We all run long, but the length of a long run can really vary depending on many factors such as age, fitness, race and training history, targets, objectives and available time. I get asked and read, time and time again, the question, ‘How long should I run?’
‘What session you doing?’
‘Long run today,’ the answer.
But, what is a long run and how long should a long run be?
Before that question can be answered, one needs to understand why one is running long and for what purpose. Typically this will be a long-term event that is planned in the diary that may or may not be a race.
Having a date to work too is a great starting place as it provides a deadline point. This helps focus the mind and plan the time accordingly.
Ask yourself, what your objectives are? For example, there is a difference between competing and completing?
What distance is the event? (What is the time limit, what are intermediate cut-off times?)
If you are used to running 5k and 10k events, a long run for you may well be 75-90 minutes? If you are a marathon runner, your long run may be 3 to 3.5-hours. If you are running an ultra, this is where it gets tricky.
Why do we run long?
In summary, we put an emphasis on 3 key points:
- Mental Strength
- Muscular and physical adaptation
- Efficiency to use fat as a fuel
If you have never run for more than 1 hour in training, then 3 hours on your feet just feels like a really long time, so, you need to adapt mentally for the challenge ahead and you need to be strong to get the job done. This time on feet, needs to be appropriate to the challenge one has planned.
Muscular and Physical Adaptation:
Muscle soreness will come for everyone, however, we can train to reduce the impact or delay the process by progressively running longer in training. With recovery periods, we allow our muscles to adapt to the stress and they become stronger. Delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) is not pleasant and it something that can really be painful in the 24/ 48 and 72 hour period after hard/ ;long training or racing. By running long in training we adapt to delay or reduce the DOMS.
Efficiency to use fat as a fuel:
Our bodies can only store so much carbohydrate and once those stores are used up we have only two options left: top them up or slow down and maybe even stop if they have got very low. As an endurance athlete we need to tap into our almost unlimited fat stores. We do this by teaching our body to use fat as a fuel during the long run. The more efficient you become at this, the longer you can run and the longer you can maintain a pace. Ultimately it means the whole race/training experience will be better and more enjoyable.
The Long Run
Running longer requires running slower, especially if we are going to switch fat burning on. It requires a pace that one can maintain for hours and hours and yes, that pace can be walking. The long run/ walk is specific to you and nobody else!
Running hard and faster has its place and yes, top elite runner can and will incorporate faster paces within a long run to adapt. But be specific and think of your objectives and what you are trying to achieve.
Be specific with terrain. No point for training for a 50-mile trail race with loads of vertical and technical trail and then run all sessions on the road.
Runners get stressed and worried by mileage, pace, miles per minute and so on. Relax. Think of your long run in terms of time, not distance. Particularly important if running off-road.
To help provide perspective, 3-hours on the road you may well allow one to cover 20-miles, but on the trails or in the mountains, one may only cover 12-miles.
A common mistake is that we make our long run too fast and our faster runs not fast enough. We therefore end up one paced. Make longer sessions slow and make hard sessions hard. If in doubt, use RPE, Rate of Perceived Exertion. Quite simply, when running long and easy you should have a perceived effort of breathing calmly and being able to talk. If running hard, you should have a perceived effort of difficulty, shortness of breath, discomfort and an inability to hold a conversation.
The big question, how long should the long run be?
Short distance runners often run ‘over distance’ in training. For example, a 10k runner may run a long slow half marathon to build endurance. A half marathon runner may run a long and slow steady 16-20 miles in preparation for a fast race.
This all falls apart when we go to the marathon and beyond. How often have you heard in marathon training that the long run should be 21/22 miles or 3-hours 30-minutes in preparation for a race. But these generic terms do not take in to account the individual. Think of Kipchoge, if he did long runs at 3.5 hours, even running slow (7 min miles for him,) he would cover over 30-miles!
Long runs and adapting for an endurance run such as an ultra comes from not one run but a combination of all runs. It’s about your accumulative run history. They all add up to make you an endurance machine. So, typically, if you are running longer than a marathon, you will have been running for some time.
First and foremost, consistency is key and long runs should be progressive and based on ability and experience. A long run should test you but not break you.
What do I mean by progressive?
Let’s use a 12-week scenario based on a runner who can currently run 2-hours in a long run. I am not looking at base training here, but the specifics of a long run and how to make the long run longer. I’m a big fan of building over 3-weeks and recovering for 1-week.
- Week 1 – Sunday 2:30 hours
- Week 2 – Sunday 2:45 hours
- Week 3 – Sunday 3:00 hours
- Week 4 – 2 hours
- Week 1 – Sunday 2:45 hours
- Week 2 – Wednesday 90min / Sunday 3:00 hours
- Week 3 – Wednesday 90min/ Sunday 3:20 hours
- Week 4 – Sunday 2:30 hours
- Week 1 – Wednesday 90min/ Sunday 3:00 hours
- Week 2 – Wednesday 1:45 hours/ Sunday 3:30 hours
- Week 3 – Wednesday 2:00 hours/ Sunday 4:00 hours
- Week 4 – Wednesday 60min/ Sunday 3:00 hours
The above scenario provides a structured example on how to build up from running 2 hours comfortably to 4 hours. But remember the above scenario is 12-weeks of running with over 37-hours of running, just in the long runs!. That is huge and a great place to start for any endurance challenge.
But my race is 50-miles, can I run the distance?
As mentioned above, it’s not wise or sensible to run too long in anyone session. But the 12-week plan above on a 3/1 scenario shows you how it’s possible to build time and confidence. As you gain more experience you can look at doing back-to-back sessions and plan long training weekends all as part of a long term plan (see below.) Ultimately though, running too long in terms of distance or time is something that should be very carefully planned. You will always here about runners who can do 200-mile weeks or 50-mile training runs; they are exceptions and not the norm. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security and don’t feel inadequate, we are all individuals and this is maybe the most important aspect.
