Every two years the Skyrunning world assembles at an iconic venue and racing commences in VK, SKY and ULTRA distances to announce a male and female champion in the respective distances. Two years ago, the endurance capital of the world Chamonix, hosted the championships and this year it is Spain.
The Vall de Boí in the Spanish Pyrenees will provide a modern day coliseum where Skyrunning gladiators will battle at the BUFF® Epic Trail Aigüestortes events. A spectacular natural arena surrounded by 3,000m peaks and 200 mountain lakes. Rich in cultural history, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It may come as no surprise that runners from all over the world will arrive in Spain and over the three races, the lineup of talent is second to none. The line-up has five previous world champions returning:
Luis Alberto Hernando
Luis Alberto Hernando, Laura Orgue, Oihana Kortazar, Augusti Roc and Elisa Desco.
In 2014, Australia were a dominant force and surprised many with break through performances, once again they return with a super strong field. The Czech Republic, Japan and Portugal are also sending talented squads, for many, it may well be a first racing in Europe or the high mountains of the Pyrenees. In total, 35 different countries will be represented.
Events start on Friday July 22nd with the VK, on Saturday 23rd it is the ULTRA and closing events on Sunday 24th is the SKY distance.
Importantly, WADA anti-doping tests will be carried out at the Championships managed by FEDME, the Spanish Mountain Sports Federation and ISF member for Spain which will sanction the events and oversee them with their referees. The organisation will be in the capable hands OCI Sport, with whom the ISF has collaborated on a number of high-profile events including the 2012 SkyGames® in Andorra and Spain.
Needless to say, the number of athletes taking part is extensive and at this stage, we may well have some late additions. Below are many of the key runners who I anticipate to do well:
VK – For the short and steep specialists, the BUFF® EPIC TRAIL VK is 2.8 km long with 1,030m positive climb. The average incline is 30.7% and reaches a mean 50.4% at the steepest point. It is capped at 250.
Ferran Teixido from Andorra is currently ranked highly on the SWS2016 and we can expect strong competition from Saul Antonio Padua, Andrej Fejfar, Augusti Roc, Jan Margarit, Alexis Sevennec and Pascal Egli.
Laura Orgue just did the ‘double’ in the Dolomites winning both VK and SKY and will be hot favourite on home soil. However, Christel Dewalle will have other ideas and the race may well be a head-to-head between the two. Vanessa Ortega, Yngvild Kaspersen, Therese Sjursen and Ekaterina Mityaeva.
SKY – The rugged BUFF® EPIC TRAIL 42KM is a point to point with 3,200m positive vertical climb. Again, a highly challenging extremely technical race with a nine-hour time limit capped at 500.
Is going to be fast and furious and the lineup is stunning with Tom Owens, Blake Hose, Manuel Merillas, Pascal Egli and Marcin Swierc pushing for the top slot. But strong competition will also come from Marc and Oscar Casal Mir, Pablo Villa, Jessed Hernandez, Alexis Sevennec, Dai Matsumoto and Artem Rostovstev.
Elisa Desco, Yngvild Kaspersen, Azara Garcia and Maite Maiora form a stunning quad of talent but Oihana Kortazar, Ida Nilsson, Marta Molist, Ragna Debats and Katrine Villumsen will make sure that the run for the line is not an easy one. Dark horse is the UK’s Jasmin Paris – watch out.
ULTRA – The BUFF® EPIC TRAIL 105KM, with a grueling 8,000m elevation gain and a maximum gradient of 56%, is as tough as they come. Strict qualification standards will be enforced for participants, which are capped at 250.
The ultra is the big one and I have to say the talent is what one would expect when a world title is at stake. Luis Alberto Hernando may well be the one to beat on home soil but Andy Symonds after recent success in Lavaredo will push him. As will Franco Colle, Majell Backhausen, Zaid Ait Malek, Cristofer Clemente and Ben Duffs. Miguel Heras is also toeing the line and if in form, watch out! Fulvio Dapit, Leonardo Diogo, Nuno Silva, Jan Bartas and Pau Bartolo are also strong contenders.
