Marathon des Sables 2016 #MDS2016 Race Preview

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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

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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.

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“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

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The Route

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.

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ONES TO WATCH AT MDS 2016

The LADIES ©iancorless.com_MDS2015Day3-2734

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.

PRE RACE INTERVIEW WITH ELISABETH BARNES HERE

“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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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!

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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.

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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.

The MEN

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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?

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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!

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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.

PRE RACE INTERVIEW WITH SONDRE HERE

“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.”

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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!”

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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!

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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!

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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!

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The Moroccans

  • 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.

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Crazy Statistics of the MDS

“The logistics are a big headache and we organize every last detail in advance! We’re a village of 2,000 people that has to be set up and dismantled every days and needs 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

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▪    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,

▪    18,000 competitors since 1986

▪    30% returning competitors, 70% international, 30% French,
17% women, 45% veterans,
30% in teams,
10% walkers,
90% alternate walking and running,

▪    14 km/hr.: average maximum speed, 3 km/hr.: average minimum speed,

▪    15 years of age for the youngest competitor and the oldest, 83!

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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 ELMORABITY (MOROCCO) – Nikki KIMBALL (USA)

2015 – Rachid ELMORABITY (MOROCCO) – Elisabet Barnes (SWE)

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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 puts in an appearance 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 are 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 of 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.

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Laurence Klein, top-10 tips for the Marathon des Sables

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Laurence Klein (FRA) is a triple winner of the Marathon des Sables; 2007, 2011 and 2012. In 2013, Laurence returned to the Sahara looking for a 4th crown. Running a strong and dominant race, Laurence looked invincible, however, on the long-day she suffered from the heat and was forced to withdraw from the race with dehydration opening the door for Meghan Hicks (USA) to take the lead and win the 28th edition of the race.

We can all learn and here, Laurence provides her top-10 tips for the MDS.

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1/ RUNNING IN THE SAND

“Though sand is omnipresent along the Marathon des Sables course, you don’t just run in dunes. You also traverse stony zones, lunar landscapes and djebels. It’s important not to forget that detail in your preparation… To avoid getting tired, it’s also important to read the terrain you’re not used to. On large dunes for example, it’s best to run along the ridges and try to carve out your own wake so that you don’t sink into the sand as much. On the dunettes however, it’s easier to run in the tracks left by other competitors so as to use their footsteps like stairs. Finally, in the “fesh-fesh” (fine sand that looks like solid ground but behaves like soft mud), you really have to try to be as light on your feet as possible when you run.”

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2/ AVOIDING BLISTERS

“Gaiters are essential in preventing sand from filtering through into your socks too much and causing large blisters. Those who are sensitive to them can also prepare their feet in the run- up to the event, by hardening them with special products or citric acid. On a personal level, I recommend choosing a suitable trail shoe, one or two sizes bigger than your usual town shoe, because feet tend to swell with the heat. Added to that, it goes without saying that when you have blisters, it immediately becomes a lot more painful to put your shoes back on with an additional layer of bandages if you’re already bordering on the limit of your shoe size.”

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3 / HYDRATE REGULARLY

“Dehydration is one of the biggest risks in the desert. It’s imperative you don’t forget this and force yourself to systematically drink the water offered by the organisation, taking small, regular sips during the race and in the evening when you get into the bivouac. During this event, you also loose a lot of salt. As such it’s essential you remember to take the salt tablets supplied by the organisation and plan a diet rich in mineral salts.”

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4/ PROTECT YOURSELF FROM THE SUN

“Avoid wearing dark clothing in the desert as it tends to retain heat. Instead, opt for light clothing and white caps, which reflect the light. It can also be very useful to keep a buff around the neck or the wrist, which you can moisten from time to time to freshen up and bring down your core temperature. The best thing is not to remove too much clothing, but not to wear too much either… and to protect oneself from the sun’s rays using a very good suncream.”

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5/ A LIGHT, BALANCED BAG

“When you pack your bag, don’t forget that you have to add to it the litre and a half of extra water supplied by the organisation throughout the event… As such a bag weighing around 7 kilos is ideal. You also need to think about correctly distributing the weight between the front pack and the backpack, so as to remain balanced and avoid placing all the bag’s weight on your kidneys. Personally, I recommend putting everything at the front that will be of use to you during the day, energy bars, water, roadmap, compass, salt tablets, etc. That way you don’t have to unpack your bag to retrieve something that’s located at the back.”

