Episode 110 – MDS Special and Jasmin Paris

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This is Episode 110 of Talk Ultra. This weeks show is a Marathon des Sables special with a load of great content from the Bivouac by Niandi Carmont and then a series of post race interviews with Sondre Amdahl, Elisabet Barnes and Elinor Evans. If that wasn’t enough, we have an interview with Jasmin Paris who has just blasted the Bob Graham Round ladies record to a new level.

It’s a different show this week as we concentrate on Marathon des Sables

Marathon Des Sables

It was a win again for Rachid El Morabity and Russian, Natalia Sedykh dominated the ladies race, times were 21:01:21 and 24:25:46 for the 257km. Full results are HERE

Niandi talk from the Bivouac 

00:25:32 INTERVIEW from the Bivouac

A selection of interviews of everyday runners doing extra ordinary things

00:58:54 INTERVIEW from the Bivouac

Fernanda Maciel ladies 3rd overall and Natalia Sedykh ladies race winner

01:19:09 NEWS

Madeira Island Ultra Trail

Zach Miller 13:52

Tofol Castanyer 14:12

Sebastien Camus 14:18

 

Caroline Chaverot 15:00

Andrea Huser 16:22

Emelie Lecomte 17:56

Penyagolosa Trails – The MIM and CSP

MIM

Miguel Angel Sanchez and Gemma Arenas won in 5:36 and 6:33

CSP

Sea Sanchez 12:54 and Mercedes Pila 15:02

Full results HERE

Ultra Fijord – bad news

We discussed this race extensively in a couple of podcasts last year, we spoke with Nikki Kimball and Jeff Browning. Jeff won the race and Nikki decided to withdraw from the race as she felt is was too dangerous. Alarm bells were rung. Unfortunately we have had news of a death at the 2016 edition. We have to be clear here that information is still a little sparse but Ellie Greenwood and Kerrie Bruxvoort have both commented on social media at the races apparent disregard for safety. We will have more information on this as and when possible.

A statement on Facebook from Ultra Fijord said:

The second edition of Ultra Fiord has been a very hard experience, marked by an exceptionally hostile climate and dramatic landscape that formed the backdrop of the race route, that was changed and shortened two days leading to the race to accommodate the impending bad weather. While some runners experienced and embraced the forces of nature, others were beyond their comfort zone. What impacted all of us the most was the loss of 100-mile runner, Arturo Héctor Martínez Rueda. Mr Martínez, 57-year-old from Mexico, had unfortunately passed on at an approximate 65km mark that is about 750m above sea level. Although the likely cause of his death was hypothermia, a confirmation can only be made in the following few days. The unfavourable weather has persisted in this mountain area since Friday, so the rescue team, awaits a favourable weather window to execute the evacuation. The race organiser takes responsibility and apologise for the poor communications to the outside world with regards to this tragic incident, simply because it is a step we could not execute without the confirmation of the status and private communications with Arturo’s family. In this difficult time, the organising team sincerely expresses its condolences to the family and friends of Arturo and ask followers for your cooperation to send peace and respect to them too.

01:25:40 INTERVIEW

Elisabet Barnes post MDS 

01:57:45 INTERVIEW 

Sondre Amdahl post MDS 

02:26:49 INTERVIEW 

Elinor Evans post MDS 

03:11:00 INTERVIEW

Jasmin Parishas just elevated the ladies Bob Graham Round record to a new level coming very close to Billy Bland’s benchmark 1982 record

UP & COMING RACES

Australia

Queensland

The Great Wheelbarrow Race – Mareeba to Dimbulah | 104 kilometers | May 13, 2016 | website

Austria

Tiroler Abenteuerlauf 60 KM | 60 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

Über Drüber UltraMarathon | 63 kilometers | May 05, 2016 | website

Belgium

Wallonia

Trail de Lesse 50 km | 50 kilometers | May 08, 2016 | website

Canada

Alberta

Run for the Braggin’ Rights | 50 miles | May 07, 2016 | website

Run for the Braggin’ Rights – Relay | 50 miles | May 07, 2016 | website

British Columbia

The North Face Dirty Feet Kal Park 50 | 50 kilometers | May 01, 2016 | website

Ontario

Pick Your Poison 50K Trail Run | 50 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