The ladies race is equally editing with Caroline Chaverot being the lady to beat. She has been on fire this year! Ruth Croft made the podium at Transvulcania but arguably local lady, Nuria Picas is the one to upset the apple cart. A strong fight will come from Fernanda Maciel, Anna Strakova, Gemma Arenas, Hillary Allen, Ester Alves, Kristina Pattison, Soto Ogawa and let’s not forget Mira Rai who is returning from injury.
World titles and medals will be awarded, crowning the champions of the Ultra, Sky and Vertical disciplines together with combined titles and country ranking. A total of twenty-seven medals and a €20,000 prize purse await the champions of these prestigious competitions.
Alpina Watches, 2016 Skyrunning World Championships Official Timekeeper, will award six prestigious Alpina Horological Smartwatches to the male and female champions of each category, Vertical, Sky and Ultra.
The Vall de Boí will also host the 2016 ISF General Assembly on July 22, which will be attended by members from far and near.
Check out details of the three World Championship courses here.
This is Episode 110 of Talk Ultra. This weeks show is a Marathon des Sables special with a load of great content from the Bivouac by Niandi Carmont and then a series of post race interviews with Sondre Amdahl, Elisabet Barnes and Elinor Evans. If that wasn’t enough, we have an interview with Jasmin Paris who has just blasted the Bob Graham Round ladies record to a new level.
It’s a different show this week as we concentrate on Marathon des Sables
Marathon Des Sables
It was a win again for Rachid El Morabity and Russian, Natalia Sedykh dominated the ladies race, times were 21:01:21 and 24:25:46 for the 257km. Full results are HERE
Niandi talk from the Bivouac
00:25:32 INTERVIEW from the Bivouac
A selection of interviews of everyday runners doing extra ordinary things
We discussed this race extensively in a couple of podcasts last year, we spoke with Nikki Kimball and Jeff Browning. Jeff won the race and Nikki decided to withdraw from the race as she felt is was too dangerous. Alarm bells were rung. Unfortunately we have had news of a death at the 2016 edition. We have to be clear here that information is still a little sparse but Ellie Greenwood and Kerrie Bruxvoort have both commented on social media at the races apparent disregard for safety. We will have more information on this as and when possible.
A statement on Facebook from Ultra Fijord said:
The second edition of Ultra Fiord has been a very hard experience, marked by an exceptionally hostile climate and dramatic landscape that formed the backdrop of the race route, that was changed and shortened two days leading to the race to accommodate the impending bad weather. While some runners experienced and embraced the forces of nature, others were beyond their comfort zone. What impacted all of us the most was the loss of 100-mile runner, Arturo Héctor Martínez Rueda. Mr Martínez, 57-year-old from Mexico, had unfortunately passed on at an approximate 65km mark that is about 750m above sea level. Although the likely cause of his death was hypothermia, a confirmation can only be made in the following few days. The unfavourable weather has persisted in this mountain area since Friday, so the rescue team, awaits a favourable weather window to execute the evacuation. The race organiser takes responsibility and apologise for the poor communications to the outside world with regards to this tragic incident, simply because it is a step we could not execute without the confirmation of the status and private communications with Arturo’s family. In this difficult time, the organising team sincerely expresses its condolences to the family and friends of Arturo and ask followers for your cooperation to send peace and respect to them too.