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6 / GET SOME REST

“It’s very important to get some good rest and sleep well. For this, don’t disregard the comfort of your sleeping bag and opt for a sleeping bag suited to temperatures of around zero. Indeed, even though it rarely gets cooler than that, the temperature range between day and night remains pretty significant and you can soon get cold. For the evening, the majority of runners use painters’ overalls, which keep out the cold and the wind, but you can also get very fine, very light technical clothing with long sleeves.”

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7/ EAT PROPERLY

“Whether you opt for freeze-dried meals or simpler food with a rice, pasta, couscous or mashed potato base, the most important thing is to have a good distribution between protein, which are used to repair the muscles that are in such heavy demand during exertion, carbohydrates, which enable you to quickly restore your energy and speed up the body, and fats, which are essential for the body to work efficiently; especially with this type of exertion where you dig deep into your store of fat. Similarly, don’t think twice about stepping up a little on the organisation’s requisite minimum daily dose of 2,000 calories a day.”

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8/ FINDING ONE’S BEARINGS

“Aside from some of the dunes, where you do need to know how to use a compass to keep on course, the risks of getting lost are virtually non-existent. Indeed the marking is very well done by the organisation throughout the course and there’s substantial monitoring of the runners by the race stewards. However that’s no reason not to learn to use a compass before taking off for Morocco!”

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9/ MANAGING ONE’S EFFORT

“The Marathon des Sables is a long race. As such you need to spread out your effort with the passing days and, most importantly, you mustn’t set off too quickly on the first leg. Instead take the time to adapt to the different terrains you will encounter. You should also think about saving your energy so that you aren’t too tired when it comes to the long stage on the 4th day. To do this, think about getting some good rest in the evening as soon as you return to the bivouac.”

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10/ LIFE IN THE BIVOUAC

“Life in the bivouac is very important. To really make the most of it, I advise you not to bring along your mobile phone so you can fully benefit from each and every moment. Indeed, a whole life and sense of solidarity takes shape within it… The runners are divided up into tents of eight people and they very quickly encourage and support one another and eat together… You have to learn to be generous within it and not get annoyed, remaining open to others. The MDS is a large family. There’s a big communion between the runners and you have to know how to respect that.”

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Marathon des Sables, 29th Edition, Race Preview

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It begins again, the Marathon des Sables! Now in its 29th year, the epic multiday race in the Sahara is considered by many the Father of stage racing. Often called ‘The Toughest Race on Earth’ we all know that it isn’t but one thing is for sure… it’s no walk in the park.

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iancorless.comP1030603Heat, sand, survival, reduced calories and self sufficiency pushed to the limits will test each and everyone of the 1079 participants who will toe the line in South Morocco.

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 Participants from France will represent 30% of the field and over 45 other nations make up the remaining 70% with the UK providing the largest contingent. The provinces of Errachidia and Tinghrir will host the 2014 Marathon des Sables over 6-stages with a total distance of 250km’s. An easy day will be 30km and the longest day, 75km. It’s a wonderful way, albeit a tough and challenging way to embrace the Moroccan dessert.

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The 2013 edition of the race was noted as ‘one of the toughest’ in the races prestigious history, 2014 will be no different; traversing ergs, djebels, stony plateaus, dried-up lakes (wadis) and of course lush oasis. Occasional passing traditional villages and encampments of nomads, the 29th edition of the Marathon des Sables promises to be a ‘secret garden’ of the Sahara.

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Described by race founder, Patrick Bauer as ‘the greatest show on earth’, his comparisons to a circus are apt. The Marathon des Sables really is a large circus like operation on a scale that is second to none. Volunteers number 130 to supervise the race, 430-general staff support the race and 300-local Berbers man the bivouac. All-terrain vehicles number 120, 8 ‘MDS’ planes, 25-buses, 4-dromederies, 1-incinerator lorry, 5-quad bikes and 2-helicopters keep the show on the road. Add to this 52-medical staff, journalists, photographers and you really have what I have come to call, the ‘Cirque de Sahara’, it’s quite special.

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A race with a history, the Marathon des Sables dates back to 1984 when Patrick Bauer, aged 28, ventured into the Sahara to traverse solo a 350km journey with a pack weighing 35kg. It was an ultimate self-sufficient expedition that lasted 12-days.

