Marathon des Sables 2019 #MDS #MDS2019 – Day 1 Administration

Runners from all over the world assembled in Morocco for the start of the 34th of the iconic Marathon des Sables, created by Patrick Bauer, 34 years ago!

With a total of 226km’s ahead, the heat of the desert was not the only pressure the participants felt as bivouac 1 was erected in the heart of southern Morocco, close to Erfoud, after a 6-hour journey from Ourzazate.

Day-1 in camp is all about admin as all participants go through a series of checks to ensure their safety on the epic Saharan journey. Running in a self-sufficient manner for 6-days, through intense heat with only water and a tent cover supplied provides a very unique challenge on every runner. It is the reason why, ‘MDS’ as it is known, has pioneered the growth of multi-day racing worldwide.

Since 1986, the statistics show that just over 20.000 runners have participated – That is less than a ‘typical’ year at London Marathon!

To toe the line is a truly unique and life-changing journey.

This years race is a truly unique race with a seriously beautiful course laid out that will show the best of this region. Heading south from Erfoud, the runners will pass through Merzouga Dunes, and on day-5 climb the infamous Jebel Oftal.

For now though, the runners are under bivouac cover, admin day completed and with a hearty welcome from Patrick Bauer.

Tomorrow, the 34th edition starts at 0900, with a relatively easy day of 32.2km.

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Marathon des Sables 2018 #MDS2018 – Stage 4

The long day! It’s the day that makes the Marathon des Sables and it is the one most feared by the runners. The 86.4km’s of stage 4 are classic MDS and yes, they are beautiful km’s combining many of the elements that make the Sahara and Morocco so unique. However, soft sand and dunes are not the friend of the long distance runner, particularly when trying to cover distance as quickly as possible.

It was an epic day!

Intense heat during the day with strong winds as sunset came and then a very cold night making most runners wear down jackets to keep warm – it was a tough day for all, Rachid finished in 8:12:05 for the men and Magda 10:29:58 for the women. As I write this, 27-hours have elapsed and runners are still out on the course trying to finish ahead of the 35-hour cut off.

Camp life is key to the MDS – being self-sufficient, carrying everything you need, the only provisions are rationed water and a bivouac (tent) shared with 7 others.

The day started at 08:30 for the masses and 11:30 for the top 50.

Rachid El Morabity and Natalia Sedykh as expected dictated the pace at the front. Rachid consolidating his lead and showing the rest of the elite men who is the boss! It’s quite simple, when it comes to the desert, Rachid is the king. He glides over the terrain, almost floating – he is beautiful to watch. He dictated the day and won with a 20+-minute margin.

For the ladies, Natalia was always going to push and see if she could claw back the 1-hour penalty time and regain the overall lead. By CP1 she had 3-minutes, by CP2 Magda was catching the Russian and then after CP4 it was all over… Natalia broke with the pressure and was forced to ease up eventually finishing 6th on the stage.

For the men, Rachid’s brother, Mohamed, followed in the footsteps of teacher and once again placed 2nd, 8:33:52 to Rachid’s 8:12:05. France’s Merile Robert excelled finishing 3rd 8:43:35 and Lithuanian Gediminas Grinius finishing 4th. The ever-present Abdelkader El Mouaziz had a tough day finishing 5th in 9:19:09.

Magdalena Boulet from the USA showed her strength at long distances and dominated the stage running a clever race firstly behind Natalia and then passing her and running strong all the way to the line in 10:29:58.

With Natalia’s explosion, it was all to fight for for the ladies podium and Bouchra Eriksen once again showed real consistency finishing 3rd ahead of the UK’s Gemma Game, their times 11:22:36 and 11:29:00 respectively. The UK’s Anna Marie Watson had a bad day with stomach issues and finished 9th. This opened the door for The USA’s Emily Kratz and Jacqueline Mariash to finish 4th and 5th in 12:08:49 and 12:24:15.

With the marathon stage tomorrow, the podium looks set with Rachid and Magda the 2018 Marathon des Sables champions.

The long day though is really so much more than discussing the elites who seem to run with ease over the harsh terrain. The day is about all the runners, the mid-packers, the slow, the runner out of their comfort zone, the runner looking for a lifetime achievement, the runner looking for adventure, the runner with a mid-life crisis – the long day changes people and it changes me as I experience their journeys. The lows of a withdrawal at a CP or the highs of a hard fought finish. 

