilian Jornet posted THIS on IG.
There is much talk, opinion, and discussion, for me, it’s time to seize the momentum and move in to 2023 with some new impetus.