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Inspired by the experience, in 1986 the first edition was created, just 23-pioneers embarked on what must have been ‘the ultimate’ expedition. Who would have thought those formative years would have laid the foundations for what is, without question, the father of multiple day racing. The race has had memorable moments; in ‘1991’ the Gulf drama had an impact on the race, ‘1994’ the arrival of Doc Trotters, ‘1995’ the 10th anniversary, ‘1996’ Mohamed Ahansal participates for the first time, ‘1997’ Lahcen Ahansal wins his first MDS one of many),  ‘2000’ internet arrives in the Sahara, ‘2001’ the ‘long’ day exceeds 70km, ‘2002’ a week of sandstorms and wind, ‘2009’ flooding at the MDS, ‘2010’ the 25th edition and finally, in ‘2013’, solar energy arrives in bivouac. What does ‘2014’ hold for us…?

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Results recap

2013

  1. 1. Mohamad Ahansal (MAR) 18:59:35
  2. 2. Salameh Al Aqra (JOR) 00:41:40 deficit
  3. 3. Miguel Capo Soler (ESP) 1:19:56 deficit
  1. 4. Meghan Hicks (USA) 24:42:01
  2. 5. Joanna Meek (UK) 00:00:59 deficit
  3. 6. Zoe Salt (UK) 02:21:57 deficit

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2014 Preview

Ladies

2013 female winner, Meghan Hicks unfortunately will not return to the Sahara this year. Meghan would have loved nothing more than to defend her title, however, Meghan has received an injury and has had no other option but to retire; a real shame.

Laurence Klein

Laurence Klein

Jo Meek and Zoe Salt will not return, this leaves the floodgates open for 2011 and 2012 champion, Laurence Klein (Fra) to return and dominate the race. Laurence dropped from the 2013 edition of the race with dehydration whilst in the lead. I have no doubts, Laurence will return, 1-year wiser, 1-MDS wiser and with lessons learnt. Laurence raced at Gruissan Phoebus Taril 50km in February this year and won, in the process, she also placed 20th overall. She’s in form!

Nikki Kimball

Nikki Kimball

Nikki Kimball (USA) looks to be the hot US replacement for Meghan Hicks and I have no doubt that this formidable lady can push Laurence all the way to the line. It’s a showdown that I am really looking forward to watching unfold. Nikki returned to Western States in 2013 and placed 2nd, she was also 2nd at Run Rabbit Run 100-miler… would you like to bet against her? *UTWT entrant

Simone Kayser from Luxemburg has 3-MDS (2002, 2004 and 2005) victories and returns in 2014. With past experience, knowledge of multi-day racing and an understanding of the Sahara, Simone will also test the podium positions. However, her current form is unknown.

Men

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Salameh Al Aqra and Mohamad Ahansal have battled ‘royal’ in the dunes of the Sahara for years. In 2009, Ahansal won, Al Aqra was 3rd, in 2010 it was Ahansal 1st, Al Aqra 2nd, 2011 Ahansal placed 2nd and Al Aqra 3rd, 2012 Al Aqra took honours relegating Ahansal to bridesmaid, however, last year, Ahansal once again regained his crown with Al Aqra chasing the locals heals. Both return in 2014 and based on past records you have to tip Ahansal with his 5-victories and 9-second places to dominate once again.

Mohammed Ahansal

Mohamad Ahansal

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Salameh Al Aqra

Rachid El Moriaty won in the race in 2011 and in doing so placed Ahansal in 2nd by just 7-minutes. He’d do well to repeat that performance.

Miguel Capo Soler is arguably the hot prospect to place Mohammed and Salameh under pressure, his 2013 3rd place will without doubt have ignited a fire and a desire within him to take his performance one step further and move up one notch on the podium and if all goes well, two notches to reign supreme.

Carlos sa

Carlos sa

Carlos Sa, 4th in the 2013 edition will do all he can to infiltrate the podium and if his form is good, he may very well upset the front of the race. His 2013 season was quite spectacular, in particular, his win at Badwater a highlight and his 4th at the 2012 TNFUTMB establishes him as ‘hot’ for the podium at the 29th edition. *UTWT entrant

Miguel Heras certainly is a surprise entrant for MDS and I guess this is a significance of the *UTWT flexing its muscle and introducing runners who we would not normally see at a multi-day race. This is a good thing! However, Miguel had to withdraw from Transgrancanaria with injury issues and I am not sure currently his status? Should he race he will without doubt bring an interesting dynamic to the race. When in form, he is world class and one of the best ultra runners in the world, Miguel has proved this time and time again and is 2nd place at the 2013 TNFUTMB proves this. I hope he’s fit, firing on all cylinders and ready to bring his ‘A’ race to the Sahara.

