Transgrancanaria is upon us once again. Arguably, it is the first big European race to kick-off a new racing season. Due to it’s timing, it’s a popular race for many high-ranking elites, European and from over the pond, it allows them to race hard and recover in time for the next big targets that will come in May, June, July or beyond.
Starting in the north of the island, the race travels all the way south covering many kilometres with vertical in abundance. Starting at night, the race involves many hours of darkness before the arrival of dawn. It’s a tough race, ask anyone who has done it and they will tell you, ‘It is a brute!’
The 2019 line-up as in previous years is spectacular.
The 2018 champion, Pau Capell, returns looking for another victory. Pau had a relentless 2018 campaign and will for sure come to the race ready to give it all.
Cristofer Clemente placed 3rd in 2018 and is a master of pacing. Expect him to be out of the top-10 early on and then move up the ranks with the arrival of dawn.
Julien Chorier just raced in Hong Kong at the two stage 9 Dragons. He won the first day and placed 2nd on day-2, he lost time due to the heat and humidity and finished 2nd overall behind Kazufumi Ose. He will be in great shape for Transgrancanaria.
The UK’s Damian Hall has been on a roll these past year’s. He seems to really be honing his craft and 5th at the 2018 UTMB proves it. He recently set a FKT with Beth Pascall on the Cape Wrath trail – expect Damian to do really well!
Hayden Hawks won Lavaredo in 2018 and this race will be a step-up for him. His natural running ability and speed will be beaten down by this relentless course.
Min Qi won Hong Kong 100km and as anyone knows, Hong Kong trails are super tough – I see Min being a force to be reckoned with.
Vaidas Zlabys placed 2nd at Transgrancanaria in 2017 and although he has raced many races since, he hasn’t quite fulfilled the expectation of that 2017 performance… Will we see something special in 2019?
***Dmitry Mityaev from Russia has grown over the last 2-3 year’s with a string of excellent performances, most notably on the skyrunning circuit. He won High Trail Vanoise in 2018 and for sure, that is a great indicator that he has the potential for a podium performance here in Gran Canaria. ***pulled out with injury
Pablo Villa is a force to be reckoned with, he has raced over the shorter distances in previous editions. This year he moves up to the full distance.
What follows is a list of runners who have excelled on this course or others, placing in the top-10 or just outside. They will all be ones to watch and for sure, any of them could pull of a big surprise:
Johan Lantz – notable story! Four years ago he broke his leg at Transgrancanaria while in 3rd place. This is his comeback…!
The women’s line-up is a compelling one and certainly will provide a stunning race.
***Azara Garcia won Transgrancanaria in 2017 and she is back. She is always focused and fights hard – she will be difficult to beat. ***pulled out with injury
Magdalena Laczak, the 2018 champion, also returns for battle. If she, Azara and Caroline are in good form, we could witness an epic race!
Just 18-months ago, had I seen *** Caroline Chaverot’s name on a start list, I would have said, she is the one to beat. She really was unstoppable. However, the recent year and more has not been kind with a string of health problems. It’s great to see her on the start list here and I hope we see the Caroline of 2017! ***pulled out with a broken leg
Denise Zimmerman is a fierce competitor. She has been on the podium at UTMB so her long game is not in question.
Marianne Hogan may well be a surprise package? Her 2017 UTMB performance is a great indicator that she will be able to handle Gran Canaria’s tough trails.
Miao Yao like Min Qi won Hong Kong 100 in 2018 and that elevates her to a hot favourite on this course.
Lisa Borzani, Ester Alves and Ildiko Wermescher heads-up the remaining competition amongst others.
Action starts on Friday evening, March 22nd and the first runners can be expected in Maspalomas Saturday afternoon, March 23rd.
Talk Ultra needs your help!We have set up a Patreon page and we are offering some great benefits for Patrons… you can even join us on the show! This is the easiest way to support Talk Ultra and help us continue to create!Many thanks to our Patrons who have helped via PATREON
As a year comes to a close, I always like to look back and consider the highlights of the year, not only personal highlights but global highlights of the running world.
It is a daunting task at times.
The running year is now so full that it can be difficult to remember what happened just weeks ago, never mind months ago. So, with this in mind, please consider that this article is my thoughts and not a definitive highlight of 2017.
Having said that, I am going to make some huge mistakes and I am going to miss some key people, races and performances.
I welcome you, the reader, reminding me of what they are – please, just be nice!
So, let us look at 2017.
I was considering going through chronologically and in all honesty, it may have been the better solution to the task at hand, however, I have just gone on impulse!
Western States was won by Ryan Sandes and I have to say, it was a sweet victory for the South African who over the years I have considered a great friend. Ryan was my first ever interview on Talk Ultra podcast and I love his story. The non-runner who became a runner who eventually won Western States. It’s a dream story. While on the subject of Western, we also need to mention the ladies champ, Cat Bradley. While all the top contenders faded, Cat ran a sound and solid race to take the biggest win of her life. It was no one-off, something she has proven recently by setting a FKT in the Grand Canyon – Rim – to – Rim – to – Rim fastest known time in 7:52:20
Francois D’Haene is the best 100-mile mountain runner in the world – end of the story. The dude has been nailing it for years and when Rob Krar won 3 100’s in one year, so did Francois. The Frenchman has consistently dominated the distance and when the trail has vertical, he is almost unbeatable. In 2017, he elevated himself to a new level firstly beating the ‘unbeatable’ Kilian Jornet at UTMB and then setting (obliterating) the FKT for the John Muir Trail. He also ripped MIUT (Madeira Island Ultra Trail) apart, and the previous CR set by Zach Miller. Without doubt, Francois is the male ultra-runner of the year in my eyes. We just need to see him at Hardrock 100 now!
Andrea Huser blows my mind constantly. She is the most impressive and consistent runner in the ultra-world and I often ask the question, if she raced less, would she win more? She has a string of top results but often has missed the big win. But when you race as much as she does, you can’t help but just nod in respect.