- Week 1 – Saturday 2:00 hours/ Sunday 3:30 hours
- Week 2 – Sunday 4:00 hours
- Week 3 – Wednesday 90 mins/ Saturday 2:30 hours/ Sunday 4:30 hours
- Week 4 – Sunday 3:00 hours
- Week 1 – Saturday 2:30 hours/ Sunday 3:45 hours
- Week 2 – Wednesday 90min / Sunday 4:00 hours
- Week 3 – Wednesday 2 hours / Saturday 3:00 hours/ Sunday 5:00 hours
- Week 4 – Sunday 2:30 hours
- Week 1 – Wednesday 90min/ Saturday 3:00 hours/ Sunday 3:00 hours
- Week 2 – Wednesday 1:45 hours/ Sunday 5:00 hours
- Week 3 – Wednesday 2:00 hours/ Saturday 3:00 hours/ Sunday 6:00 hours
- Week 4 – Wednesday 60min/ Sunday 3:00 hours
Running or walking long is a voyage of discovery and you need to balance long-distance with adequate recovery.
Listen to your body.
Training should be about preparing you to tackle the challenge, but it will never FULLY prepare you. There’s always going to be a bit of extra and a bit of unknown on the day of the event, but surely that’s why you’ve entered?
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The island of Tenerife this coming weekend will host the Tenerife Bluetrail, three races – Trail, Marathon and Ultra.
The MARATHONdeparts from Pista de Mamio and covers a total distance of 43 km’s and concludes in Puerto de la Cruz.
The TRAIL race is 66km race which starts at 1387m from Vilaflor and using a mixture of path, track and asphalt will reach an altitude of 2520m. It’s a tough race with 14-hours allocated for completion. Total +/-elevation is 7886m.
The main event of the weekend is the ULTRA. A brutally tough and challenging race of 101.5km’s. It’s an amazing concept race that is truly logical as it offers a traverse of the island, from sea, to summit and returning back to the sea. The highest point of the race is the iconic Mt Teide at 3550m. Made up mostly of paths and tracks, the route also includes a small section of asphalt, just 13%. An allocated 24-hours is provided to complete the event. Departing from Playa Fanabe at 2330 on June 8th, the route will pass through La Quinta, Ifonche, Vilaflor de Chasna, Degollada de Guajara, Roques de Garcia, Pico Viejo, La Rambleta, Montana Blanca, Lomo Hurtado, Recibo Quemado, Ladera de Tigaiga, Chanajiga, Tigaiga, El Asomadero, El Mirador de la Corona, Mirador San Pedro and Rambla de Castro before finishing in Puerto de la Cruz.
Race Website HERE
A quality line-up of elite runners will participate over the three races:
Andrea Huser needs no introduction, she is consulate professional who has boundless energy to race week in and week out. She is a UTWT champion and has adorned the podium of UTMB and Transgrancanaria. Recently she raced the Marathon des Sables but has been plagued with a recurring injury.
Bernadette Benson is a Canadian who lives in Australia. A long-distance specialist she is an expert at 24-hour racing. Notably in 2010, she was the outright winner of the Brisbane 24-hour championships.
Jose David Lutzardo Barraso is from Tenerife, a real motivation when racing the Bluetrail. Notably, he has won the Haria Extreme race in Lanzarote, the Reventon Trail in La Palma and most recently he was 5th at the 2018 Transgrancanaria.
Marco Zanchi is a long-distance mountain running specialist from Italy. UTMB, Tor des Geants and Diagonale des Fous rank amongst his greatest results where he placed 11th, 6th and 7th respectively.
Cristofer Clemente recently adorned the podium of the IAU World Trail championships placing 2nd behind Luis Alberto Hernando. Earlier this year he was 2nd in Transgrancanaria and he has been a prolific racer and achiever in the Skyrunner World Series. His presence in Tenerife is a huge bonus for the race.
Pau Capell just this last weekend placed 4th in Madeira at the Ultra Skymarathon Madeira, a tough and challenging 55km mountain race. He is a two-time champion of Transgrancanaria, for sure, his racing ability will put all those who go against him to the test in Tenerife.
Azara Garcia also a winner of Transgrancanaria and prolific racer in the Skyrunner World Series brings her mountain and trail running expertise to the Bluetrail. She was a runner up at the Buff Epic Trail in 2016 and has represented her country at the IAU World Trail champs on multiple occasions.
Yeray Duran is a previous winner of the Tenerife Bluetrail and is a popular favourite amongst runners from Spain and the Canary Islands. He competes regularly over varying distances and highlights include top-10results at TDS, CCC and 3rd in the Transgrancanaria.
Marc Pinsach is an athlete very much in the mood of Kilian Jornet, also a good friend. He mixes ski mountaineering and running seamlessly, excelling in both.
Sange Sherpa is two-time participant of Bluetrail having won in 2016 and placing 3rd last year. Coming from Nepal and an experienced mountain runner, he is a prime candidate for victory in Tenerife.
Augustin Vicente Garcia Perez placed 3rd at Bluetrail in 2015 and returns in 2018 with high hopes for 2nd or the top of the podium.
Finally, Lorena, Juana and Mario Rodriguez Raramuri will travel to Tenerife to participate. Residing in the mountains of Mexico, these Tarahumara runners bring spice to an already quality line-up. The Raramuri brothers personify pure mountain spirit.
Runners will arrive from all over the world to the stunning island of Tenerife to participate in one of the challenging races that make up stunning weekend of running, be that the MARATHON, TRAIL or the ULTRA.
Action stars on June 7th 2018.
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In December 2016, female ultra-running in the USA hit a purple patch. Two Ann Trason records fell, Gina Slaby set a new outright 100-mile record lowering Trason’s 13:47:41 to 13:45:49 at Deserts Solstice Invitational and Caroline Boller lowered the USA 50-mile trail record to 5:48:01 at Brazos Bend. Caroline, aged 42-years is a Brit living in the USA and has only been running ultra’s for 4-years. I caught up with her to find out about this stunning run.
Ian: I’m joined by Caroline Boller and she’s Americas 50-mile fastest runner on the trails. How are you doing Caroline?
Caroline Boller: I’m doing very well thank you Ian.
Ian: So how does it feel running 50 miles super-fast and breaking a record that was set by Ann Trason, I mean come on, that pretty damn good isn’t it?
Caroline: Well it was a very good day, I was determined to have fun, it was my birthday so that helped to keep a positive mind-set, it was better day than I expected.
Ian: Yes, I mean what was Ann’s record 6:14 and change and you run 5:48:01, now, we have got a say that this is not on the same course and of course there’s many variables that come in with a trail record because the elevation gain, the type of surface that you’re running on but still it’s 50-miles and you’ve got to run it damn quick. What’s the thought process going in to a race like this, did you ever have a record at the back of your mind?