Danny Kendall

Danny Kendall

UK hopes are in the legs and lungs of Danny Kendall. A ‘regular’ at the MDS, Danny has consistently worked hard on his training, racing strategy and in in 2013 he placed 10th overall, the best ever performance by a Brit. The podium may well be out of reach but anything higher than 9th will be something to celebrate and embrace.

Cyril Cointre also takes a *UTWT place and will be a potential force at the front of the race. Cyril placed 8th at Transgrancanaria and 11th and HK100 in the last 2-months. Will he be recovered.

Wild card may well be Abdelkader El Mouaziz who has 13 sub 2:10 marathons! He hasn’t run the MDS before and that speed may well transfer well to the dunes and terrain of the Sahara, however, one has to wonder what if? Mouaziz won London Marathon in 1999 and 2001; in addition, he also won New York in 2000 and Madrid in 1994. He may well be nowhere near his glory days but Mouaziz is an exciting addition to the 29th edition.

Who else to watch:

Christophe Le eaux

Christophe Le Seaux

Marco Olmo

Marco Olmo

Christophe Le Saux – 9th at MDS 2013

Marco Olmo – 13th at MDS 2013

Anything can happen and without doubt, 2014 will throw up some surprises and names that we have never heard of before. 2013 was no different and that is what makes this sport so exciting and exhilarating.

What does the 2014 course look like?

Leg No.1 – Sunday 6 April

We get straight to the point and attack hard with a good fifteen kilometers or so of dunes in total on this first leg. Our imagination transports us into the shoes of British explorer, Sir Wilfred Thesiger, or to the very core of superb cinema, which were a wonder to us all!

Leg No.2 – Monday 7 April

This is coloured by fields of dunettes on the mountainside and a vast reg plateau, where the marathon runners will be able to really show what they’re made of at over 16km/hr. An abandoned adobe village, a dried-up lake crossing, a small erg with some beautiful dunes, an extensive plateau of black rock, the negotiation of a remote village and a djebel climb will make up the varied menu of this long second leg, where managing ones effort will take on its full meaning.

Leg No.3 – Tuesday 8 April

After 8km of running on fair terrain, the sand will put in an appearance again prior to a djebel ascent where a fabulous erg can be perceived at the bottom of the valley. There the runners will again negotiate some high dunes to make CP2, from where they will discover an ancient town, in ruins and perched on a hill, before making the night’s bivouac.

Leg No.4 (referred to as the long leg or the 80) – Wednesday 9 / Thursday 10 April

An ultra flat plateau running along a series of dunettes will form today’s backdrop before the runners traverse a wadi and hopefully get a bird’s eye view of the desert from up high after a tough little climb of around thirty-minutes. The landscape is truly breathtaking! Once you make it to the valley, you can make out a fabulous little erg followed by vast plateaus and a succession of djebels. The images here are strikingly beautiful and herald the discovery of an impressive sandy valley. Here, a laser beam will guide runners surprised by the cover of darkness. Participants will then link onto terrain dotted with crevasses before traversing a long, winding, sandy wadi and finally the bivouac. It will be important to follow the markers!

Leg No.5 (Marathon leg) – Friday 11 April

A long plateau of black reg will lead the runners into the ‘Out of Africa’ valley before they link onto a mountainous path, which will guide them to the bottom of a deep wadi. It’s a place where a number of villagers have taken up residence along this dried up river in which the palm trees are kings and agriculture is the only resource. A vast plateau peppered with dunes and dunettes will lead the competitor to the bivouac in this final timed leg.

Leg No.6 (the solidarity leg) – Saturday 12 April

As they make for the small village that will play host to the final finish destination, the competitors, sponsors and families that form the caravan will be able to appreciate the beauty and softness of the landscape in the ambience of closeness and sharing that is synonymous with this UNICEF leg (which supports projects benefiting disadvantaged children). For the majority of participants, this walk gives them time to reflect on this beautiful human adventure and collectively realize their accomplishments before getting back to civilization.

Links:

Follow the 2014 Marathon des Sables on www.iancorless.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/talkultra and on Twitter @talkultra

Updates will be posted daily as and when possible based on wifi connection and gps. Please be patient. I will do all I can to upload images and daily reports.