Caroline Chaverot was unbeatable in 2016 and 2017 started with some issues, issues that she has battled with throughout 2017. Despite this, she won Hardrock 100. It was a great victory and not one without controversy… she left her bleeding pacer on the trail for others to help. Just recently she rounded out her year with a win at Saint E Lyon in France – the classic November night race.
Ida Nilsson and Tim Freriks kicked off their seasons with victory at Transvulcania. Ida’s win was to be expected, but Tim’s win was a revelation. The ‘cowboy’ then went on to set a FKT in the Grand Canyon. Ida continued her great running throughout 2017 and then the duo turned up at San Francisco 50 and both won again – they topped and tailed the year and we can expect big things in 2018!
Jim Walmsley and the PR machine in many ways signified a new era in the sport of ultra-running and not all for the better in my opinion. The hype around the 2017 Western States before the race pretty much had Jim with his buckle, the Cougar and a new CR. The reality was very different. Jim then went to UTMB and showed signs of learning the craft. He watched Francois and Kilian and paced his day. It eventually went wrong but he rallied and closed out strong. A definitive moment for Jim and I was well aware that this would be a turning point for his 100-mile future. He then confirmed he would run on Reunion Island at Raid de la Reunion! While I can admire the decision, for me, it was always going to be a questionable decision in regard to his ‘professional’ development. But I am being judgmental and I hope not in a negative way. I ‘get’ that Jim wanted to run on the island but the step-up from UTMB was huge and despite leading the race, he eventually dropped around the 100km mark. It has been a huge learning year for the fast man and I still hold true that up to 100km, the guy is pretty much un-matched. I am looking forward to seeing him nail 100-miles in 2018 (maybe 2019) and when he does, watch out, it will almost certainly be super-fast and mind blowing.
Kilian Jornet pretty much was missing from the mountain, ultra and trail calendar for the past 18-months and rightly so. He had set targets on the final summit of his Summits of my Life – Everest. A failed attempt in previous year and then Nepal earthquakes had put things on hold. No bad thing. Kilian learned, progressed and then finally summited Everest twice in one week which blew the minds of the whole world. Of course, anything so amazing has questions raised over it and rightly so. Just recently an article appeared and Kilian responded. Read HERE. More will come to light in regard to Everest and ultimately one has to assume the Everest film will answer all questions. Post Everest, Kilian started running again and won a super-fast Sierre Zinal, he won Hardrock 100 with a dislocated shoulder, placed 2nd behind Francois at UTMB and won Glen Coe Skyline. In the winter, he has had operations on his shoulders and now is in recovery and waiting to get back into the SkiMo season. Kilian has nothing to prove in my eyes. What does 2018 hold? Who knows really, ultimately, Kilian is at the top of his game and he will go where his heart takes him… expect a Zegama appearance, a Hardrock appearance, maybe the Bob Graham will be on the cards and maybe he will be back in Scotland for Glen Coe. Who knows? Whatever the path, he will inspire.
Camille Herron won Comrades, wow, it is the holy grail of road ultra-running. She then followed with a DNF at Western States and Leadville and I, and others, was left wondering what had happened. Oh, my word has she put the record straight. In recent weeks Camille has set a 100-mile world record 12:42:39, a 100km USA track record 7:36:39 at Desert Solstice and then went on to run for 12-hours and set a 12hr All-Surface World Record 92.708 miles. She is the new Ann Trason and arguably, she will be in for a shout as ultra-runner of the year.
Courtney Dewaulter can push Camille close. This lady won Run Rabbit Run (again) this time losing her vision in the final 10km. She then went on to win Moab 200 (actually 238-miles) outright and then recently ran 250.079km / 155.391 miles in 24-hours setting an American record. Wow!
Nuria Picas came out of the wilderness of 2016 and quite rightly, finally won UTMB. Nuria was unstoppable for many years but the big loop around Chamonix had eluded her, I firmly believe she can consider her career complete with this win!
The UK’s Dan Lawson flew around the Gobi Desert to win with a new CR at the 400km Ultra Gobi. Dan is the UK’s hottest prospect at the long game, particularly when you consider past runs on the Grand Union Canal and 2nd at the iconic Spartathlon.
Marco De Gasperi pioneered the way for Skyrunning on Monte Rosa in the early 90’s and has had incredible journey as one of the most respected mountain runners in the world. Finally, in 2017, Marco became the Skyrunner World Series (SWS) champion after an incredible season of consistent running and podium places – a true inspiration.
Maite Maiora moved up several notches in 2017 and was a dominant force on the Skyrunning circuit with a string of victories and podium places. 2017 was her year in the sky! But let us not forget Ragna Debats, she had an amazing full season and triumphed over multiple distances in addition to a great run at the IAU World Trail Champs. Also, Sheila Aviles came of age… a name to watch in future years! For the guys, keep an eye on Jan Maragarit.
UTMB had arguably the greatest male line-up of elite runners ever and it turned out to be great show down and we saw the confirmation that US runners are getting UTMB. Tim Tollefson was again flying the flag with a 3rd place. It is only a matter of time until we see an American win the big dance around France, Italy and Switzerland – will it be 2018? It could well be if Francois d’Haene and Kilian Jornet don’t run.
Hillary Allen has represented the USA in Europe for a couple of years now and once again she was doing so in 2017. However, it all fell apart, before my eyes, at Tromso SkyRace in Norway. She fell many meters, bounced on the rocks below and came away with some serious injuries. Thankfully, the recovery process has gone well and I wish Hillary well for 2018.
Ruth Croft has been in the mix for some time and I think it is fair to say that her victory at ‘Templiers’ in France recently has elevated to the New Zealander to a new level for the coming year… what does 2018 hold for this lady?