Caroline: The set up was more of a mark to see could if I go as fast as that and possibly faster on this course which is quite a fast course. I did have the record in mind, at the same time it was more of a personal challenge to me to try and see if I could get out there and just see how fast could I run on a trail surface; on a course that’s conducive to fast times. I thought I could probably run it sub-six on a good day, the trail was as described and then I got out there and was just having a fantastic day.
Whenever you go that fast in a 50-mile race or a long race like that you know there’s always a danger that it’s going to catch back up to you and I was willing to take that gamble and it paid off, and it doesn’t always work out like that but on this day, it did and it turned in to a great day because of it.
Ian: There’s so many things that come in into this type of performance and I’ve mentioned it before on my podcast and I’m going to go back to Ian Sherman’s win at Rocky Raccoon. Where the stars align, the weather’s perfect, the course is perfect, the person is perfect and it results in a perfect performance and arguably one can say that is how world records, course records, life time performance bests come. Do you feel that for you it was one of those days where everything just aligned?
Caroline: Well it definitely was a good day the conditions were amazing, the conditions can be quite difficult down there because it is essentially a swamp and even in the winter you can have– quite aside from the wild life there’s alligators and mosquitoes and things like that, which if you don’t like that sort of thing can throw you of a bit, but the weather was really good. It can be very humid there and we didn’t have a tone humidity in the air or at least I didn’t feel it, and the weather was quite cool.
It can also be quite warm even in December, so having an over cast day, a day that was very cool and was cool throughout. There was a little bit of wind for the second and the third loop course, three loops and second and the third loop we were buffeted a little bit by wind in some of the exposed sections of the course, but those sections were limited; I would say it was a total of maybe four or five miles throughout the whole race.
And so, I don’t think it affected me too much and I just enjoyed it and it’s one of those days where I just went in with a positive attitude. Like I said that helped me to overcome when it became tough, because it did get tough and I’m just thankful that it came together as it did because it’s very easy to give back all those early fast miles at the end and the fact that, that didn’t happen too much, I think I lost a couple of minutes from that last loop and that’s it. And other than that, my splits were very consistent throughout and yes it just came together well on the day.
Ian: Tell me about the pigs?
Caroline: The pigs were completely unexpected. I was running, it was in the first couple of miles and we’d just done a turn back and there quite a lot of runners at that point because we’d only just come out at the start right, and so I wasn’t the only one who was intimidated by these pigs but I could hear this noise in the brush and it was very loud, multiple animals snorting and you just don’t know what’s going to come out of the bushes. I was sort of thinking, no what could this be, I’m expecting it to be wild boar which is quite a bit bigger and has horns, they are much more aggressive and instead it was these pigs, they were wild pigs but they came out and they were maybe a dozen or so of them.
They came out right in front of me on the trail, just a few feet away and they streamed across the trail – stunning! If I had been there or if anyone had been there they would have completely been wiped out by this stampeding heard, but at the same time there’s part of me going, “They are so cute.” There were little baby piglets in there too, so cute. It could have been quite a different story from my racing day because you could still hear them in the brush even after the main group had passed and I thought no, I’m just going to have to chance it and go for it and I did and I was lucky enough that I did not get taken out by the pigs, I don’t think anybody did which is excellent news.
Ian: Brilliant! I was reading your report about the race and one of the things that interested me was in the latter stages of the report, you said that you felt as though there was always another runner in front of you and that you were running in second and chasing that runner, and that other runner may very well have been Ann Trason. Does visualization and mind games play a big part of getting a good performance out of yourself.
Caroline: It definitely does! The races where I am very mindful of keeping a positive attitude and of reinforcing that, in my mind I keep saying things to encourage myself and to tell myself that it’s going well – just keep at it! I sat to myself. ‘just stay there you don’t want to lose all that ground.’ Having that visualization of weather, a real runner or not, so, in this scenario I was just visualizing Ann Trason in front of me, and just following her lead which was quite fun.
In the end of the race I had a runner behind me, I passed him at about mile 45 and I was imagining that he was close on my heels and going to pass and I thought it would be quite fun to finish the race first overall, that was definitely motivating for me as well.
Ian: That must have been Michael? If I remember correctly, he was running the 100-mile race but dropped down to the 50?
Caroline: He had dropped down a couple of days before the race as he had come down with a cold, on the day he raced the 50.
Ian: On a course like this where you’re coming across other runners, how helpful is that in terms of motivation as well?
Caroline: Well the nice thing about a loop style course is that you do of course see a great deal of people. There are quite a lot of out and back sections from the course as well and you would see a lot of the same runners as you’re going around and they were all very encouraging, it makes it much more interesting! Instead of sort of just having a flat expansive road or trail, there was always something to be anticipating, I’ve got an aid station coming up here, I’m going to see my crew here, look I’ve seen that person again and they are having a strong day it’s good for them, try and encourage them on and there was always something to look at, always something to keep my mind engaged which was great.
Ian: What I find interesting is you consider yourself a rank amateur but you just set this time and that would indicate the opposite. How does that fit in your mind set?
Caroline: Well it is very hard for me to reconcile it too because I came to running later in life. I didn’t start until I was about 38, so for me it’s just been four years of plugging away. I feel that I’m only just sort of getting a handle on how to do it properly and I still don’t think I have a lot of it figured out. I mean I have yet to have a successful 100-mile race. I’m always optimistic that there’s a lot of better races still in me and I can perform better. Maybe it’s more of a personal view of myself that I’m never quite satisfied and I always want to be pushing for more.
I also see so many of these amazing women out there and of course the men too. Sometimes they make it look so effortless. Sometimes they get it right all the time and I don’t. I mean, I have races where I’ll have a good race and then I’ll have a bad race. I don’t have a ton of consistency. I do still think of myself as somebody who’s working out. I’m not quite there yet.
Ian: But in running terms you’re still in primary school, aren’t you? Because you’re only running for four years.
Caroline: Yes, that’s the hope [laughter], because I’m also 42, so you never know. At some point age catches up with you but then you see runners that are running well into their late 40s, early 50s, mid 50s and beyond. They’re so inspirational, so I know there’s more life in the legs yet.