Info:

*UTWTIn 2013, the event became part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour Series, which groups together the major Ultra Trail races across all the different continents. The MARATHON DES SABLES will represent Africa in this circuit, where the distance (at least 100km), the site, the participation (at least 500 at the start), the internationality (at least 20 nations) and the length of existence (at least two editions) determines which events are selected. Beyond these sporting criteria, moral and ethical values, sporting equity, respect for oneself and others, as well as a respect for the environment, must be brought to the fore. Such values have always been conveyed by the MARATHON DES SABLES. 10 races, 5 continents, 150 global elite athletes… the Ultra-Trail® World Tour 2014 draws together the superlatives to provide the biggest number of runners with a world tour of the most prestigious races off the beaten track. Indeed, through their specific features, the #UTWT races illustrate the true diversity of the trail. Their sporting formats call for participants to have a real ability to adapt. As such you need a range of very different qualities to be a contender for victory! The MARATHON DES SABLES, the 4th leg of the 2014 tour, ranks among the ‘series’ races. As such, the number of points won in this event is increased, which makes it a decisive race in the bid for the #UTWT 2014 champion’s title. Participating in the Ultra-Trail® World Tour gives everyone a chance to discover unique cultural and sporting features. All the continents will be visited: Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania. So many opportunities to enrich one’s sporting culture, to create new friendships and to feed on emotions and perhaps, one day, be a ‘finisher’ in every one of the events!

 

The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc 2013 – Ladies Preview

UTMB logo. iancorless.com ©ultratraildumontblanc

UTMB logo. iancorless.com ©ultratraildumontblanc

It was always going to be touch and go… unfortunately, it is go. Lizzy Hawker has struggled with injury for much of 2013 and despite running at Sierre-Zinal recently, Lizzy has been forced to withdraw from the 2013 TNF UTMB with another stress fracture. Of course, this is devastating news for Lizzy and the race. Lizzy is the Queen of UTMB and we want her here, not only so that she can chase the course record she so desires but also to allow the other ladies to race the best.

Another main contender for the overall, Emelie Lecomte has been forced to withdraw due to injury. Emelie is a strong performer over the long races and a lovely person. I for one am disappointed not to see her toe the line. She placed on the podium at Ronda dels Cims earlier this year but has struggled ever since.

So, who are the ladies to watch? 

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Francesca Canepa (Vibram/Montura) was 2nd in 2012 and then just one week later turned up at Tor des Geants and won! Without doubt, a remarkable double. Francesca likes long, tough and hard races. For sure, a shortened TNF UTMB as it was in 2012 in theory, would normally not suit her yet she still placed 2nd. That has to be a worry of all those that will line up against her on Friday. This year she has raced and raced. A very impressive and dominant win at Ronda dels Cims is probably the most significant result going into this race, however, Francesca placed well at Ice Trail Tarentaise and won the Eiger Trail. Recently she ran Speedgoat (not a race for her) and she placed 10th. All in all, Francesca is the outright favourite for this year’s race now that Lizzy and Emelie are not running.

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Emma Rocca (Buff) placed 3rd last year and is a consistently good performer with plenty of experience. For example, she has raced at Marathon des Sables (2nd in 2011) and just recently had a great run at Speedgoat with 4th place. That shows great depth over multi stage, single stage and also shorter faster courses. Without doubt, Emma is podium potential once again for this year’s race.

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The most exciting prospect for the 2013 race is Nuria Picas (Buff). This is Nuria’s first 100-mile race and that for sure will be the biggest stumbling block. However, if she can hold the reins back, take it easy over the first two thirds and then use her speed and skill in the final third, then we may well see Nuria top the podium. Nuria had an incredible 2012 dominating the Skyrunning calendar, she had three great wins at Trofeo Kima, Cavalls del Vent and Templiers, and she also placed second behind Frosty at Transvulcania. 2013 has been an equally great year, however, she has been chasing Emelie Forsberg around the Skyrunning calendar and has placed a super consistent second at Transvulcania, Zegama-Aizkorri and most recently Trans D’Havet. She is without doubt one to watch!

Three US ladies make my ‘hot contenders’ for this year and first up is Amy Sproston (Montrail). Amy is a 100k champ and placed top 10 at last-years UTMB with 8th overall. On paper, Amy can most certainly be top 5 at UTMB and if she has a great day, maybe top 3. Significantly, she placed 3rd at Western States, two places ahead of Rory Bosio. However, I think we will see those roles reversed in the Alps but as we all know, anything can happen.

Meghan Arbogast (Scott) was in Zermatt last weekend for the Matterhorn Ultraks but she only ran the short race as a loosen up for this weekends fun. She was looking strong, relaxed and confident. Her 4th place at Western States certainly means that everything is in place for a great tour of the Alps. In 2012, Meghan placed 12th at UTMB and for sure she can move up and be top 10. A great day and she may well push top 5.