2017 most certainly has been a FKT year – Iker Karrera, Darcy Piceu, Francois d’Haene, Tim Freriks, Cat Bradley, Alicia Vargo, Rickey Gates and so many more have all taken the Fastest Known Time discipline to new heights but I wonder if ‘Stringbean’s’ FKT on the Appalachian Trail is the one that should have had more press and coverage? He soloed the AT quicker than Karl Meltzer and Scott Jurek and without help, but, relatively slipped under most radars. Read here.
Jeff Browning crushed the 100-mile distance in 2016 and did so again in 2017, he is a great ambassador for the sport.
Luis Alberto Hernando is for me, arguably one of the most talented runners in the world. But he is a quiet guy who in many ways, keeps himself to himself. He races hard and crushes the competition. In 2017, he once again became IAU World Trail Champion on a course that he, and many others said, didn’t suit him. The guy is pure class!
The UK’s Damian Hall came to running late in life (not that he is old) but he has slowly and surely chipped his way through the ultra-ranks and this year just missed the top-10 at UTMB – an incredible result.
Tom Evans broke on the scene by placing 3rd at MDS Morocco and in the process set a new benchmark for UK based runners to aim for. He followed this up with some other solid results in 2017 and I, like many others, wonder what 2018 holds in store.
Rickey Gates ran across America. Nuff said! Read here.
Ueli Steck, the Swiss Machine, died on the mountains and left the mountain world devastated by his passing. Here.
Alex Honold free soloed El Cap in arguably one of the most awe-inspiring and risky climbs in the history of the sport. It is quite literally, off the scale and beyond comprehension. I know it’s not running but it is without doubt worth a mention! Here.
The infamous Barkley once again served up another serving of spine tingling history with John Kelly finishing and Canada’s Gary Robbins left wiped out on the floor in tears. You can’t make stories like this up.
Gary Cantrell (Lazarus Lake of Barkley fame) organised a race that went through his garden, The Big Backyard Ultra. Every 60-minutes, runners set off on a loop. During the night, the loop changed. The principal was simple, you keep going till one man or woman is left Standing. Well, Guiiiaume Calmettes was that man in 2017 running 245.835 pipping Harvey Lewis.
Rachid Elmorabity once again won Marathon des Sables in Morocco proving that he is the greatest multi-day desert runner in the world at the moment. Elisabet Barnes, 2015 MDS champion once again returned to the sand pit after missing victory in 2016 and was unstoppable with a dominant and impressive force of sand running.
MDS Peru followed on the 32-year traditions of its Moroccan big brother with the first edition in Peru’s Ica Desert. This was the first time any event was allowed permission to take place in this amazing National Park. It was great first event with Morocco’s Rachid Elmorabity and France’s Nathalie Mauclair taking the top honours.
Michael Wardian did what he always does, run and run and run throughout 2017. But he kicked off the year with a world record running 7-marathons on 7-continents in 7-days. The guy just continues to impress.
Best shoes of 2017? Well, this is well and truly a can of worms and I can only answer from a personal perspective. The Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4 here blew my socks off and is now my favourite day-to-day trail running shoe. For when it gets technical, gnarly, muddy and I need an aggressive shoe, the VJ Sport iRock2 here has set a new benchmark for me in regard to grip.
Best clothing? inov-8 have continued to impress me with not only excellent run shoes but appeared to match. They now have a really specific line of products (including packs) that make them an excellent one-stop shop for anything that you would need for a messy and muddy 5km fell run to the tough and challenging 100+ mile UTMB.
Best moment of 2017? That is a serious toughie but maybe Ryan Sandes finally taking that WSER top slot. I know how much he wanted it and he didn’t have an easy journey obtaining it. Huge respect! But hey, I have been inspired by so many in 2017.
On a personal note to conclude:
For me, I started travelling in January and I stopped in December. Yes, I have been on the road for 12-months and I consider myself to be truly blessed for the opportunities I have had to follow my dreams and make a living from it. I never take it for granted! While I could go into the details of each trip, I won’t. Every race is documented in words and images on this website and my social channels and you can find out about them should you so wish.
Don’t forget Talk Ultra Podcast which has documented this sport HERE
BUT, and this is a huge BUT. My passion, and my work calendar comes at a price. I have a son, a family and an amazing partner, Niandi. They have all been neglected in 2017 with my travel and race coverage. It’s a dilemma and one that keeps me awake. I struggle for answers but I want to say THANK YOU for the support to all those people who mean the world to me, you know who you are.
Talk Ultra needs your help!We have set up a Patreon page and we are offering some great benefits for Patrons… you can even join us on the show! This is the easiest way to support Talk Ultra and help us continue to create!Many thanks to our Patrons who have helped via PATREON
New South Wales
Argyll and Bute
Redcar and Cleveland
The 32nd MARATHON DES SABLES draws near and as usual, we take a look at several of the main contenders who will toe the line looking to place on the podium of this iconic race. We look at some of the impressive statistics and we preview at the route the runners will need to cover.
Since 1986, over 20,000 participants have raced at the Marathon des Sables and over 1200 are registered for 2017. Of the 52 Nationalities represented, the British are the largest contingent followed by the French.
2017 ROUTE SUMMARY
The 32nd edition will cover 250km in five timed stages and one compulsory charity stage. Daily distances will vary from 30km to 90km. The only provision to runners is rationed water and a bivouac each night which must be shared with seven other runners. The race requires self-sufficiency and everything a runner needs must be carried for the duration of the race.
Day 1 – A relatively flat stage with small dunes, lots of sand and a slight climb to the finish. It’s a day when many runners go too fast. Tip: Ease into the race.
Day 2 – Will be a tough stage that is long with a great deal of sand. You will climb a gorge and run down a very steep descent. Tip: Tough day, keep focused, watch your pace and keep hydrated.
Day 3 – A climb starts the day and it is followed by rollercoaster terrain taking runners up and down. One section is very steep with technical passages. If that wasn’t enough, this stage contains the first ‘real’ dunes of the 32nd edition. Tip: One foot in-front of the other and remember the big day is tomorrow.