Elisabet Barnes post MDS
Sondre Amdahl post MDS
Elinor Evans post MDS
Jasmin Parishas just elevated the ladies Bob Graham Round record to a new level coming very close to Billy Bland’s benchmark 1982 record
Race summaries by Emmanuelle Lamarle for MARATHON DES SABLES
Translations from French to English by Niandi Carmont
The 2016 and 31st edition of the MARATHON DES SABLES concluded in Morocco on Saturday April 16th. It will go down in the history of the race as one of the toughest and most beautiful editions. At 257km long, it was the longest in the races history and although the long stage was 84km, the daily distance were higher and continually hovered around the marathon distance and thus made the multi-day challenge considerably harder. In the early days, particularly day 1, strong winds and sandstorms battered the runners making what was already a very hard day, considerably harder. This was reflected in day 2 with a high drop out rate. Day 3 was a beautiful stage but just an appetiser for the long day. The feared long day lived up to its reputation and although a very tough, relentless and challenging route, it was compensated for with it’s incredible beauty. Day 5, the classic marathon day, was for many a walk in the park after the long day, this was reflected in the emotions on the finish line when 5 days of effort were released. Day 6, the compulsory charity day concluded the race and with it, each runner received a medal on the line from race director and race creator, Patrick Bauer.
The Sahara, Morocco and the MARATHON DES SABLES never disappoints, 2016 though was a special one – tough, relentless and beautiful. the desert, the multi-day experience and the challenge really does make everyone look inward. The Sahara has a way of stripping you bare, down to your core and the looks of emotion, relief and celebration are moments to savour and all those who completed the journey will be changed forever.
Below is a brief summary of the race week with images to provide some perspective to what has been an incredible 31st edition of the ‘MDS!’
Travel and arrival
Moroccans dominated the men’s race as expected and the female field was shaken up by Russian Natalia Sedyhk.
Make no mistake the top male and female runners were bursting to go. In the minutes preceding the start the Russian athlete Natalia Sedykh (3rd in 2015) was doing some sprint warm ups; a definite indication of her intentions for the race.
An hour and a half later, on the other side of the incredible Mezouga dunes, the first 2 Moroccan runners surged from the North, then 2 other Moroccans joined them. To no-one’s surprise, the fennecs of the desert took advantage of the 12km dune section to open the gap, leaving behind their European competitors. Their run gait is incredible to watch. Light-footed, they hardly touch the sand. Three Moroccans take the lead and finish the stage claiming the first three places: Rachid El Morabity, last year’s winner, Hammou Ou Mohamed Moudouji and Abdelkader El Mouaziz all within 35 seconds of each other. Third and fourth, the Spaniard Jose Manuel Martinez and the Frenchman Erik Claveryfollow 9 and 14 minutes later.
In the female field, Natalia Sedyhk (RUS) arrived first at CP1 looking very fresh, she was pushing a relentless pace and looking to improve on her 3rd place in 2015 when a 2-hour penalty impacted on her race. Nathalie Mauclair followed in pursuit sticking to a regular pace but the Russian was too strong. Natalia sprinted across the finish line victorious winning the stage having outdistanced Nathalie Mauclair by 17 minutes. 2015 race winner, Elisabet Barnes crossed the line third looking relaxed and comfortable. Nathalie was very happy with her performance today:
“I stuck with a group so that I didn’t waste energy battling the wind alone. In the dunes I felt really good but I didn’t want to speed up as I didn’t want to overdo it. In the second dune section I had to use my compass to navigate and that went very well”.
The day was notable in terms of difficulty, especially the strong winds and sandstorms that made running and navigation equally important.
1 – Natalia SEDYHK (RUS) – 3:40:20
2 – Nathalie MAUCLAIR (FRA) – 3:57:30
3 – Elisabet BARNES (SUE) – 4:10:57
4 – Elizabeth HOWARD (USA) – 4:17:50
5 – Fernanda MACIEL (ESP) – 4:22:49
1 – Rachid EL MORABITY (MAR) – TGCC – 3:10:29
2 – Hammou Ou Mohamed MOUDOUJI (MAR) – TEAMAROC – 3:10:45
3 – Abdelkader EL MOUAZIZ – (MAR) – TGCC – 3:11:04
4 – Jose Manuel MARTINEZ (ESP) – 3:20:30
5 – Erik CLAVERY (FRA) – TERDAV EQUINOX 1 – 3:25:52
The Gap opens in the Moroccan field in the men’s race and Natalia SEDYHK keeps the lead in the women’s race.
In the first fifteen kilometres of the second stage of the MARATHON DES SABLES race predictions were that the Moroccans would yet again dominate the race and rank in the top 10 of the male field.