Rory Bosio (The North Face) placed 4th in the 2012 race over the shortened course and was some time behind Francesca Canepa. Rory’s recent 5th place at Western States is obviously a great race and a great boost, however, I for one thought she would make the podium. Post WSER, Rory has spent plenty of time in Europe and therefore will come to the race adapted and ready to push for the podium and top slot.

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Shona Stephenson (inov-8) is making the long journey from Australia and arrived a day or so ago. Shona has already spent time in the Alps racing at the Mont Blanc VK, Mont Blanc Marathon and Ice Trail Tarentaise (she dropped about two thirds in). She also spent a great week with the inov-8 team testing new apparel and shoes in the mountains. Earlier this year she was performing consistently well with a win at Tarawera, a great 2nd place at UTMF and a win at Northburn 100. She like the longer and harder races and although she has limited European racing experience, if she is in the right frame of mind and feeling good, then we may well see Shona on the podium and I would expect a top 10 to be guaranteed.

Katia Fori (Technica) has raced twice at UTMB before placing 5th and 7th. Of course, being an Italian is a great advantage, as she will understand the terrain, mountains and the weather. This is a key to racing well over the Alpine course. In addition, she knows how to survive and spend a long time in the wilderness; her 4th place at the Tor des Geants proves this. In reality, I don’t see Katia making the top 5 but it only takes one or two to have a bad day and Katia to have a great day!

Helen Cospolich (The North Face) is a three times finisher at UTMB, her best performance came in 2011 with 6th. She has the super strong TNF team behind her and although she placed just inside the top 20 last year (17th), I would imagine that she could do better. It all comes down to the day! This year looks to be dry and warmer (at least in the day) and that will make her feel better for sure.

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Another TNF (The North Face) athlete is Ligia Madrigal. Ligia is Costa Rican and I actually ran with her on several occasions at this year’s multi-stage, The Coastal Challenge; a race she has won and placed 2nd at in previous years. This year she didn’t have a great race and dropped. Although she places well in Central and South American races, UTMB will be a steep learning curve for her. She will do well to place in the top 20 and if she makes the top 10, she will have had a great race.

Completing the TNF line up is Ru-Ling Xing. I would be lying if I knew much about Ru-Ling however; her stats show top 10 results at TNF 100k in China and 3rd at Vibram 100k. She has raced at UTMB before but finished outside the top 20, if she edges into the top 20 this year she will have had a good race.

Nora Senn has placed 3rd overall at the tough UTMF in 2012; great grounding for the UTMB. Earlier this year she won Lantau 100k so I am sure she will be looking to put the record straight after dropping from UTMB last year. She has the potential to surprise a few people, however, best-case scenario will be top 10. I don’t see Nora contest the podium.

The ladies race may not have as many possibilities as the men’s race, but with Lizzy Hawker not in the race, it is wide open for a really exciting and competitive race up at the front.

Without doubt I will have missed several ladies who will make the top 10 and for sure make the top 20, so, if you know anyone let me know.

  1. Who do you think will win?
  2. Will we see a surprise performance from one of the ‘100’ newbies?
  3. Who will be the best placed US runner?

MARATHON DES SABLES 2013 Preview

copyright Marathon des Sables

copyright Marathon des Sables

MARATHON DES SABLES 2013

The 2013 edition of the Marathon des Sables is a self-sufficient race in the South of the Moroccan desert, the event will take place from 5th to 15th April 2013. For the 18th consecutive year, it will be run under the patronage of his Majesty King Mohammed VI.

Since its creation in 1986, the Marathon des Sables has attracted over 13,000 competitors over 27 editions. From humble beginnings, the race is now the most prestigious multi-stage race in the world.

The 2013 Marathon des Sables will see 1,091 entrants toe the line. With 45 different nationalities and a strong presence from France and the UK, the 28th edition will be a memorable one.

Taking place in South Morocco, in the provinces of Errachidia and Tinghrir the race will cover 223.8km over 5 stages. It will encompass some of the most beautiful terrain in the Moroccan desert. Eagerly awaited by one and all, the dunes, ergs and dried-up wadis will delight the thousand or so entrants from the fifty plus countries across the globe.

MDS LOGO

Race Programme:

5 April 2013: Leave country of residence for Morocco (UK entrants leave on the 4th) – Arrival in Ouarzazate, bus transfer to the 1st bivouac.