Ian: I think age is just a number. There’s a point where you do go over a certain point and then you will get slower, but I don’t think at 42 that you’re not past the opportunities of achieving better results. You’re coached by Mario Fraioli, what does that bring to the package and how much do you learn from him?
Caroline: Well, Mario has a wealth of experience at all distances. He’s traditionally been someone who has focused on marathon and below distances with his athletes, but he also coaches ultra-runners.
The thing that appeals to me about that is that I’m keen to continue my progression on the speed end of things as well as on the endurance end of things. Mario is good at making sure that both of those aspects are covered going into any race. I feel like I don’t lose a ton of speed even when I’m training for something like a 50-mile, or 100K, or beyond that – the speed is there and it just takes a little bit of another thing if I want to then run a marathon or a 50K or something that requires quite a bit more speed and turnover.
Ian: In terms of the training that he gives you, does it look very much like a marathon training plan or do you feel as though it’s an ultra-training plan?
Caroline: Well it depends what I’m training for because I do still run marathons. When I’m training for a marathon, it is a very classic training cycle for a marathon, although I’m not very good I have to say at timing my marathons. I rarely take the opportunity to fully get me dialled in for a marathon. I tend to sort of jump into these things, and he goes, “Well, you’ve only got six weeks, so there’s not that much we can really do but we can try.” I think he’d probably love to see if I could plan it out a bit more. I am impulsive sometimes and just feel like racing.
Mario does work with me on that. But then when I’m training for an ultra, like when he was training me for Western States, the training is completely different. I mean I’m out there doing almost exclusively doing hilly, or trail runs, and lots and lots more elevation. Just even an emphasis on hill repeats climbing power, that kind of thing. Just very different, it looks very different than a marathon training cycle.
Ian: A good proportion of speed work and endurance work?
Caroline: Yes, definitely! I always keep the speed work in there. Even when we’re training for something like Western States, the speed work is always in there. It just looks a little bit different. For a marathon, if it’s a flat marathon that I’m training for, then he wants me to try and get the maximum leg turnover and speed that I can, so I’m going out and try to find the fastest surface that I can do it on. Whereas if I’m training for something like Western States, that’s not going to help me that much, so I need to do that type of work on the trail or on a hilly road, something that pushes me to maintain leg turnover at the same time as packing climbs and combining those two aspects.
Ian: When we talk about an endurance side of your training, what’s a longer run for you?
Caroline: If I’m training for something like 100-mile, usually I’ll try and get a 30-mile (ish) training run in there but I’ll also probably jump into a 50K and possibly 100K as well in advance to sort of get those miles in my legs. It’s not like I’m going out every weekend and cranking out 28, 30 miles. That’s just too much. We must pick the right times to do that in the cycle that is going to help me to progress. But if I’m training for something that is shorter, I mean, I didn’t anticipate doing Brazos Bend the 50-miler, or JFK 50-miler which I just did three weeks apart… I did these only on the back of the fact that I had a disappointing World Champs for the 50K road in Doha.
I knew the fitness was there. I sort of just had a long run in Doha… I had an asthma attack and it was awful. I believe in that fitness and I knew it was there, but even that training I wouldn’t say was ideal for what I tried to do both at JFK and at Brazos Bend. Again, probably if I plan these things out a little bit better maybe I could possibly improve. I don’t know. We’ll see!
Ian: You are being very modest because you were second at JFK, running 6:32. Like you say, you were at the 50K World Championships. It may have not gone the way that you wanted it to, but the point is you were there and you were representing your country. I think your best result at Western States was eighth, is that right?
Ian: Eighth at western states. A lot of people would be going, “I was eighth at Western States,” and, “I’m eighth at Western States.” I would probably be more impressed with your eighth at Western States than maybe your 50-mile run, but that maybe is just the geek side of me.
Ian: Western States being Western States. Where does that fit into the big picture? Because it’s fantastic to run a fast 50-miler and to beat a legend like Ann Trason. Of course, that moment in time is now documented and you will be remembered for history of running as being the person to the set that time. But also, the geeky ultra-running side of me and the ultra-running world would be impressed with a WSER 8th.
Caroline: Well yes. For me personally, and I am thrilled to have been in the top 10 because every year that race is incredibly competitive. I mean, the women who run that I have the utmost respect for, and at the same time I am always wanting to get the best performance out of myself and I don’t feel that I’ve had that on that course yet. I feel like I’ve had a very disappointing last 20, 25 miles both times that I ran it.
Particularly this year, it was a very difficult pill to swallow because I felt good. I ran a slightly more aggressive race than I had the year before. I came in well ahead of where I had been the year before at Forest Hill. I mean basically I passed a lot of the ladies’ in the Canyons and I was in third place… for something like 40-miles of Western States.
I thought this is coming together for me and then it just all fell apart. I just found that I didn’t have anything left. I don’t know if that’s physical, mental or a combination of both but I’m not satisfied with the way that those last miles went for me and I’d like to go back and do it better.
Caroline: That’s something to me personally, that I’m not happy with. It’s nothing about the other ladies, you know?
Ian: Where do you go from here because you finished 12th at Western States this year. Your automatic qualification is not there; you’re going to have to go to a golden ticket race and get an entry. So how does that work? Is that a priority for you to pinpoint one of these golden ticket races and get a place?
Caroline: It is, but probably not for 2017.
Caroline: I have realized that I am trying to do it all in a year and every year that comes around, I race everything from half marathons on the road, to 100-milers.
Caroline: Maybe I would be best served by focusing and spending one year, being a bit more specific about what I’m doing, and then come back to the trail so I feel that I can probably have a better performance. I’ve never done a 100k on the road so I’d like to do a 100k on the road. I’m mulling over whether I jump into Comrades because I think that’s always been a bucket list to me and I think it would be fantastic and suit my skill set fairly well, and then also I’ve got this bee in my bonnet about trying to run a sub 2:40 marathon. I think I can but I think I can only do that if it hasn’t been a year working focused on trail running. I don’t know what my 2017 calendar looks like for sure, because as I said I’m always one who jumps into something based on how the last race went. I’m bad at planning these things.
Caroline: But I sort of feel like 2017 would be a great year for me to focus on a little bit more similar type of races and then focus back on the trail maybe for 2018 and see if I can have a fast race.