THIS IS THE MDS!

It brings a tear to me eye as I document the journey from early in the day, through the night and into a 2nd day.

I have heard ultra runners say that the MDS is easy. It is not! Trust me, it is not… The cut-off times are generous but ask yourself, running or walking, would you like to be out there for 35-hours?

I am honoured to document this race and I salute all those who tried this year and failed. It is not a failure… trust me! You put yourself on the start line and risked a great deal. You will be back.

For those who fought sleep deprivation, hunger, blisters, the cold, the heat, tired aching muscles and so much more – congratulations. You have achieved something quite incredible this long day. With ‘just’ a marathon to go. The 2018 MDS is on paper, ‘in the bag!’

Full results HERE

Overall GC going into the last official stage:

  1. Magdalena Boulet 20:51:40
  2. Bouchra Eriksen 22:05:02
  3. Gemma Game 22:30:52
  4. Natalia Sedykh 23:47:31
  5. Anna Marie Watson 24:24:21
  6. Rachid El Morabity 16:04:08
  7. Mohamed El Morabity 16:37:30
  8. Merile Robert 17:07:55
  9. Abdelkader El Mouaziz 17:28:08
  10. Gediminas Grinius 17:58:58

Marathon des Sables PERU 2017 #MDSPeru – RACE DAY 2

Gediminas Grinius did not have a good day yesterday, his stomach was angry with him and he had a tough first experience of the Marathon des Sables Peru. Today, however, he was refreshed and with new energy. He dictated the early pace for the 42.2km from Coyungo to Samac. In reality, he pretty much led the race until Remigio Huaman and of course, Rachid El Morabity closed in on him and passed him.

Rachid ran very relaxed in the early stages, he is known for this! He likes to take his time, settle in to the day and then push hard, close the gaps and then lead from the front for victory. It was a text book day for the Moroccan. He seemed to revel in the arena in which he had to play! It was a stunning day and very different to Morocco. Big landscapes, high dunes, canyons, rivers, moon like landscape, there colours of sand and some intense heat and strong winds.

From the gun, Grinius, Huaman and Erik Clavery seemed on a mission after day 1 not going to plan. Huaman and Clavery had lost 2nd and 3rd places due to the heat and dehydration and it obviously had motivated them to come back and try again. Grinius ran ahead and Huaman closely followed. Clavery ran in 3rd and Julien Chorier, who placed 2nd on day 1, ran with El Morabity. Grinius was looking strong out front but Huaman was also looking comfortable trailing the Lithuanian.

There was a distinct point when El Morabity switched gear and he then chased down and past everyone to take another victory by approximately 7-minutes. Huaman hunted Grinius down and then finally passed with Grinius placing 2nd – it was a great day for these two and certainly makes for an interesting competition.

Nathalie Mauclair once again dictated the ladies race from the front. In the early stages, Melanie Rousset was keeping close and following her fellow French lady and it looked as though we may have a battle on our hands. However, Mauclair snapped the elastic and moved away from the competition and in reality, most of the men.

Rousset, as in the previous day, ran strong in 2nd and this is where she stayed for the whole day. Rocio Carrion once consistent and paced herself for another 3rd place. Josephine Adams is the leading British lady and she was in 4th position after day 1, today she finished 5th.

The day will be remembered for the course and the landscape, it was stunning! The early miles took place on a sandy road that slowly climbed up to Cp1. From here, the first dunes of MDS Peru welcomed the runners and they were stunning. A sandy plateau gently introduced the runners to the canyon of Rio ICA and here the course became something quite special with mixed sandy and rocky terrain and stunning views off into the distance. It was a day not to forget.

Tomorrow’s stage is 32.7km and finishes in Ocucaje. However, most runners will be thinking of the day after, day 4, the in-famous ‘long-day!’ Of the MDS.

  1. Rachid El Morabity 4:18:23
  2. Remigio Huaman 4:25:36 (Remigio has now moved into 2nd overall)
  3. Gediminas Grinius 4:26:04

 

  1. Nathalie Mauclair 5:00:41
  2. Melanie Rousset 5:36:18
  3. Rocio Carrion 6:12:04

Live Tracking HERE

Stage Results HERE