China

Trail de la Grande Muraille de Chine | 73 kilometers | May 13, 2016 | website

Denmark

Hovedstaden

Salomon Hammer Trail Bornholm -100 Miles | 100 miles | May 06, 2016 | website

Salomon Hammer Trail Bornholm – 50 km | 50 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Salomon Hammer Trail Bornholm – 50 miles | 50 miles | May 06, 2016 | website

France

Ardèche

57 km | 57 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

Ultra Trail l’Ardéchois | 98 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

Dordogne

Le relais du perigord sur 105 km (45+60) | 105 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Ultra trail du perigord 105 km | 105 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Drôme

Challenge du Val de Drôme | 153 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Les Aventuriers de la Drôme | 66 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Les Aventuriers du Bout de Drôme | 111 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Finistère

50 km | 50 kilometers | May 01, 2016 | website

Haute-Loire

50 km | 50 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

80 km | 80 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

Le Puy-en-Velay – Conques (Juin) | 208 kilometers | May 12, 2016 | website

Nord

100 km de Steenwerck | 100 kilometers | May 04, 2016 | website

Puy-de-Dôme

143 km | 143 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

86 km | 86 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Pyrénées-Atlantiques

Euskal Trails – Ultra Trail | 130 kilometers | May 06, 2016 | website

Trail des Villages | 80 kilometers | May 06, 2016 | website

Trail Gourmand | 50 kilometers | May 06, 2016 | website

Rhône

Ultra Beaujolais Villages Trail | 110 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

Ultra des Coursières | 102 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Savoie

Nivolet – Revard | 51 kilometers | May 01, 2016 | website

Seine-et-Marne

Grand Trail du Sonneur | 66 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

Ultra Trail de la Brie des Morin | 87 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

Seine-Maritime

Tour du Pays de Caux | 88 kilometers | May 05, 2016 | website

Tarn-et-Garonne

52 km | 52 kilometers | May 05, 2016 | website

Vendée

100 km de Vendée | 100 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Yonne

The Trail 110 | 110 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

The Trail 63 | 65 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

The Trail 85 | 85 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Germany

Baden-Württemberg

Stromberg Extrem 54 KM | 54 kilometers | May 08, 2016 | website

Rhineland-Palatinate

Bärenfels 50 km Trail | 50 kilometers | May 01, 2016 | website

Westerwaldlauf 50 km | 50 kilometers | May 05, 2016 | website

Saxony-Anhalt

Harzquerung – 51 km | 51 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

Greece

Euchidios Athlos 107.5 Km | 107 kilometers | May 08, 2016 | website

Euchidios Hyper-Athlos 215 km | 215 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Olympian Race – 180 km | 180 kilometers | May 08, 2016 | website

Olympian Race – 62 km | 62 kilometers | May 08, 2016 | website

Indonesia

100K | 100 kilometers | May 08, 2016 | website

50K | 50 kilometers | May 08, 2016 | website

Volcans de l’Extrême | 164 kilometers | April 29, 2016 | website

Ireland

Munster

The Irish Trail 60 km | 60 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

The Irish Trail 85 km | 85 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Italy

Lombardy

Laggo Maggiore Trail | 52 kilometers | May 01, 2016 | website

Sardinia

Sardinia Trail | 90 kilometers | May 06, 2016 | website

Tuscany

Elba Trail “Eleonoraxvincere” | 54 kilometers | May 01, 2016 | website

Kazakhstan

70 km | 70 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Madagascar

Semi Trail des Ô Plateaux | 65 kilometers | May 06, 2016 | website

Ultra Trail des Ô Plateaux | 130 kilometers | May 06, 2016 | website

Malta

Eco Gozo Ultra 55k | 55 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

Martinique

Tchimbé Raid | 91 kilometers | May 04, 2016 | website

Mauritius

Royal Raid 80 km | 80 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Namibia