Ian: You’ve been 3rd at Bandera before, so that’s obviously gone well. I think what you’re saying makes sense to me and I used the term before that you’re primary school runner in terms of running. What I mean by that is you’ve only got four-years of running and of course to run well, and to run in the way that you want to run for a 100-miler takes a little bit of time and even though you’ve placed well at States maybe the transition to go into top five does mean you need more running of different types before you can nail Western States?
So, with 2016 at an end it certainly sounds as though you’re not quite sure what your targets are for this year so what happens now in this period? Is it just about recovery, speaking with your coach? Maybe looking at the calendar and deciding how to bring your training together and setting those A-races for next year?
Caroline: Yes. I will talk with Mario and we’ll go through some ideas. I’m sure he’s got some ideas as well but I know he always sort of wants to hear what excites me and what gets me fired up. Then he’ll tell me if he thinks that if I do certain races maybe they’re a bit too close together or maybe I should pick 2 out of those 3 to do, or something like that and sort of help to shape it for me. He also knows that I quite like doing races close together in a block. Like three close races together in a row.
Usually by the time the third one comes around my body is ready for it and that’s often where I have my best performance so that’s something that I like. It’s a bit unusual, some people focus on one or two big races a year and they want to make sure there’s plenty of recovery in between, but that’s something that works for me. For the time being, I’m taking it very easy now but I’m quite keen to get back to it because I’m feeling alright, you know. My body’s recovering quite well.
Ian: Yes. Well you have good weather in California?
Caroline: Yes. California, we’re very lucky it’s always lovely here. I don’t mind running in the rain though, the rainy days I find it very refreshing. So, I’ll probably still be out there doing reasonable number of miles and maintaining fitness. But maybe, maybe not as focused as it has been the last two months.
Ian: Okay, so I’m going to finish off with a question. I’m glad you’re not sitting opposite me so you can’t throw anything at me. [laughs]
You’ve just broken an Ann Trason record and Ann Trason won the Western States 14 times. Any chance of you going to Western States and getting 14 victories?
Caroline: No, I don’t. No! No! I have so much respect for Ann. I honestly don’t think that anybody is ever going to repeat that. It’s just an outstanding accomplishment. And I don’t even think there’s a chance. If I ever was lucky enough to have a strong podium finish at Western States I think I’d have to hang up my hat and say, “thank you very much. That was lovely.” I’m onto new things now. Love the race. Absolutely love it. I will always want to get there and support runners, volunteers whatever it takes to be part of it but boy! The dedication to win fourteen times. Oh! Wow! Just absolutely awestruck by that.
Ian: Caroline it’s been excellent speaking to you. Many, many congratulations on this record. I hope you manage to sit down with your coach, sort your year out and I hope to see you back to Western States and see you move up the ranking.
Caroline: Thank you very much for having me Ian.
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It’s a classic, no doubt about it and as such the Dolomites SkyRace personifies the ethos of the pure and simple act of starting low racing high and returning as quickly as possible – Skyrunning!
The race is 22km long with 10km uphill and 12km downhill. Depending on the weather, the route may or may not have snow which only adds to the complexity of the terrain. The route changes constantly and on the ascent the runners must fight gravity trying to reach the high point of the course, Piz Boe at 3152m.
From the summit, runners must defy gravity and drop like a stone with no fear, this race is often won on the descent!
Piazza Marconi, Canazei is the start and finish point and 4 hours 30 minutes are allocated for participants to complete the course. Course records currently stand with Kilian Jornet and Megan Kimmel. Their times 2:00:11 and 2:25:57 recorded in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
Added interest can be noted in the record for the ascent and descent, a key feature of this race. Augusti Roc Amador and Laura Orgue have recorded 1:16:47 and 1:29:30 of the ascent and Fabio Bonfanti and Angela Mudge hold the records for the descent, 00:43:35 and 00:58:47.
In 2015 Tadei Pivk (2:02:47) beat Ionut Zinca and Pascal Egli to the top of the podium. In the ladies’ race, Megan Kimmel (2:25:57) beat Laura Orgue and Elisa Desco with a stunning descent and a course record time.
What is in store for 2016?
As one would expect, the line up in both the men’s and lady’s fields is stunning. Tadei Pivk heads up the men’s field after his victory in 2015 and his SWS 2015 title. He has been racing regularly in Italy and was the winner at Livigno SkyMarathon recently. However, he did play 5th at Zegama-Aizkorri.
Tadei will definitely not have things his own way. A last minute entry by Remi Bonnet will almost certainly raise the Italians eyebrows. Remi raced the VK in Val D’Isere this past weekend and placed 3rd (28 seconds off the lead), not a position he is used to but he has been nursing an injury and may well not be in full shape in Canazei? That said, he is a formidable competitor over the SKY distance.
Manuel Merillas, 4th at Zegama-Aizkorri always races consistently well over the SKY distance and almost certainly he will contest the top 5 and more than likely the podium.
Marc Casal Mir, 2nd on the SWS ranking is a consistent performer but has never made the podium in Canazei. For sure he will be in contention but more likely in the top 10.
Andre Jonsson has been somewhat of a revelation in 2016, he goes out hard, puts it all on the line and races full on. He currently lies 3rd on the SWS 2016 ranking.
Martin Anthamatten will also be one to watch, he had a great result at Matterhorn Ultraks and in the USA at the RUT series of races. The Dolomites will suit him!
Saul Antonio Padua may well be the first to the top but he always falters on the descent, a key element of the Dolomites race, I wonder, this year can he string the two together?
Other top names to watch out for are Francois Gonon, Alexis Sevennec, Aritz Egea, Dmityr Mityaev, Jan Magrit Sole, Hassan Ait Chaou, Daniel Garcia Gomez, Jessed Hernandez, Nil Cardona, Hector Haines and many more.
With Megan Kimmel missing from the race, Laura Orgue heads up the ladies race after a stunning performance in 2015. Laura’s only problem may well come on the descent… over the winter months she picked up an injury and the Dolomites SkyRace will be the first big test.
Laura though will have some serious competition from her Salomon teammates, Yngvild Kaspersen and Ida Nilsson. These two ladies are currently on fire and based on recent results they could take the top two spots? Yngvild won Zegama-Aizkorri and then went on the place 2nd at Mt Marathon in Alaska – for me, she is the favourite.