Day 4 – The long one: a feared and formidable stage. A lot of sand and some pitfalls for the feet. Two start times: 8.15 a.m. for most people and 11.15 a.m. for the first 50 men and the first 5 women. It’s a day of much sand and difficult terrain underfoot – be careful not to fall! Two passages through small gorges, a climb up a djebel, a roller coaster through the sand, and a technical descent add to a tough day. Tip: Watch out for the heat and manage the night carefully! Get your head in the right place.
Day 5 – Two start times: 7 a.m. for the majority and 8.30 a.m. for the first 200 runners. Dunes at the start and then no major difficulties, however, be prepared for a hot stretch over a long plateau… Tip: If you finished the long day, the race is in the bag. Smile!
Day 6 – Compulsory charity stage.
THE TOP MEN AND WOMEN
Rachid El Morabity returns and is without doubt, once again, the host favorite for male victory. Russian Natalia Sedyh, who won the race in 2016 has decided not to return in 2017 and this leaves the door open for 2015 MDS champion Elisabet Barnes but it will be no easy run – 2017 is arguably one of the strongest female line-ups the race has seen.
THE WOMEN RACE
Nathalie Mauclair placed 2nd in 2016 and Fernanda Maciel placed 3rd, with Natalya not returning, could victory go to one of these very strong ladies? Of course, yes! They both now know the race better, they will have adjusted their training and equipment and will arrive prepared. Nathalie has won Diagonale des Fous twice and has been trail World Champion twice – this combination of speed and endurance is just what is required in the Sahara.
Fernanda Maciel, like Nathalie, is a powerhouse on trails. A regular competitor on the UTWT she brings incredible experience to the race and a tenacity to push to the line.
Elisabet Barnes won MDS in 2015 and what has followed is a string of world-class performances in multi-day races all over the world – Australia, South Africa, Costa Rica, USA and so on. Elisabet loves the Sahara and this year has stepped up her training and prepared meticulously for the 32nd edition.
Emilie Lecomte will run MDS for the first time in 2017 but last year, pipped Elisabet Barnes to victory at the Grand To Grand in the USA. Emilie is a specialist in long races and the multi-day format suits her. She still holds the FKT for the GR20 in Corsica and like Nathalie has won the Diagonale des Fous.
Ester Alves from Portugal won The Coastal Challenge in 2016 and this year placed 3rd. Like the ladies’ above she is a fierce competitor and although this is her first foray into the Sahara, I have a feeling we will see her contend for the top 5, if not the podium.
Our women’s top ten to watch:
Aziza Raji is the Moroccan hope. She won the race in 2008 and 2009 but the speed of the race has increased and she is unlikely to contend with the other top elites.
Lizzie Wraith from the UK is a strong runner who will be under the radar here in the Sahara – watch out, she may surprise many people! Lizzie made the podium at the UK’s tough, Dragons Back Race.
Mélanie Rousset is attempting MDS for the first time but has a string of top-10 results at Diagonale des Fous and UTMB.
Nahila Hernandez San Juan from Mexico placed 8th at MDS in 2009 and was 5th at Badwater 135 in 2013.
Marie Eve Trudel a newcomer to ultra but placed 4th at the Grand To Grand in 2015.
Amy Costa winner of the Badwater 135 in 2013.
Kerri Kanuga 6th at Badwater in 2016.
THE MEN RACE
Rachid El Morabity, Samir Akhdar, Aziz El Akad and Abdelkader El Mouaziz are the strong men on this 32nd MARATHON DES SABLES. Rachid has won the race in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016 – do you want to bet against him?
Samir Akhdar is a MDS regular but his best result came in 2015 when he placed 4th. In 2017, he has the potential for 2nd or 3rd. Equally, Aliza El Akad although he is getting on in years, his seven completions at MDS and all within the top-5 would suggest he will continue that consistency.
This year the race does not have Chema Martinez from Spain or Danny Kendall from the UK. Therefore, the great European hope comes with a trio of Brits.
Andy Symonds is a world-class runner who has made the podium all over the world in iconic ultras. Although this is his first MDS he has the running skill to be up there! It all depends if he has adapted to the pack and the additional weight.
Nathan Montague is coming to the race with clear intentions to do well and ideally be the first Brit and hopefully that highest placed Brit ever. He’s a fast runner with some impressive times for 50km and 100km.
Damian Hall has been top-20 at UTMB and placed on the podium at The Spine. He raced in Costa Rica in 2016 with an excellent performance against a world-class field. Like Andy, Damian is on a MDS learning curve but he has the potential to do well.
Moroccans may well provide the competition for the other Moroccans. Abdelkader El Mouaziz is a 2:06 marathon runner and has won London Marathon in 1999 and 2001. He may well be slower now with the passing of the years but class is permanent. His highest placing at MDS is 2nd – one to watch!
Miguel Capo Soler was 3rd at MDS in 2013 and is the most experienced non-Moroccan who will potentially contend the top-10 placing. In recent years, he has run at The Coastal Challenge and Everest Trail Race.
Our men’s top ten to watch:
Mustapha Ait Amar finished MDS 13-times and was 12th in 2012.
Andrew Fargus placed 11th at MDS in 2013.
Luca Papi is a novice MDS runner but brings a wealth of experience.
Marco Olmo is a legend of ultra-trail and MDS – he will not contend the podium but he will be up around the top-20. Not bad for a 68-year old!
Notable mentions for blind runner Didier Benguigu who aged 67 will participate in his 13th MDS.
Also, Duncan Slater from the UK who lost both legs during a mission in Afghanistan. He did not complete in 2016 due to medical complications – he’s back this year for the medal!
1216 runners will toe the line and the youngest male is Oscar Daglish from the UK who is just 16-years old. He will be running with his father who has already completed MDS.
The youngest female is Emily Rolfe, also from the UK. Emily will also run with her father.
Claude Leonardi from France is the oldest male runner. The 32nd edition will be his 5th time on the race, not bad for 80-years old!