Sahara Race | 250 kilometers | May 01, 2016 | website

New Zealand

Kauri Ultra | 70 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Philippines

100 km | 100 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

50 km | 50 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

Poland

Ultramarathon “GWiNT Ultra Cross” – 100 miles | 100 miles | May 07, 2016 | website

Ultramarathon “GWiNT Ultra Cross” – 110 km | 110 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Ultramaraton “GWiNT Ultra Cross” – 55 km | 55 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Portugal

Gerês Trail Aventure® | 130 kilometers | April 29, 2016 | website

Gerês Trail Aventure® Starter | 70 kilometers | April 29, 2016 | website

South Africa

The Hobbit Journey 90 km | 100 kilometers | April 29, 2016 | website

Spain

Canary Islands

Transvulcania Ultramaratón | 73 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Catalonia

Long Trail Barcelona | 69 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

Ultra Trail Barcelona | 100 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

Switzerland

Berne

Bielersee XXL 100 Meilen | 100 miles | May 13, 2016 | website

United Kingdom

Aberdeen City

Great Lakeland 3Day | 90 miles | April 30, 2016 | website

Argyll and Bute

Kintyre Way Ultra Run | 66 miles | May 07, 2016 | website

Kintyre Way Ultra Run – Tayinloan – Campbeltown | 35 miles | May 07, 2016 | website

County of Pembrokeshire

Coastal Trail Series – Pembrokeshire – Ultra | 34 miles | April 30, 2016 | website

East Dunbartonshire

Highland ‘Fling’ | 53 miles | April 30, 2016 | website

Greater London

Thames Path 100 | 100 miles | April 30, 2016 | website

Hampshire

XNRG Pony Express Ultra | 60 miles | April 30, 2016 | website

Isle of Wight

Full Island Challenge | 106 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

Half Island Challenge | 56 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

North Yorkshire

Hardmoors 160 ‘The Ring Of Steele’ | 160 miles | April 29, 2016 | website

Hardmoors Ultra 110 | 110 miles | April 30, 2016 | website

Perth and Kinross

110 Mile Ultra | 110 miles | May 13, 2016 | website

Wales

Brecon to Cardiff Ultra | 42 miles | May 01, 2016 | website

Worcestershire

Malvern Hills 105 Mile Ultra | 105 miles | May 07, 2016 | website

Malvern Hills 34 Mile Ultra | 34 miles | May 07, 2016 | website

Malvern Hills 44 Mile Ultra | 44 miles | May 07, 2016 | website

Malvern Hills 52 Mile Ultra | 53 miles | May 07, 2016 | website

The Evesham Ultra | 52 miles | May 08, 2016 | website

USA

Alabama

Grand Viduta Stage Race | 43 miles | April 29, 2016 | website

Run for Kids Challenge 50K Trail Race | 50 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Arizona

All Day 5k | 50 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Sinister Night 54K Trail Run | 54 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

California

100K | 100 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

100K | 100 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

100 Miler | 100 miles | May 13, 2016 | website

100 Miler | 100 miles | May 07, 2016 | website

200 Miler | 200 miles | May 12, 2016 | website

50K | 50 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

50K | 50 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

50 Miler | 50 miles | May 07, 2016 | website

Armstrong Redwoods 50K | 50 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Golden Gate Relay | 191 miles | April 30, 2016 | website

Horseshoe Lake 50K | 50 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Leoni Meadows 50k | 50 kilometers | May 01, 2016 | website

Lost Boys 50 Mile Trail Run | 50 miles | April 30, 2016 | website

Miwok 100K Trail Race | 100 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Whoos in El Moro Race Spring Edition 50K | 50 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Wild Wild West 50K Ultra | 50 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Colorado

135 km | 135 kilometers | May 13, 2016 | website

Collegiate Peaks 50M Trail Run | 50 miles | May 07, 2016 | website

Falcon 50 | 50 miles | May 07, 2016 | website

Greenland Trail 50k | 50 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

The Divide 135 Ultra | 135 miles | May 13, 2016 | website

Florida

Palm Bluff Trail Race and Ultra “Margaritas & Manure” 50K | 50 kilometers | May 01, 2016 | website