On the second part of the course, the Europeans held on and better still even overtook some of their Moroccan rivals including Hammou Ou Mohamed Moudouji , who for his first edition would have liked to stick to the heels of Rachid El Morabity, but he blew up. Which goes to show that even the Moroccans are not perfect!
At the finish Rachid finished before Abdelkader El Mouaziz , and was followed by a duo arriving hand-in-hand : the Spaniard Jose Manuel (Chema) Martinez and Aziz El Akad . Erik Clavery (D 087 – FRA) finished sixth and was first Frenchman. Sondre Amdahl was seventh.
In the female race, Natalia Sedykh was in the lead again, she seemed a little fragile and less fiery but despite this, she once again dominated the stage making many runners comment, ‘she is on another planet this year!’ Natalia won the stage, finished in the top-10 overall – incredible! Nathalie Mauclair followed 15 minutes later and Fernanda Maciel came in third position, 2 minutes behind her gaining an advantage over 2015 champion Elisabet Barnes who finished fourth.
D662 SEDYKH Natalia RUS F 7:51:06
D275 MAUCLAIR Nathalie FRA F 8:22:13
D482 MOURA ANTUNES MACIEL Fernanda ESP F 8:49:36
D2 BARNES Elisabet SWE F 9:02:43
D525 HOWARD Elizabeth USA F 9:15:40
D1 EL MORABITY Rachid TGCC MAR M 6:34:33
D4 EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader TGCC MAR M 6:35:35
D447 MARTINEZ Jose Manuel ESP M 7:03:36
D6 AKHDAR Samir TGCC MAR M 7:21:16
D3 EL AKAD Aziz TGCC MAR M 7:22:11
A foregone conclusion to today’s race – not only do the Moroccans hold a faster pace but they know how to manage their race strategy running together in a small group.
Moroccan runners once again lead the race, setting off at a very fast and regular pace on a course which is going to be very runnable. Apart from two successive dune sections and a climb up a djebel, this pace was maintained. At the first check-point El Morabity was leading but closely followed by his compatriots. Only Manuel (Chema) Martinez and Erik Clavery manage to keep up the gruelling pace that the local set. Clavery was definitely feeling much better today at the start. “It was much better today, I managed my race better”.
After the tough stoney djebel, three Moroccans continued to lead the race: Rachid El Morabity, Aziz El Akad and Abdelkader El Mouaziz. Sticking together they manage their race cleverly, running fast enough to hold off the competition but not too fast to risk blowing up. Behind them Chema Martinez was running hard though and he eventually caught up with Samir Akhdar moving into 4th place with Erik Clavery hot on his heels. This order didn’t change before the finish although the gap between the runners widened confirming the Moroccan superiority and the leaders’ positions.
In the female race, Natalia Sedykh once again set a gruelling pace to shake off her rivals and although the long stage would follow, word in the camp was that it would take a monumental mistake by the Russian to loose the race. Aziza Raji, third at the first check-point, didn’t manage to stave off Nathalie Mauclair and Fernanda Maciel.
Ranking of Stage 3:
First 5 women
D662 SEDYKH Natalia RUS 03:49:15
D275 MAUCLAIR Nathalie FRA 03:53:34
D482 MACIEL Fernanda ESP 03:55:53
D33 RAJI Aziza MAR 04:16:41
D2 BARNES Elisabet SWE 04:37:28
First 5 men
D1 EL MORABITY Rachid MAR 03:03:41
D4 EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader MAR 03:04:02
D3 EL AKAD Aziz MAR 03:05:40
D447 MARTINEZ Jose Manuel (Chema) ESP 03:18:55
D6 AKHDAR Samir MAR 03:25:22
First 5 women
D662 SEDYKH Natalia RUS 11:40:21
D275 MAUCLAIR Nathalie FRA 12:15:48
D482 MACIEL Fernanda ESP 12:45:31
D2 BARNES Elisabet SWE 13:40:12
D33 RAJI Aziza MAR 13:56:47
First 5 men
D1 EL MORABITY Rachid MAR 09:38:16
D4 EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader MAR 09:39:38
D447 MARTINEZ Jose Manuel (Chema) ESP 10:22:31
D3 EL AKAD Aziz MAR 10:27:52
D6 AKHDAR Samir MAR 10:46:40
Rachid El Morabity and Natalia Sedykh claim victory on the 31st edition of the MARATHON DES SABLES with excellent long day results.