Edda Hanna Bauer got into sport late, she ran her first marathon and 60. Now aged 72 she has made up for it clocking up 26 marathons and 63 ultra-marathons.
Crazy Statistics of the MDS
“The logistics are a big headache and we organize every detail in advance! We’re a village of 2,000 people that must be set up and dismantled every day. We need to be self-sufficient in energy, food, water and fuel. As one of my friends says, ‘Let’s expect the worst because the best will never surprise us!’ We also benefit from the infallible support of the Royal Moroccan Army, which makes available about 25 6WD military trucks to transport all of our equipment.” – Patrick Bauer
You must see Marathon des Sables t appreciate the size and scale of the event. It’s like the largest moving circus you will ever see and it’s impressive to witness.
Following statistics provided by the Marathon des Sables office:
▪ 150 volunteers to supervise the race,
▪ 450 general support staff,
▪ 120,000 liters of bottled mineral water,
▪ 300 Berber and Saharan tents,
▪ 120 all-terrain vehicles and trucks,
▪ 2 Squirrel helicopters and 1 Cessna plane,
▪ 8 Transavia ‘MDS special’ commercial planes,
▪ 30 buses,
▪ 4 dromedaries,
▪ 1 incinerator lorry for burning waste,
▪ 5 quad bikes to monitor race environment and safety,
▪ 72 medical staff,
▪ 2.3kms of Elastoplast,
▪ 12,200 compresses,
▪ 6,000 painkillers,
▪ 150 liters of disinfectant,
▪ 1 editing bus,
▪ 5 cameras,
▪ 1 satellite image station,
▪ 10 satellite telephones,
▪ 30 computers, fax and internet,
▪ 20,000 competitors since 1986
▪ 3 runners aged 10-20, 108 aged 20-30, 314 aged 30-40, 491 aged 40-50, 299 aged 50-60, 66 aged 60-70 and 13 aged 70-80 years.
▪ 14 km/hr.: average maximum speed, 3 km/hr.: average minimum speed,
▪ 15 years of age for the youngest competitor and the oldest, 83!
30 Years of the MDS
1986 – Michel GALLIEZ (FRANCE) – Christiane PLUMERE (FRANCE)
1987 – Bernard GAUDIN (FRANCE) – Marie-Ange MALCUIT (FRANCE)
1988 – Bernard GAUDIN (FRANCE) – Marie-Ange MALCUIT (FRANCE)
1989 – Hassan SEBTAOUI (FRANCE) – Marie-Claude BATTISTELLI (FRANCE)
1990 – Hassan SEBTAOUI (FRANCE) – Claire GARNIER (FRANCE)
1991 – Hassan SEBTAOUI (FRANCE) – Monique FRUSSOTE (FRANCE)
1992 – Mohamed BENSALAH (MOROCCO) – Monique FRUSSOTE (FRANCE)
1993 – Mohamed BENSALAH (MOROCCO) – Irina PETROVNA (RUSSIA)
1994 – André DERKSEN (RUSSIA) – Valentina LIAKHOVA (RUSSIA)
1995 – André DERKSEN (RUSSIA) – Béatrice REYMANN (FRANCE)
1996 – André DERKSEN (RUSSIA) – Anke MOLKENTHIN (GERMANY)
1997 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Rosanna PELLIZZARI (ITALY)
1998 – Mohamad AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Rosanna PELLIZZARI (ITALY)
1999 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Lisa SMITH (USA)
2000 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Pascale MARTIN (FRANCE)
2001 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Franca FIACCONI (ITALY)
2002 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Simone KAYSER (LUXEMBOURG)
2003 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Magali JUVENAL (FRANCE)
2004 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Simone KAYSER (LUXEMBOURG)
2005 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Simone KAYSER (LUX)
2006 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Géraldine COURDESSE (FRANCE)
2007 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Laurence KLEIN (FRANCE)
2008 – Mohamad AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Touda DIDI (MOROCCO)
2009 – Mohamad AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Touda DIDI (MOROCCO)
2010 – Mohamad AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Monica AGUILERA (SPAIN)
2011 – Rachid EL MORABITY (MOROCCO) – Laurence KLEIN (FRANCE)
2012 – Salameh AL AQRA (JORDAN) – Laurence KLEIN (FRANCE)
2013 – Mohamad AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Meghan HICKS (USA)
2014 – Rachid EL MORABITY (MOROCCO) – Nikki KIMBALL (USA)
2015 – Rachid EL MORABITY (MOROCCO) – Elisabet BARNES (SWE)
2016 – Rachid EL MORABITY (MOROCCO) – Natalya SEDYH (RUSSIA)
A brief history of the MDS:
1984: At 28 years of age, Patrick Bauer decided to make for the Sahara to try to traverse a 350km expanse of uninhabited desert, on foot, alone, where he wouldn’t come into contact with a single village, oasis or watering place. Totally self-sufficient, with a rucksack weighing 35kg and containing water and food, he set off on a journey that was to last 12 days. It was the starting point of what was to become the MARATHON DES SABLES.
1986: The creation of the first MDS in the Moroccan Sahara. The 23 pioneers who took the start never imagined that their footprints would mark the start of a legendary event, which has today become a must among the major adventure sport meets. The creation of a non-mechanical competition in the Moroccan sands offers adventure runners a wealth of new prospects.
1987: Creation of the MDS logo: the face of a runner covered by a keffiyeh, the eyes protected by a pair of sunglasses and the pipette from the runner’s water container clenched between the teeth.
1989: 170 competitors take the start of the race.
1991: The gulf drama puts the MDS at a disadvantage and the financial partners withdraw. Fortunately, some runners answer the call. For these competitors, the true victory lies in meeting athletes from different backgrounds and their communion in the desert around the same goal. Sport proves once again that it can bring people together and create bonds.
1992: One and the same regulation for everyone. This year sees the establishing of unexpected draconian tests, to ensure that each participant properly transports all his or her gear from one end of the course to the other. A 30-point charter is drawn up.