Palm Bluff Trail Race and Ultra “Margaritas & Manure” 50M | 50 miles | May 01, 2016 | website

Georgia

Cruel Jewel 100 | 100 miles | May 13, 2016 | website

Cruel Jewel 50 Mile Race | 50 miles | May 13, 2016 | website

Indiana

Indiana Trail 100 | 100 miles | April 30, 2016 | website

Indiana Trail 50 | 50 miles | April 30, 2016 | website

Kansas

FlatRock 101K Ultra Trail Race | 101 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

Heartland 50 Mile Spring Race | 50 miles | April 30, 2016 | website

Kentucky

Vol State 500K 2 Person Relay | 500 kilometers | April 29, 2016 | website

Vol State 500K 3 Person Relay | 500 kilometers | April 29, 2016 | website

Vol State 500K 4 Person Relay | 500 kilometers | April 29, 2016 | website

Maine

Big A 50K Trail Run | 50 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

Maryland

BRRC Gunpowder Keg Ultra 50K Trail Race | 50 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

C&O Canal 100 | 100 miles | April 30, 2016 | website

Massachusetts

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod | 186 miles | May 13, 2016 | website

Wapack and Back Trail Races 50 Miles | 50 miles | May 07, 2016 | website

Missouri

Frisco Railroad Run 50k Ultramarathon | 50 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

Frisco Railroad Run 50 Mile Ultramarathon | 50 miles | April 30, 2016 | website

Nevada

100M | 100 miles | April 30, 2016 | website

50M | 50 miles | April 30, 2016 | website

New Jersey

3 Days at the Fair – 50K | 50 kilometers | May 12, 2016 | website

New Mexico

Cactus to Cloud Trail 50K Run | 50 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

New York

50k | 50 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

50 Mile | 50 miles | April 30, 2016 | website

Kids Fun Run | 1000 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Long Island Greenbelt Trail 50k | 50 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Rock The Ridge 50-Mile Endurance Challenge | 50 miles | April 30, 2016 | website

Oregon

50K | 50 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Rhode Island

Rhode Island Red 50K | 50 kilometers | May 08, 2016 | website

Rhode Island Red 50M | 50 miles | May 08, 2016 | website

South Carolina

Wambaw Swamp Stomp 50 Miler Trail Run and Relay | 50 miles | May 07, 2016 | website

Xterra Myrtle Beach 50 km Trail Run | 50 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

Tennessee

Ragnar Relay Tennessee | 196 miles | May 13, 2016 | website

Strolling Jim 40 Mile Run | 40 miles | May 07, 2016 | website

Utah

Salt Flats 100 | 100 miles | April 29, 2016 | website

Salt Flats 50K | 50 kilometers | April 29, 2016 | website

Salt Flats 50 Miles | 50 miles | April 29, 2016 | website

Virginia

Biffledinked 10 x 5k | 50 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

Biffledinked 10 x 5k 2 Person Relay | 50 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

Promise Land 50K | 50 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

Singletrack Maniac 50k Trail Run | 50 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Washington

Lost Lake 50K | 50 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

Snake River Island Hop 100K | 100 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

Snake River Island Hop 50K | 50 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

XTERRA Spring Eagle 50K | 50 kilometers | April 30, 2016 | website

Washington D.C.

Relay | 150 miles | April 30, 2016 | website

West Virginia

Capon Valley 50K Run | 50 kilometers | May 07, 2016 | website

03:50:55 CLOSE

Ian will be at GL3D and Transvulcania over the coming 2-weeks

03:57:33

ITunes http://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/talk-ultra/id497318073

Libsyn – feed://talkultra.libsyn.com/rss

Website – talkultra.com

David Loxton – Marathon des Sables #MDS2016. It’s easier if you laugh.

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British humour, it’s a wonderful thing! Dry, witty and at times it can be difficult to tell if a joke is really being told… David Loxton personifies this and in all honesty, it’s this humour that got him and his tent mates through the 31st edition of the Marathon des Sables. Niandi Carmont picks up the story from within the bivouac.