Rachid El Morality was congratulated like never before on the finish line of the long day in the 31st edition of the MARATHON DES SABLES. The Moroccan almost certainly sealed his 4th consecutive edition, claiming victory in all the stages with a comfortable lead on his rivals – just the marathon stage to go! His race management has been exemplary and irreproachable. Abdelkader El Mouaziz lost 2 more minutes to Rachid but crossed the finish to claim a well-deserved second place. Jose Manuel (Chema) Martinez ran a hard race and completed the podium of the long stage – a great result and a real improvement on his 2015 6th place overall.
Frenchmen Erik Clavery and Jean-Sébastien Braun, as well as Carlos Sa and Sondre Amdahl all came in the top 10.
Talking about the Top 10: female Russian runner Sedykh is the only women to rank in the top-10 general ranking, in spite of her loss in energy during the long stage where she placed 2nd behind Nathalie Mauclair. Sedykh has a 24-minute lead on the French lady and although Macular will try to take back that time in the marathon, it is highly unlikely she will succeed. It really is is hard to see how Sedykh’s rivals can close the gap on the marathon stage tomorrow. Nathalie Mauclair did manage to gain 12 minutes on her Russian counterpart on the long day with a really aggressive run but the Russian remained consistent. Fernanda Maciel placed 3rd, which as with the men’s podium should change very little on the marathon stage. The gaps have widened in the leading field and behind.
“The Moroccans are on a different planet” Erik Clavery
A thrilling race with the top 4 Moroccans claiming victory and leaving Jose Manuel (Chema) MARTINEZ out of the podium. The female field remains unchanged with Natalia SEDYKH leading the field.
Once again the Moroccans claimed victory in the men’s field in today’s stage. They set off fast from the outset and widened the gap over the succession of sandy dunes and more runnable sections of the marathon day. Although yesterday’s stage pre-determined the winner Rachid El Morabity and runner-up, the third place was still uncertain with an 8-minute gap between Jose Manuel (Chema) Martinez and El Akad. Yesterday they knew that they would be battling it out the next day. For Chema the strategy was simple:
“I’m going to stick to Aziz and accelerate in the final runnable stretch.”
Aziz on the other hand intended to give it his best shot on the marathon stage
“I’m going to do everything I can to get on the podium tomorrow. I’ll make it or break it.”
And that is what happened Jose Manuel (Chema) Martinez lost 30 minutes to EL AKAD however this does not reflect the true story. ‘Chema’ was stopped early on in the race and was required to change his numbers due to a ‘technicality’ based on the race rules. This stopped Chema in his tracks and while he removed his pack and changed his numbers, his race was broken… Rachid El Morabity did not win the stage coming in second behind El Mouaziz. Erik Clavery came in 3rd looking shattered.
“It’s the first time I am in tears at the end of a race. I am so happy. I really managed the race to the best of my ability. But the Moroccans are unbeatable – it’s another planet.”
In the female race, the ranking hardly changed. Natalia Sedykh lead the stage and opened a small gap with her rivals. She was flying at the finish of this 5th stage. Nathalie Mauclair tried to hang on but couldn’t keep up with the pace set by her Russian rival. Very moved she spent several minutes in front of the webcam at the finish blowing kisses to her kids and family back in France. Surprise of the day was the performance of the Chinese runner Pui Yan Chow who crossed the line in 2nd place. Fernanda Maciel remained third but like Chema, Maciel also was penalised for a number infringement, luckily it did not impact on her 3rd place but it was close….