Ida had a stunning Transvulcania Ultramarathon has gone from strength-to-strength. Ironically, Transvulcania was a long way for Ida, the shorter distance will suit her running history. It’s going to be exciting!
Elisa Desco, 3rd in 2015 is back on form after injury and victory in Livigno. Elisa has the up and down game and without doubt is likely champion on Sunday.
2015 Zegama-Aizkorri champion, Azara Garcia has been looking for a return to form after prolonged injury and the Dolomites SkyRace may well be the opportunity to for her gain maximum points and challenge for the SWS ranking.
Maite Maiora has also had injury but if she is fit she will definitely be a contender for the podium. Maite races hard with 100% commitment in 2014 she placed 3rd behind Laura Orgue and Emelie Forsberg.
Marta Molist currently lies 2nd on the SWS ranking and she will be looking to gain valuable points, however, Russian Ekaterina Mityaev will be looking to topple the Spanish runner.
Ragna Debats and Sheila Alves heads up the other likely contenders for the top 5 followed by Aitziber Ibarbia, Eva Maria Moreda Gabaldon, Celia Chiron and of course, we may well have a few last minute entries…
Watch this space!
Kicking off proceedings on Friday, runners will take on the Dolomites Vertical Kiolmeter®. Starting at 0930 in Cisates just a short walk from the center of Canazei, runners will depart in groups of 20 with a time gap of 4-minutes separating the groups. Groups are categorized with slower runners departing early and elite runners departing last.
At 1100 the top runners as specified by the SWS ranking will depart.
Runners depart at an altitude of 1450m and reach the high point of Spiz 2465m with a total distance of 2.4km in length. The Dolomites VK is considered one of the toughest on the circuit due to the short, steep course and underfoot, much of the terrain is grass. Poles are not essential but recommended.
Course records date back to 2015 and 2014 when Philip Gotsch ran an incredible 32:38 and Laura Orgue ran 38:14.
Ferran Teixido heads up the men’s race field and he currently leads the SWS ranking however, he did have a below par performance at Face Bellevarde in Val d’Isere. Francois Gonon, Nejc Kuhar, Marco Moletto, Jan Margarit, Dimitry Mityaeva, Mirko Cocco and Oriol Cardona Coll will push the Andorran runner all the way to the line. As is always the case in Italy and on the VK circuit, La Sportiva will send a strong and deep field. Urban Zemmer if confirmed running of course will be a clear favourite along with Remi Bonnet and Saul Antonio Padua.
Laura Orgue heads up the ladies’ field and is the current course record holder but will have strong competition from Maite Maiora and Yngvild Kaspersen. Ekaterina Mityaeva, Maria Zorroza and Aitziber Ibarbia will provide competition but the ladies start list is definitely impacted by the Skyrunning World Championships that will take place the following weekend.
About Skyrunner® World Series
Skyrunning was founded in 1992 by Italian Marino Giacometti, President of the International Skyrunning Federation which sanctions the discipline worldwide and sports the tagline:
Less cloud. More sky.
The Skyrunner® World Series was launched in 2004 and has grown to represent the peak of outdoor running defined by altitude and technicality. In 2016, the Series, composed of four disciplines, features 23 races in 15 venues on three continents.
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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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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
▪ 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,
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!
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)
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.
Follow the 2016 Marathon des Sables in images and words on iancorless.com
VIEW THE 2015 RACE IN IMAGES HERE
The 2015 Iznik Ultramarathon weekend has ended and what a weekend of racing!
The sun gods came out and allowed Iznik and the surrounding area to shine for the 130km, 80km and 46km events.
For the first time, the 2015 events all took place in a counter clockwise direction therefore allowing each event to conclude in the town of Iznik. So, previous course records and times are not comparable to 2015 results. Arguably, with maybe the exception of the 46km event, this made the racing harder.
Scotland’s Donnie Campbell and the UK’s Zoe Salt dominated the 130km event with two stunning performances. Donnie led from the front and extended his lead step-by-step as the race unfolded. Local talent Mahmut Yavuz tried his hardest to close the gap but Donnie was just too strong. Ever present Aykut Celikbas placed third after placing second in the 2014 80km event.
Zoe bided her time in the female event and eventually took the lead around he 65km mark as Mariya Niklova started to grind to a halt. Looking composed and relaxed, Zoe pulled away and not only won the ladies race but also placed fourth overall. Mariya struggled in the latter third of the race and lost huge chunks of time to Zoe, she did however manage to hold on to second place ahead of a closing Ingrid Qualizza.
In the 80km event, Asics runner Emmanuel Gault produce the race we all expected and dominated over the undulating trails and route as he traversed his way back to Iznik. Girondel Benoit placed second and Tanzer Dursan flew the Turkish flag for third place.
Placing 6th overall and first lady, Alessia De Matteis from Italy dominated the ladies race ahead of Elena Polyakova and Coraline Chapatte from Switzerland.
Jose De Pablo (Depa) looked impressive throughout the 46km event and showed his true marathon form and speed to win ahead of Raidlight CEO, Benoit Laval. Duygun Yurteri placed third.
Caterina Scaramelli from Italy ran a close contested race against Filiz Cancilar and Martine Nolan (Ireland) but held on for victory.
RACE IMAGES available to purchase HERE
- Donnie Campbell 13:23:50
- Mahmut Yavuz 14:31:20
- Aykut Celikbas 14:48:29
- Zoe Salt 15:14:37
- Mariyla Niklova 19:29:45
- Ingrid Qualizza 19:43:49
- Emmanuel Gault 6:45:25
- Girondel Benoit 7:26:10
- Tanzer Dursun 8:40:36
- Alessia De Matteis 9:03:53
- ElenaPolyakova 10:48:57
- Coraline Chapatte 11:34:37
46km *update to results 21st April – unfortunately Jose De Pablo received a time penalty as he did not carry mandatory kit, new results are in bold.
Jose De Pablo 4:03:29*Benoit Laval 4:19:03 Benoit Laval 4:19:03*Duygun Yurteri 4:28:15 Duygun Yurteri 4:28:15*Jose De Pablo 4:28:29
- Catarina Scamelli 5:03:44
- Ziliz Cancilar 5:04:55
- Martine Nolan 5:09:44
All images are ©iancorless.com – all rights reserved
RACE IMAGES available to purchase HERE
Torrential rain and potentially severe weather conditions resulted in a course change for the 2014 Skyrunning World Championships SKY event. Over 2000 runners would toe the line for the event and with potential negative temperatures predicted a slight course change was made to avoid the highest section of the course at Aiguille des Posettes.