First participation by the Moroccan Lahcen Ahansal
1994: Arrival of the Doc Trotters at the event.
1995: 10th anniversary. Since the start, over 1,500 men and women have left their footprint and their passion in the desert. Installation of water-pump for the inhabitants of the village of Ighef n’rifi (South of Er-Rachidia) – an idea by competitor Gilles Flamant and backed by Rolland Barthes and Patrick Bauer. Its success is to be repeated again and again
1996: First participation by Mohamed, a younger sibling of Ahansal. The two Moroccan brothers set off together and rank 4th and 5th respectively.
1997: This year heralds the start of the Ahansal saga. Morocco is honored with Lahcen’s first victory. He beats his two pursuers by nearly 30 minutes, despite them being international long-distance running champions.
1999: A mobile hospital on the MDS comes into being. There are around thirty practitioners on the ground, with doctors and nurses joining the caravan. A dedicated helicopter and ten all-terrain vehicles track the competitors each day. On- board these vehicles there are doctors of course, as well as high-tech equipment. The village boasts a genuine field hospital.
2000: Internet appears in the large MDS village. The organization decides to broadcast the texts and photos of the race live, day after day. The competitors can communicate with their nearest and dearest and receive messages of encouragement.
2001: For the first time the long leg, traditionally called “The 70”, exceeds the 80km barrier to reach 82km. The threshold of 240km is also surpassed since the 16th MARATHON DES SABLES spans 243km. Another first relates to the fact that there are no Moroccans on the podium this year.
2002: This edition is punctuated by a sandstorm, involving headwinds, which lasts the entire week. The doctors invent a machine for ‘low pressure cleansing’ to rinse out the runners’ eyes. Despite the difficult conditions, there are few retirements to report as the wind considerably reduces the temperature.
2005: The Luxembourg runner Simone Kayser is the first woman to win 3 MARATHON DES SABLES. For this 20th edition, the total number of runners exceeds 700 for the first time, with no fewer than 777 runners taking the start.
2006: A drying wind and very high humidity levels cause damage to the runners’ bodies. Despite additional allocations of water, a whole series of retirements ensues. There is a total of 146 retirements ultimately, which equates to double that of the previous record… Race management decides to shorten the long leg by over 10km given how tired the runners seem.
2008: The Solidarité MDS association is created. The aim: to develop projects to assist children and disadvantaged populations in the domains of health, education and sustainable development in Morocco.
2009: MDS is disrupted by flooding and the 1st and 6th stages are not able to take place. To avoid the flood zones, the organization is obliged to improvise new legs on a day-to-day basis. In this way, the edition goes down in legend for its 3rd leg, which is the longest ever contested: 92km of sand, loose stones and rocks… The leg even sees the retirement of Lahcen Ahansal… At the prize giving the 2 winners admit to having competed in their hardest MDS. However, it was also the shortest: 202km.
2010: For its 25th edition, the number of participations reaches a record high of 1,013 participants. It is to be the longest MARATHON DES SABLES. It spans 250 kilometers with a course considered by former entrants to be the most difficult ever organized.
2012: A dramatic turn of events on the longest leg as the then leader in the overall standing, Rachid El Morabity (MAR) injures himself one kilometer from the finish. Medical examinations reveal a serious muscular lesion in the quadriceps. After over five years on the 2nd or 3rd step of the podium, Jordanian Salameh Al Aqra secures the title.
2013: 1,027 competitors on the start line make this a new participation record. New feature: a final “Charity” stage sponsored by UNICEF and traversing the Merzouga dunes round off the race. Sports wise, Mohamad Ahansal and Megan Hicks are the champions of the 231.5km event. On a human level, all the finishers pull off their crazy bet.
2014: 2011 winner, Moroccan Rachid El Morabity (MAR) wins the overall ranking and takes Mohamad Ahansal’s crown. In the women’s category, another American stamps her mark, Nikki Kimball. The French revelation is one Michaël Gras, 22 years of age, 8th overall and top Frenchman. A major athletics star, Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj lines up to take the start of Saturday’s Unicef Charity leg.
You can follow the 2017 Marathon des Sables on this website.
On Facebook – Facebook.com/iancorlessphotography
On Instagram – @iancorlessphotography
On Twitter – @talkultra
Please remember, communications in the Sahara will be sporadic and we will upload content as and when possible.
This is Episode 118 of Talk Ultra and this week is going to be a short and sharp show… it’s all about the UTMB races and Trofeo Kima. We have interviews with Jo Meek who placed 2nd lady at the CCC and Damian Hall who placed 19th in the UTMB and recently completed a ‘FKT’ on the South West Coast Path in the UK. This weeks show is co hosted by Albert Jorquera.
Firstly, this show is being recorded in the USA on the day of the RUT VK and so therefore we are somewhat pressed for time… joining me is a co-host is my good buddy and fellow Skyrunning hack, Albert Jorquera.
If you haven’t guessed, Albert is from Spain!
Karl is on the AT as many of you will know, Speedboat has passed halfway on the AT. He really is doing great, racking up some daily mileage and as you can guess is going through some real highs and lows. We are posting 7-day updates on my website so please check out the links on the show notes. I need to give out a bog thanks to Red Bull who hooked us up with Eric, Karl’s chief crew and I had a chat with him on day 19.
Albert, what do you reckon, 2100 miles in under 50 days, trying to average somewhere between 45-50 miles a day?
RUNNING BEYOND BOOK well I have a first copy in my hand and I have to say I am somewhat pleased and happy. It’s taken a couple of years and at times it never felt quite real. The book in my hand confirms it is real and Spanish, German, Italian and UK versions will be available in the coming months. I believe Spain is first (September) Italy is October and the UK November. I don’t have a date on the German edition yet! – HERE
TROFEO KIMA HERE
- Bhim Gurung 6:10 new CR
- Marco De Gasperi 6:12
- Leo Viret 6:15
- Emelie Forsberg 7:49
- Ruth Croft 8:02
- Emanuela Brizio 8:21
Xavier Thévenard (France) won the 55k OCC race with 5:28 on the clock. Marathon des Sables sensation Rachid El Morabity (Morocco) was second, 15 minutes back. Mercedes Arcos (Spain) cruised to the front of the women’s field in 6:54.
