A beautiful calm morning welcomed the runners to stage 1 of the 37th edition of Marathon des Sables. Finally, the wait would be over and the challenge could begin.
Needless to say, nerves and excitement filled bivouac but the general consensus was, ‘I just want to get started!’
And started they did, precisely at 0830 the runners departed after Patrick Bauer’s compulsory briefing.
Visilli from Russia set the early pace and pulled away with the ‘hot favorites’ behind allowing him to open a gap. Erik Clavery followed. Rachid as per usual eased in to the day, starting further back and slowly pressing the accelerator to increase speed.
Mohamed El Morabity, Aziz Yachou, Mathieu Blanchard and a string of other top-10 hopefuls chased the duo.
But eventually, the race started to come together with the two early protagonists caught and after Cp2 Rachid started to apply the pressure. He opened a gap and behind nis brother marked Aziz Yachou and Mathieu Blanchard.
By the line, Rachid crossed in 2:46:15 and a 1-minute margin over his brother, Mohamed. Aziz finished 1-second later and Mathieu fourth in 2:51:48.
It was a strong start for Rachid, he his here for his 10th victory and he looks strong!
In the women’s race, as expected, Ragna Debats lead from the front and it stayed that way all the way to the line. At all times she looked relaxed, it control and running within herself, her time, 3:26:40.
Behind, Maryline Nakache pulled away from Aziza El Amrany after running together for many km’s. The French woman was to strong and she stopped the clock in 3:36:29.
El Amrany certainly suffered from earlier efforts and finished in 3:53:54, just managing to hold off Jodie Moss from the UK who closed well to finish in 3:57:47.
It was a hot day! Despite early morning cloud and occasional wind, the heat certainly took its toll with many runners arriving exhausted. Stage 2 is shorter than day 1, but, it has more climbing, more technical sections and more soft-sand. It will be a tough day.
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