Departing the center of Chamonix in torrential rain, Kilian Jornet, Michel Lanne, Zaid Aid Malek, Tom Owens and Aritz Egea lead the way setting a relentless pace that would stretch the elastic and form an aggressive front group.
In the wet and cold conditions, Kilian Jornet was always going to be the favourite, however, Salomon teammate Michel Lanne pushed the Catalan all the way. It was only on the final ascent to La Flégère that Kilian finally opened up the gap that he would hold all the way to the line. To commemorate becoming Skyrunning World Champion, Kilian ran the final meters with his hero and Skyrunning legend, Bruno Brunod.
Michel Lanne secured a great 2nd place but a battle royal followed for 3rd place. Sierre-Zinal champion (2103) Marc Lauerstein came from behind at La Flégère caught Zaid Ait Malek and Tom Owens and pushed hard for the line but Owens didn’t give in easily, he dug deep and found something within to take the coveted final podium place.
Azara Garcia lead the ladies race over the early sections of the race closely followed by the key favourites; Elisa Desco, Megan Kimmel, Stevie Kremer and Kasie Enman.
In the cold and wet conditions, Elisa made a move during the middle section of the race and took a firm hold of the race lead and pushed ahead for an incredible victory against tough competition.
Megan Kimmel and Stevie Kremer traded blows over the final section and with Kasie Enman struggling with stomach issues, the final podium places would come down the two Americans trading blows on the final descent to Chamonix.
Megan opened the gap and 2013 Mont-Blanc Marathon champion, Stevie Kremer couldn’t respond. On the line, Stevie said, “I had a great race last year and I guess this year I wasn’t quite as good. But the competition was fierce and ultimately, I was beaten on the day by two better runners.’
The Mont-Blanc Marathon concluded the events for the 2014 Skyrunning World Championships and despite the wet and challenging conditions for the final race, the unanimous feedback has been incredibly positive. Chamonix as one would expect has been buzzing with runners and supporters from all over the world, it confirms the growth of Skyrunning and its global appeal.
1 – Kilian Jornet (ESP) en 03:23:39
2 – Michel Lanne (FR) en 03:25:50
3 – Thomas Owens (UK) en 03:26:20
1 – Elisa Desco (ITA)en 03:53:33
2 – Megan Kimmel (USA) en 03:54:51
3 – Stevie Kremer (USA) en 03:55:36
Stats : 2291 competitors 372 women
Since the creation of the Mont-Blanc Cross in 1979, the Mont-Blanc Marathon in 2003, the Vertical Kilometer in 2011 and the Mont-Blanc 80KM in 2013, the Club des Sports de Chamonix has never ceased to improve events. This year with the Skyrunning World Championships, the organisers once again confirm the quality of the event and announce new changes: a bigger race expo, the creation of a bridge at Tre Le Champs to secure the road crossing, a new finish line for the Cross and Marathon, and finally a more in-depth Web TV diffusion.
At the end of June 2014, 6500 runners and over 13000 of their supporters are expected in Chamonix for the Mont-Blanc Marathon weekend. The race expo that reunites sports manufacturers and the different trail races found throughout the world will open their doors on the Place du Mont-Blanc on June 26, 27 & 28 2014. The expo provides an area to purchase last minute items for the race and to also discover the latest summer trends.
The race-bib pick-up (previous years at the ENSA gymnasium) will be positioned at the Place du Mont-Blanc square in a big tent especially erected for the occasion.
- Race-bib pick up at the Place du Mont-Blanc in Chamonix
- Thursday June 26, 2014: 10:00am – 20:00
- Friday June 27, 2014: 3:00am – 4:00am for the 80KM and 10:00am – 20:00 for the other races
- Saturday June 28, 2014: 7:00am – 20:00
- Sunday June 29, 2014: 5:00am – 6:30am
Friday June 27, 2014:
Place du Triangle de l’Amitié
4:00am : Start of the MONT-BLANC 80KM
18:00 – midnight : Meal offered to runners of the 80KM (sports complex)
16:00 : Start of the VERTICAL KM
From 18:00 onwards: Meal offered to runners of the Vertical KM (sports complex)
20:30: Awards ceremony
Saturday June 28, 2014
Paragliding Landing Field
8:30am: Start of the MONT-BLANC CROSS
9:00am: Start of the MONT-BLANC 10KM (start in 3 waves)
11:30am: Mini- Cross (starts depending on age categories)
12:00pm: Mini-Cross Raffle
Richard Bozon Sports Complex
From 11:00am onwards: Buffet for Mont-Blanc Cross (free for runners of the cross)
From 18:30 onwards: Pasta Party for the Mont-Blanc Marathon
Place du Triangle de l’Amitié
15:30: Award ceremony for the Mont-Blanc 10KM
16:00: Award ceremony for the Mont-Blanc CROSS
16:30: Award ceremony for the Mont-BLanc 80KM
Sunday June 29, 2014
Place du Triangle de l’Amitie
7:00am: Start of the MONT-BLANC MARATHON
17:00: Raffle for the Mont-Blanc Marathon
Richard Bozon Sports Complex
From 11:00am onwards: Buffet for Mont-Blanc Marathon (free for marathon runners)
New Finish Line & New Viewpoints!
The large mass of people the past few years at the finish line (Planpraz at Brevent) for the Mont-Blanc Marathon & Cross no longer offered a satisfactory experience for runners nor the public.
The finish line will now be on the plateau just before the top of the cable car station of Planpraz (near the paragliding take-off area).
To reach the finish line runners will take-on one final ‘wall’….the public will be in close proximity to support the athletes in their last effort as they benefit from the most beautiful view of the Mont-Blanc range.
Follow the events live via WebTV
In 2012, 10,000 connections were registered during the Vertical KM. In 2013 there were 125,000 connections during the weekend (diffused live for an average of 3 hours per day).
This year the organizers once again will be offering WebTV for users with a complete program, events diffused live, official presentations of athletes each evening, exclusive interviews with the world’s best, and many other surprises.