Michel Lanne (France) in 12:10, five minutes ahead of Ruy Ueda (Japan). Mimmi Kotka (Sweden) gained the women’s victory in 13:42, 27 minutes better than second-place Jo Meek (U.K.).
INTERVIEW with JO MEEK
Pau Capell (Spain), Yeray Duran (Spain), and Franco Colle (Italy) filled the men’s podium with 14:45, 15:14, and 15:32 finish times, respectively. Delphine Avenier (France) led the women with an 18:46 winning time with Meredith Edwards (U.S.) took second 13 minutes back.
- Ludovic Pommeret 22:00:02
- Gediminas Grinius 22:26:05
- Tim Tollefsen 22:30:28
- David Laney 22:41:14
- Javi Dominguez 22:44:16
- Zach Miller 22:54:26
- Caroline Chaverot 25:15:40
- Andrea Huser 25:22:56
- Uxue Fraile 27:10:22
- Juliette Blanchet 27:37:18
- Magdalena Boulet 28:18:05
- Jasmin Paris 28:34:35
INTERVIEW with DAMIAN HALL
UP & COMING RACES
New South Wales
Jammu and Kashmir
Castile and León
Argyll and Bute
Libsyn – feed://talkultra.libsyn.com/rss
Website – talkultra.com
The 2016 The Coastal Challenge was an incredible race, year-on-year the race grows and it is now one of the most respected multi-day races on the calendar. Following the classic multi-day format, runners travel in the south of Costa Rica on foot covering approximately 250km’s. Like races such as Marathon des Sables, the TCC is not self-sufficient. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this makes the races easier… read on!
View the full 2016 The Coastal Challenge image gallery HERE
“Hugging the coastline, the race travels in and out of the stunning Talamanca mountain range via dense forest trails, river crossings, waterfalls, long stretches of golden beaches backed by palm trees, dusty access roads, high ridges and open plains. At times technical, the combination of so many challenging elements is only intensified by the heat and high humidity that slowly but surely reduces even the strongest competitors to exhausted shells.”
READ PART ONE – HERE
“Encapsulating the true sense of adventure, TCC requires a runner to be more than ‘just’ a runner. The race manages to make or break the most experienced competitor. Hopping from rock-to-rock, traversing a ridge, clambering over slimy boulders, swimming river crossings or running up and down single or double track, the race truly requires a rounded athlete to gain victory.”
READ PART TWO – HERE
“The men’s race looked all set for a group run to the line with Don-Wauchope, Calisto and Martinez running side-by-side over all of the first 25km. Don-Wauchope safe in 1st place, Calisto safe in 2nd and Martinez no threat to the overall standings.”
“But where was Sa?”
“Sa was trailing a few minutes back. When the trio entered the river bed, Sa apparently flew past like a man possessed. It was a last ditch effort to secure 2nd place ahead of Callisto.”
READ PART THREE – HERE
Demand for the 2017 The Coastal Challenge is already high with pre-requests and provisional bookings. Entries open in the UK and Europe this week via www.thecoastalchallenge.co.uk
Why not take part in our 2017 Multi-Day Training Camp which takes place in January each year? Details are available HERE
Interested in The Coastal Challenge 2017? Use the form below to secure one of the 100 available places
The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica celebrates it’s 12th year with an incredible line up once again!
The 2016 edition of The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica gets underway on February 14th, yes, valentines day! It’s appropriate, most people fall in love with Costa Rica. Runners from all over the world will arrive in San Jose in preparation for the journey down to the coast and the 12th edition.
“Reaching the 12th edition is humbling and gratifying. It is a privilege and not to one to be taken lightly. We are happy and grateful to have made it this far.” – Rodrigo Carazo
Rodrigo Carazo has pulled together an incredible line-up for the race and without doubt it will arguably be one of the most competitive multi stage races of 2016 with the 2015 Marathon des Sables ladies champion, Elisabet Barnes heading up the ladies field and 2015 champion and course record holder, Iain Don-Wauchope returning after his incredible 2015 performance and course record.
“Twelve years of exploring, adventuring and discovering Costa Rica and the beginning of a bright new era to come!” Rodrigo Carazo
Elite runners will toe the line in Quepos with everyday runners, they will all have one purpose in mind, to embrace the tough and technical challenge that lies ahead of them and enjoy every moment.
Known locally as the Rainforest Run, the TCC is a 236km stage race over 6-days that weaves in and out of a lush and tropical Pacific coastline. The Talamancas – a coastal mountain range spread across the southwest corner of the country – provide not only a stunning backdrop but also many of the tough and technical challenges that the runners will face on a day-to-day basis
Steve Diederich (HERE) the UK agent for the TCC had this to say:
“A backdrop of some of the most breathtaking rainforest and coast on the planet, The Coastal Challenge has joined the exclusive club of iconic multi-day ultras.”
Beaches that last km after km are interspersed with dirt tracks, mountain paths, dense jungle, ridges, water crossings, open plains and highland; Costa Rica is bursting with variety. In addition, add 40deg temperature and high humidity, the TCC is no easy challenge.
TCC is a supported race and each day camp is moved ahead of the runners. Running light and fast, equipment is kept to a minimum and as such, racing is extremely competitive. The 2016 edition of the race is proving to be extremely exciting, particularly when one looks at the line up of runners.
2016 will see an incredible line up of runners and in the men’s Chema Martinez (José Manuel (“Chema”) Martínez Fernández) brings super fast 10,000m and maybe more importantly, marathon running speed to the TCC. A 2:08 marathon runner, Chema cut his multi-day teeth at Marathon des Sables in 2015 and TCC will allow him to run fast without the weight of a pack.