Top 5 women Stage 5
CHOW Pui Yan
MOURA ANTUNES MACIEL Fernanda
NOTE – “Puy Yan CHOW has received a time penalty of 3 hours for non-respect of the starting wave at stage 5 and we are going to update the ranking.”
Top 5 men Stage 5
EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader
EL AKAD Aziz
EL MORABITY Rachid
General Ranking 2016
Top 5 women MDS 2016
MOURA ANTUNES MACIEL Fernanda
Top 5 men MDS 2016
EL MORABITY Rachid
EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader
EL AKAD Aziz
MARTINEZ Jose Manuel
The Charity Stage
The compulsory charity stage concluded the 2016 MARATHON DES SABLES and although the overall rankings would not change with is stage, it offered all the runners a casual way to transition from aggressive racing to recovery. Patrick Bauer awarded each and every runner, first to last, with a medal. A significant moment that concluded the 2016 MDS!
MDS, Marathon des Sables, The Toughest Race in the World… whatever you want to call it, the 31st edition is just around the corner. Think about it, 30-years. It’s quite incredible how this race has grown and has become ‘the’ multi-day race to do irrespective of experience. It was the first and is still the best race offering an ultimate adventure for novice and experienced runner.
It’s more than a race. It’s an experience, it’s escape and it’s a challenge. The combination of self-sufficiency, life in bivouac and running 250-km’s through the heat of the Sahara is something that those that have experienced it will never forget. It is the story of life, a story of men and women who have come to the heart of the desert to rid themselves of the superficial to keep only the essentials and get in touch with their true selves.
“What concerns me the most is the runners’ safety, and our capacity to ensure rapid medical intervention and emergency health evacuation. The weather is another worry, but unfortunately totally out of our hands.” – Patrick Bauer
For the past three decades, some 19,000 runners have signed up for this experience, so, with the imminent running of the 2016 edition, it’s fair to say that race will see a great number of participants returning.
To summarise the impact on participants over 30 years:
(statistics provided by MDS media team/ official press documentation)
30-40% are returning,
70% are international,
30% are French,
17% are women
and 45% are veterans thus confirming that you are never too old to take part!
2016 will see 1200 runners participate, a huge increase from 1986 when only 23 runners took part.
“The desert strips you bare, all the more so on a race like this. Values like sharing, solidarity, and respect for differences and cultures are omnipresent. So of course, friendships develop between the brothers and sisters of the desert who have no more barriers or boundaries and are all united to achieve the same goal.” – Patrick Bauer
Lasting six days’ participants must be self-sufficient carrying everything they need in a pack. Water is provided but rationed and a tent (bivouac) is provided each evening that must be shared with seven other participants.
The 2016 edition of the race will be 257-km’s offering a series of challenges that will test the mind and body in equal measure.
“We try to convey happiness, enthusiasm and positive thinking through what we do and the sense of belonging is particularly intense for the runners, almost tribal, after ten days of sharing the adventure and fulfilling the same dream. Another thing I’d say was very important and a big part of the marathon’s success is the security and care that we bring the runners. The average age of participants is about forty, and most of them have children and have opted for a mishap-free adventure. In any case, when your family is far away, you count on quality organization.” – Patrick Bauer
On a course punctuated by difficulties, competitors will get to see all of the Sahara’s different facets. Runners will have to cross ergs (dune fields), djebels (mountains), stony plateaus, dried-up lakes and oueds in which only sand flows, as well as oases, nomad camps, and traditional, rammed-earth villages. The desert has its secret gardens and those taking part in MARATHON DES SABLES will be lucky enough to contemplate them as a recompense for their efforts.
Stage 1 – 10th April
12km of majestic dunes kick off the race anddunes conclude the stage for the last 3km before competitors reach the bivouac. In-between, runners will have the time to appreciate the difficulty of making their way down a sandy oued and crossing a ghost village. Although not confirmed, I would anticipate that the Erg Chebbi Dunes may start the 2016 race. These dunes finished the 2015 edition on the charity stage. This will most definitely mean a longer transfer from the airport to the start of the race and these dunes are tough! “The dunes of Erg Chebbi reach a height of up to 150 meters in places and altogether spans an area of 50 kilometers from north to south and up to 5–10 kilometers from east to west lining the Algerian border.”