Even from the other side of the world people will be able to be at the heart of the event on www.montblancmarathon.fr
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Located just 2-hours away from Istanbul, Iznik is very much a quiet holiday resort for those in the know. Situated on an idyllic lake, the town comes to life as the Iznik Series of races arrive in town. The idea of Caner Odabasoglu (a keen ultra runner himself) and now in its 3rd edition, the races is very much a highlight of the Turkish racing season.
Offering 4-race distances, 130km, 80km, a classic marathon and a 10km, Caner and his team from MCR Racesetter have provided an opportunity for all. The 130km race is the longest single stage ultra in Turkey and therefore it appeals and has a loyal following from the ever-growing Turkish ultra running community.
In just 3-years, the races have grown in numbers. US ultra runner Amy Sproston raced the 80km in 2013 and set a new CR proving that interest and international appeal in Iznik and ultra running in Turkey is on the up! In 2014 a strong British contingent crossed the channel and joined runners from France, China, South Africa, Germany, Australia and New Zealand making the races a truly international event. Arriving in Bursa prepared for a stunning weekend of racing; the race or the racing didn’t disappoint.
On the stroke of midnight in Iznik Square, participants ventured out onto a clockwise loop of Iznik Lake. The harder and more challenging part of the course, the first 60km would run in darkness, whilst the flatter and far more runnable sections would be taken in daylight. From the off runners separated with a small lead pack pushing the pace. However, Marcus Scotney (Montane) and Akin Yeneceli forged ahead and opened up a convincing lead ahead of John Bayne from New Zealand by the 11km mark. At cp1, Edwards arrived first closely followed by runner after runner. Something was wrong and it soon became clear that our front two runners had gone off course.
By the time they arrived well over 30-minutes had elapsed and Scotney had visible and vocal frustration at the dilemma, ‘That’s it, it’s all ruined now… what a waste!’ What followed was a master class in pacing and distance running, one-by-one, Scotney moved his way up the field using each runner ahead as a carrot. Closing the gap to 26-mins, 22-mins, and 16-mins and by the time he arrived at the 60-km mark Marcus was 4th with 6-mins to catch up. All the early protagonists who had set the early pace had faded whereas Scotney had become stronger and stronger. The big question mark would be could he hold on? Chasing Yavuz and Ivanovski from Macedonia, Scotney eventually took the lead of the race and never looked back. A course record had always been on Scotney’s mind and his wish came true, despite an epic detour, he arrived in Iznik 12 –hours, 53-minutes and 59-seconds later. The effort of his endeavor was clear to see. Mahmut Yavuz retained local celebrity status with 2nd place and Zhikica Ivanovski placed 3rd.
The ladies race was a low-key affair with just 3-entrants. Previous 130km winner, Elena Polyakova would not defend her title after injury issues and therefore decided to race the marathon. This provided an open stage for local ultra runner and legend, Bakiye Duran to shine. Shine she did! Bakiye covered the course from start to finish in the lead with only Svetiana Ivanovski to worry about.
- Marcus Scotney (Montane) 12:53:59 new CR
- Mahmut Yavuz 13:11:55
- Zhikica Ivanovski 13:53:41
- Bakiye Duran 19:09:39
- Svetiana Stojanoska 22:27:08
Jo Meek (Scott Running) and Tracy Dean (inov-8) set a blistering pace in the 80km race. Dean leading Meek over the first 10km with just a 1-min lead but at cp1, Meek took over the lead and never relinquished it. Dean pursued all day keeping Meek in her sights never allowing the gap to grow beyond 1-2 mins. However, stomach issues struck for Dean and post race she went on to say that she continually felt as though she was struggling and never felt comfortable. Meek however had her blinkers on and was pushing not only for the outright win but a new course record, a record set by Amy Sproston!
Aykut Celikbas (very much a pioneer of the Turkish ultra scene) had chased the dynamic duo of Dean and Meek all day and eventually moved into 2nd place after Dean dropped at 60-km.
Meek ran like a woman possessed, without doubt she is currently one of the most exciting prospects in the UK ultra running scene as her 2nd place at the 2013 Marathon des Sables and her victory at the 2014 The Coastal Challenge confirms. In the final 10km with flat trail and road, Meek pushed and crossed the line in sub 7-hours blasting the old CR to a new level. Celikbas and Kara placed 2nd and 3rd but the day belonged to Meek.
With Dean out of the race, Yasemin Goktas and Ayse Beril Basliail took 2nd and 3rd places in the female race.
- Jo Meek (Scott Running) 6:52:17 new CR first lady and first overall
- Aykut Celikbas 7:41:34
- Firat Kara 7:46:07 (tbc)
- Jo Meek (Scott Running)
- Yasemin Goktas 9:45:34
- Ayse Beril Basliqil 9:54:45
Taking the front of the race in the opening meters, Robbie Britton (inov-8) continued to extend his lead over the opening km’s and never looked back. Running strong with a permanent smile on his face, Britton reveled in the warmth of a sunny Turkish day and put to good use all his training of the past month on the island of La Palma in preparation for Transvulcania.
Benoit Laval (Raidlight) was Britton’s closest rival but it soon became clear, as each checkpoint came, that Britton was continually extending his lead the only question mark; what margin would he win by? On the line, Britton set a new CR of 3:08:19, a great time for a hilly and undulating marathon. Laval placed 2nd in 3:30:38 and Duygun Yurteri 3rd just over 1-min later 3:31:56.
Elena Polyakova is an ever-present runner at the Iznik series of races and a previous 130km champion. Due to injury, Polyakova decided to play safe and run the marathon, however, her class shone and not only did she place 4th overall but she had a convincing victory ahead of Aysen Solak and Brit, Helen Southcott in 3rd.
- Robbie Britton (inov-8) 3:08:19 new CR
- Benoit Laval (Raidlight) 3:30:38
- Duygun Yurteri 3:31:56
- Elena Polyakova 3:47:26
- Aysen Solak 3:51:01
- Helen Southcott 4:14:07
Robbie Britton (inov-8) and Tracy Dean (inov-8) not content with racing in the 80km and marathon distances also towed the line for the 10km fun run the following day and both topped the podiums, Britton running a solid 34-min was impressive after his marathon exploits just 24-hours earlier.
RACE IMAGES HERE
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