6 April 2013: Administrative, technical and medical checks – Day to acclimatise.

From 7-12 April 2013: Race in progress. (The self-sufficiency begins from breakfast on the 1st leg).

12 April 2013: Prizing ceremony in desert.

13 April 2013: Charity leg for UNICEF– Transfer to Ouarzazate.

14 April 2013: Day of relaxation, festivities.

15 April 2013: Return to country of residence.

Race Logistics

Patrick Bauer affectionately describes the Marathon des Sables as a big circus. It’s like moving a city everyday… just look at what is involved.

Race management : This team comprises more than 100 people including a race HQ, race marshals, controllers, timekeepers and ranking compilers. Since 2010, the official ranking has been achieved using a “transponder” for all the competitors.

Supervision : 400 people: technical, logistical and medical skills, 100 vehicles, 2 helicopters, 1 CESSNA plane, 4 dromedaries… and the active support of the Royal Armed Forces: 21 lorries (6×6) and 40 men to supervise logistics.

Medical Assistance : A team of 50 people under Dr Frédéric COMPAGNON, DOC TROTTER supervises the runners as much on a medical level (care of feet, resuscitation…) as a mental level, both of which fail sometimes in front of the toughness of the event and the hostility of the climate.

In the 27th SULTAN MARATHON DES SABLES, 3 tonnes of gear was transported and the medical team used : 5km of Elastoplast, 2,700 second-skin patches, 125 litres of disinfectant, 230 litres of drip solutions, 15,000 compresses, 2,800 pairs of surgical gloves,…

The Team

  • 115 volunteers on the course itself
  • 400 support staff overall
  • 120 000 litres of mineral water
  • 270 berber and saharan tents
  • 100 all-terrain vehicles
  • 
2 “Squirrel” helicopter and 1 “Cessna” plane
  • 6 “MDS special” commercial planes
  • 23 buses
  • 4 dromedaries
  • 
1 incinerator lorry for burning waste
  • 4 quad bikes to ensure environment and safety on race
  • 
52 medical staff
  • 6.5 kms of Elastoplast, 2 700 Compeed, 19 000 compresses 6 000 painkillers, 150 litres of disinfectant
  • 4 editing stations, 5 cameras, 1 satellite image station
10 satellite telephones, 30 computers, fax and internet

Marathon des Sables

Marathon des Sables – how did it start?

Patrick Bauer interview available HERE

1984 : At the age of 28, Patrick Bauer decided to make a journey into the Sahara. His objective was to traverse 350km’s of uninhabited desert, on foot, alone and without any possibility of encountering a single village, oasis or watering place. Totally self sufficient, Patrick entered the desert with a pack weight of 35kg containing all his water and food. The journey lasted 12 days and it was the starting point of what has now become the MARATHON DES SABLES.

Patrick Bauer, Marathon des Sables copyright www.lest-eclair.fr

Patrick Bauer, Marathon des Sables copyright http://www.lest-eclair.fr

1986 : The creation of the first MARATHON DES SABLES 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 today has become unmissable on the schedule for major adventure sport meets.

1989 : 170 competitors take the start of the race and the rest is history.

I caught up with Patrick Bauer at the MDS UK expo in late 2012. You can listen to that interview (lasts 13 minutes):

talkultra.com

LISTEN HERE

The 2013 Race – who will be taking part?

1,090 competitors aged 20 to 76 are expected to take the start (definitive number on 6 April following administrative and medical checks) representing 45 different nationalities: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Latvia, Luxembourg, Morocco, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of El Salvador, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States.

The participants are men and women with various and varied profiles (Doctors, farmers, coppersmiths, pilots, builders, chefs, servicemen and women, students, professional athletes and retired persons…).

The 2013 MDS Challengers for the overall win

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The Female contenders for the overall win :

Laurence Klein 2012 MDS

Laurence Klein 2012 MDS

  • Laurence KLEIN (FRA) – 1st woman in 2007, 2011 and 2012, European 100km Champion.
  • Meryem KHALI (MAR) – 2nd woman in 2012. N°1082:
  • Megan HICKS (USA) – 2nd woman in 2009.
  • Simone KAYSER (LUX )– 3 victories in the MDS.