Stage 2 – 11th April
A long stage, with a wide variety of terrains. The standard dunes will be accompanied by stony plateaus where time stands still, rammed-earth villages inhabited by courageous souls farming arid land, and some steep djebels. As beautiful as it is difficult.
Stage 3 – 12th April
MARATHON DES SABLES will merit its name on this stage. The first part will go fast but, before the 1st check point the dunes will emerge… and then carry on, with more before and after the 2nd check point and a few more before the bivouac. The desert will go up and down with a slight climb before some slopes of over 20% that will put it all into perspective.
Stage 4 – 13/14th April
Known as “the long one” by old hands, this is the most testing part of the race, where you really need to manage your energy. The list of remarkable sites along this stage is particularly long. It’s the kind of stage that made MDS’s reputation. In less than 35 hours, runners’ minds and bodies will have had their fill. Running through the sand at night under the stars teaches all of them about humility. No one emerges from this long pilgrimage unchanged.
Stage 5 – 15th April
The Marathon stage. For those who thought they’d seen it all, get ready for a revelation. This entirely new route will take you through some splendid sites and end in a battle for the leading places. The less hurried will take their time to admire the landscapes. A lot more dunes and hills for 42.2km.
Stage 6 – 16th April – SOLIDARITY UNICEF legs
This obligatory stage is timed but does not count in the MDS ranking. You have to cross the finish line to feature in the ranking of the 31st MDS and receive a finisher’s medal. When they reach the small village in which the final finish line is located, competitors, sponsors and families signed up on this stage will make up the caravan and be able to appreciate the beauty of the landscape, all wearing the colours of UNICEF, which supports projects for impoverished children. This stage is mostly a chance to reflect on the experience of this amazing human adventure, and raise awareness of solidarity before returning to civilization.
ONES TO WATCH AT MDS 2016
Elisabet Barnes is the defending champion and has become a dominant force in the world of multi-day running. She followed MDS victory in 2015 with victory in Oman and placed 2nd lady at the recent The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. Recent life changes have impacted on Elisabet’s preparation for the 2016 edition of the race but she knows the desert, she knows the sand and she knows how to race over multiple days.
“I have a lot more experience than I had in 2012. I do train a little more, but it’s really that I understand more about pushing myself further and how to manage my food and water. My bag was also a lot lighter than in 2012, my 2015 bag only weighed 7 kilos compared to 11 kilos in 2012.”
Fernanda Maciel is a newbie to the Sahara and multiple day racing despite victory at the 2013 Everest Trail Race. One thing is for sure, the heat should not be a problem for the Brazilian ultra runner. An experienced competitor, Fernanda recently spent a long period of time at altitude in an effort to set a ‘FKT’ (fastest known time) on Aconcagua. Something she achieved! Her success at races such as UTMB, Transgrancanaria and Ultra-Trail Mt Fuji will almost certainly mean that she will be a force to be reckoned with.
Nathalie Maculair will without doubt shake things up at the 2016 edition. Her results speak for themselves and her ability to run fast, climb, handle technical trail will (and quite rightly so) intimidate her competition. Nathalie has raced well at Transvulcania, become a world trail champion and also won the ridiculously tough, Grand Raid de la Reunion (Diagonale des Fous). This will be Nathalie’s first multi-day race but she has raced in ‘Raids’ before. Her small size will without doubt be a huge disadvantage in the early stages. A wife and mother, this may well be the ultimate escape for her.
“Given my small size, transporting 6-7 kg will be quite a challenge. But I’ve already run with a large bag on multisport raids. I enjoy the period when you prepare the bag and start picturing yourself on the race and thinking about what you’ll need. Once I’m in that phase, part of me is already there.”