Carlos Sa has run at the TCC before but made a huge navigational error on day 1 which ruined any chance of overall success. A runner who inspires through inspiration, Carlos has a varied list of results with highlights coming with 1st place at Badwater 135, 4th at the Marathon des Sables and a string of top-10 places in races all over the world, including UTMB.
Miguel Capo Soler has placed 3rd at Marathon des Sables (2013) and shows great pedigree in multi-day and single day running. TheTCC will suit his running style but he will need to watch out for all the local ‘Tico’ talent: Ashur Youseffi, Roiny Villegas and Frederico Pacheco.
A surprise package may well come from Brit, Damian Hall. The other runners in the race will almost certainly not know Damian but recent success at the UK’s Dragon Back Race, The Spine and last year a top-50 result at UTMB means that he will certainly be in contention in the top-5.
Finally returning champ, Iain Don-Wauchope from South Africa impressed everyone in 2015 with how he made what is a very tough course look (relatively) easy. This year he has said in advance that training has been sporadic and that he has suffered with some over training issues. What’s important is, he is back.
The ladies race has less depth than in previous years and defending champion, Veronica Bravo is taking a year away from the race. However, two ladies will battle on this course. Ester Alves from Portugal had an impressive 2015 with a very full calendar, maybe too full! High quality and world-class performances were sometimes followed with less impressive performances due to fatigue. A former road cyclist, her transition to trail came in 2014. Top performances are 8th at UTMB, 6th at Transgrancanaria and 7th at Transvulcania.
Elisabet Barnes is a lady on fire at the moment, particularly in multi-day racing. Her 2015 victory at Marathon des Sables (she won every stage) was followed up with a repeat performance in Oman. Having just completed a multi-day training camp in Lanzarote (here), Elisabet went into the heat chamber to prepare for Costa Rica’s humidity. It’s going to be exciting to see Elisabet race this TCC course. Recent sonship with Raidlight and a full calendar of multi-day racing in 2016 will see Elisabet race at MDS, Richtersveld Wildrun, Big Red Run and Grand to Grand.
“This race will bring a whole new experience. I expect it to be more technical than what I am used to and I know from the heat chamber sessions I have done that the humidity will make it very tough. I am really looking forward to the challenge though and to visiting Costa Rica for the first time” – Elisabet Barnes
Racing starts on Sunday very early and I will be posting daily reports and images on this website as and when internet connection allows.
You can view the race route below.
Follow the race on Twitter @talkultra on Instagram @iancorlessphotography and on Facebook facebook.com/iancorlessphotography
Skyrunning UK is booming. Already this year we have had the V3K, Peaks Skyrace and the recent ground breaking Salomon Glen Coe Skyline.
Attention now turns to the True Mountain Lakes Sky Ultra.
A Lakeland course that offers elevated ridgelines, breathtaking exposure, fast travel on technical mountain terrain and some classic Lakeland scrambling. Race directors Charlie Sproson and Andrew Burton say, ‘Fell running on additives. This is Skyrunning™.’
Race date is September 12th and race entries close on September 6th, so you have time to gain a last minute entry in what will be a very special race.
It’s a race route that follows on quite nicely from the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline in that the True Mountain Lakes Sky Ultra has plenty of vertical grind (4300m+), grade 3 scrambling, knife edge arêtes and all over 50km’s of challenging terrain.
It’s not a race for the feint hearted and this is reflected by the start list.
Starting on the streets of Ambleside, arguably one of the most important town in the English Lakes, runners will run this challenging course via a fully way marked route.
Who is running?
Eirik Haugsness has been racing the Skyrunner® World Series for several years and he is the 2014 champion of the Tromso Skyrace. His presence in the English lakes is an exciting prospect as he will attempt to do battle against local talent.
Ricky Lightfoot needs no introduction to Skyrunning and fell running aficionados and without doubt he is a favourite for overall victory on what for him is home soil. Ricky has already had a string of top performances in 2015, can he add the LSU to the list?
Es Tressider recently raced the Glen Coe Skyline and ran much of the day in 2nd place. Unfortunately, Es faded in the latter stages of the race and missed the podium. Es’s experience in the mountains is quite incredible and if recovered, we can certainly expect him to mix it up at the front of the race.
Damian Hall in 2015 has raced The Spine, The Dragons Back Race and just finished 32nd at UTMB (2nd Brit). LSU only comes 2 weeks after the Mont-Blanc monster so Damian may well be a little tired; we can’t rule him out though!
Ben Bardsley is an experienced fell runner and ski mountaineer. In the past he has raced at classic Skyrunning races such as Zegama-Aizkorri. Ben’s current form is a little unknown but he’s one to watch for sure.
Chris Stirling has had excellent performances at the Langdale Horseshoe, Three Shires, Great Lakes Race and has preparing for LSU for several months. His presence almost certainly will be felt at the front of the race.
In the ladies’ race, V3K winner and 3rd placed lady at Glen Coe Skyline, Sarah Ridgway makes an appearance and if recovered we can expect her to contest the podium once again.
But Beth Pascall comes to the race with a set of solid results. She has placed 2nd at Lakeland 100, won The Spine, placed 2nd The Dragons Back Race and for me is the most likely lady to top the podium on the 12th September.
Shiri Leventhal has placed on the podium of multi-day races in the 4 Desert Series and in 2013 was 2nd lady at the Everest Trail Race. This course will provide a test to Shiri but it’s one that she can rise too!
Finally, Victoria Mousley is another hot contender for the top of the podium. Her experience on courses such as The Three Peaks, Tour of Pendle and Scaffell Pike Marathon will set her up nicely for a great run at LSU.
Race details can be viewed here: HERE
Course map here: HERE
RACE ENTRY HERE (open till September 6th)
Skyrunning UK at http://www.skyrunninguk.com