The Male contenders for the overall win : 

Mohamad Ahansal

Mohamad Ahansal

  • Salameh AL AQRA (JOR) – 1st in 2012, 2nd in 2008, 2010, 3rd in 2009, 2011.
  • Mohamad AHANSAL (MAR) – 4 victories and 2nd place 9 times.
  • Samir AKHDAR (MAR) – 6th in 2011, 7th in 2009.
  • Rachid EL MORABITY (MAR) – 1st in 2011.
  • Aziz EL AKAD (MAR) – 2nd in 2009 and 3rd in 2008 and 2012.
  • Christophe LE SAUX (FR) – 6th in 2012, 1st Guyan’trail 2011 and 2012.
  • Anton VENCELJ (SLO) – 4th in 2010, 8th in 2012.
  • Abdelaaziz TAYSS (FR) – French Cross-Country champion 2008 and 2011
  • Vincent DELEBARRE (FR) – 9th in 2005, 1st UTMB, Réunion, Templiers, etc
  • Martin FIZ (SP) – World Marathon Champion in 1995.
  • Carlos GOMEZ DE SA (POR) – 4th 2012 and 8th in 2008, 4th UTMB 2012.
  • Marco OLMO (ITA) – Top 10 in the MDS, 2 UTMB victories.
  • Antonio Filippo SALARIS (ITA) – 7th in 2012.

In 2013 I followed two runners in the build up to the 2013 Marathon des Sables. Tobias Mews placed 21st overall in the 2010 race and Stuart Rae is toeing the line for the first time in 2013. Each interview alternated on episodes of Talk Ultra but they have been joined together in one episode (lasts just under 1 hour)

talkultra.com

LISTEN HERE

2012 results (for reference)

1st : Salameh Al Aqra (JOR) in 19h59’21’’
 2nd : Mohamad Ahansal (MAR) 21’02’’ behind 3rd : Aziz El Akad (MAR) 1h38’56’’ behind

1st : Laurence Klein (FRA) in 26h15’40’’ 2nd : Meryem Khali (MAR) 1h19’38’’ behind 3rd : Karine Baillet (FRA) 1h31’07’’ behind

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The 2013 race route

  • 1st leg – 37.2k Undulating terrain, interspersed with small ergs representing 5km of small dunes (dunettes).
  • 2nd leg – 30.7km 3 djebels with 10 to 25% gradients – exceptional panoramic views.
  • 3rd leg – 38km 2 djebel sections, 2 dried-up lakes and lots of sand.
  • 4th leg – 75.7km a total of 13km of dunes and around 30km of sandy terrain.
  • 5th leg – 42.2km the final leg is a marathon with ergs, regs, a dried-up lake and wadi beds…
  • Total Distance – 223.8km

Mandatory Kit

One of the key aspects of the Marathon des Sables is what kit to take? Here is a list of ‘mandatory’ kit. Of course, you need to add to this food requirements, cooking equipment and any additional luxuries.

  1. Distress flare: For use in the event of an extreme emergency. A range in excess of several dozen metres once activated.
  2. Knife: Equipped with a metal blade, it’s obviously useful in the bivouac and it can be of service when useful in the bivouac and it can be of service when running too.
  3. Compass: Surpassing both intuition and signposting, the compass is the marathon runner’s signposting.
  4. Whistle: Slowed by problems with your health or astray of the initial route, it enables other competitors or the organisation to be alerted to your whereabouts.
  5. Lighter: An important ally after a day’s running, whenit’s time to make a fire to heat up your meal.
  6.  Anti-venom pump: Even though it’s rare to have an unpleasant encounter with a snake, the anti-venom pump is compulsory and can enable action to be pump is compulsory and can enable action to be taken quickly.
  7. Antiseptic: As the days go by, all kinds of injuries can crop up, even during the race sometimes. So whilst awaiting assistance from a Doc Trotter, antiseptic can be important prior to linking up with the medical team.
  8. Sleeping bag: To be carried for seven days, ideally it shouldn’t exceed 400g and should be suitable for temperatures of between 5°C and 10°C. Indeed, the nights are cold in the desert.
  9. Survival blanket: In the event of serious problems, the survival blanket enables you to protect yourself from both the cold and sun. It weighs in at no more than 60g.
  10. Signalling mirror: If lost, someone competing in the Marathon des Sables will want to signal his or her presence. Playing with the sun and a mirror may be an alternative prior to using a distress flare.
  11. Salt tablets: Not exactly pleasant tasting, they are nonetheless essential for avoiding dehydration.
  12. Glow sticks: The perfect marker during the long leg.
  13. Headtorch: once night falls or when wandering around the bivouac, the headtorch is essential.

I will be reporting from the 2013 event as the race unfolds and providing I am able to gain adequate access to internet, I will update my website, Facebook and Twitter with reports and images as often as possible. So please keep checking!