Laurence Klein has won the race multiple times (2007, 2011 and 2012), and knows the sand and the race better than anyone else. You van never rule her out! In recent years’ things have not gone to plan in the big sand pit, but Laurence is back once again, that can only mean one thing; she believes she can win!
Liza Howard ran MDS last year and placed 16th which does not reflect her ability. She has real experience of ultra running as she proved with victory at Leadville 100 in late 2015 (she also won Leadville in 2010) and I am sure that she learnt valuable lessons in the 2015 edition of MDS that will only make her stronger and more resilient in 2016.
Aziz Raji a name I initially missed but a hot contender for the podium after great runs at Trans Atlas Marathon and in Oman.
Meghan Arbogast is another USA based runner that has all the credentials and history to make a real impact in the dunes and the hard packed sand of the Sahara. A fast runner, particularly over 100km, Meghan’s race history dates back to 1996 and is compulsive reading.
Natalia Sedykh placed 3rd last year and like Elisabet Barnes was an unknown entity. She had a steely grit and determination and I can’t help but think that 1-year on, she will come to the race meticulously prepared with just one objective; overall victory!
Ladies to watch:
Frederica Boifava, Annick Ballot, Gweanelle Coupon, Elise Delannoy, Sophie Laversanne, Claire Price, Holly Zimmermann, Maree Jesson and more.
Rachid El Morabity has won the race three times, is defending champion, has local knowledge and is the man to beat, need I say more?
Franco Colle is a surprise entry as he loves the mountains. He had an incredible 2015 racing on the Skyrunner World Series and by contrast he has won the epic and demanding, Tor des Geants. He has strength, technical ability and is used to carrying a pack in the mountains, this is his first MDS but don’t rule him out!
Sondre Amdahl has been a revelation in recent years with a sting of world -class performances at UTMB, Western States, Transgrancanaria, UTMF and so on. He recently pulled out of the 2016 edition of Transgrancanaria and has then devoted himself to preparing for the Sahara. A fierce competitor, he will try his hardest day-after-day.
“I’m not afraid of it, but I do have a great deal of respect for the race. I’m trying to prepare myself as best as I can, especially for the heat, sand and lack of food. I live in Norway, and it’s cold there right now, so I’ll spend some time in Spain and Morocco before the race.”
Erik Clavery is the great French hope. He has said numerous times that MDS is a dream race and he has set his sights high.
“This weekend I set off to the dunes in western France once again with my 6.5 kg bag on my back. The hardest part will no doubt be getting used to the heat. It’s not easy to reproduce those conditions over here in the winter. So I work on my home trainer wearing a thermal jacket!”
Carlos Sa has come close but never quite managed to smoke the MDS cigar. He placed 4th in 2012 and 7th in 2013. This year, Carlos has really set his sights on MDS and his recent run in Costa Rica at The Coastal Challenge was great training. We all know he can run in the heat as his 2013 victory at Badwater 135 confirms. I hope he makes the podium!
Chema Martinez is a 2:08 marathon runner, he placed 6th at MDS last year and recently had a great run in Costa Rica at The Coastal Challenge. He’s a fun loving guy who loves to race and race fast. He made mistakes in 2015 and will look to put them right in 2016 – watch this space!
Jason Schlarb is one of the USA’s top runners who has excelled at races such as UTMB. Just recently he skied (with 3 others) the Hardrock 100 course over 4-days. A world first and a huge achievement. Without doubt, MDS will be a huge learning curve for Jason but it’s a challenge he is embracing. He sees the race as one big adventure!
Aziz El Akad has been in the top 5 six times, so a repeat performance is highly likely.
Abdelkader El Mouaziz was 2nd last year and a super fast runner. He will be looking to oust Rachid for the top slot and he has the race to do it!
Samir Akhdar has never won MDS but has placed in the top 8 seven times.
Men to watch:
Jean-Sebastien Braun, Marco Olmo, Greg Dunning, Glenn McDougall, Alejandro Lopez Reyes, Ahmed Tahiri, Mohamed Faraj, Marco Pajusco, Juan Manuel Cortes and more.