*****

Nothing like a touch of humour to help your tent mates get through a challenging event like the MDS. Humour is a natural pain-killer …

David Loxton has just finished the marathon stage and joined the ranks of finishers over the 31 editions of the MARATHON DES SABLES. He is relaxed in his tent, a bit grubby as can be expected but grinning from ear to ear. His tent mates look happy too. And no surprise as they are in good company – David is a laugh and a gaffer too.

So how did it go I ask?

“I’ve got no blisters, I’ve got very tough feet and I’ve been very quick most days, apart from the long day where I wasn’t quite as quick.  What else? I hate sand, I hate sunshine …”

His tent mates crack up laughing.

Seriously, I ask if he feels he’s got in enough preparation or was the event tougher than he expected?

“Nobody told me about preparation so I thought I’d just pitch up and do it.” More laughter. “Well I did do a training camp in Lanzarote to train for this in January.”

I ask him if he had any moments of doubt during the event.

“On day 1 actually I did. I thought I can’t do this for the next 5 days. It hurts. Beyond that it was OK.  Apart from day 2 and a few moments of day 3 and most of day 4. Day 5 was good apart from the bad bits.”

I ask him if he would do anything differently if he had to do it again.

“I would probably search online for some tent mates. Probably do some more work on the fitness and definitely pack before the Thursday night. We flew to Morocco on Friday.”

I know he’s not serious but he’s funny anyway and his mates seem to be enjoying his self-depracating humour.

“I’d also bring some business cards for the ladies.”

I ask him if he met some interesting people.

“I met some of the people from the training camp in January. I made myself unpopular with the Helpful Heroes tent by accidently stealing some of their water flavours, the French guys have been good and the Japanese guys too. I’ve loved every moment of it but once is maybe enough for me.”

 

Is he looking forward to getting back to wet, windy and cold UK?”

 “No I’m married.”

And has he learnt anything from his experience? Suddenly David takes on a more serious air, this time he’s not joking, he’s more philosophical.

“In terms of fitness it is surprising what you can do, how far you can push yourself. Sometimes your mind can overrule your body. The guys here have got some pretty horrific blisters and they’ve worked through it and they found more within themselves than they expected.”

When you are back in Ouarzazate and back in civilisation, what is the first thing you will treat yourself to?

“Apart from beer? The first thing will be beer, the second thing will be beer, the third thing will be beer …and after that I will phone home.”

And I lift my glass to David who deserves that long-awaited beer after keeping his mates going with his very special priceless sense of humour!

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Read Niandi’s interview with ladies 2016 MDS champion HERE

Read a summary and view images of the 31st edition HERE

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Natalia Sedykh – FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE #MDS2016

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Niandi Carmont writes from within the bivouac of the 2016 Marathon des Sables, a series of insightful profiles that brings to life the highs, the lows and the inspiration from the worlds most inspiring multi-day race. Lets kick off these interviews with ‘From Russia with Love’ the 2016 ladies champion, Natalia Sedykh.

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The Russian rocket takes us by surprise …

I peep under the bivouac and ask for Natalia SEDYKH. The girl sitting there indicates that it is her. She invites me to sit down. She’s a little distant. She looks calm and composed, not like an athlete who has just completed the long stage of the MARATHON DES SABLES. But then I was expecting that – her race management has been exemplary. She’s paced herself regularly winning every single stage apart from the long one. She’s gained 45 min over her closest rival and is 11th in the overall general.

She relaxes and starts chatting about what got her running and her life in Russia.

“I was in love with a boy when I was 16 and he did 100m hurdles and I wanted to see him every day. So I decided to do track. Initially I couldn’t run consecutive 400m laps because I when I was a child I was told not to run because of my health issues. But I persevered and gradually increased my distance. Since then I’ve trained really hard. If you can dream it, you can do it.”

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She initially concentrated on sprint, then longer distances but she admits to being more of a track athlete. Her PB over 10km is 33min54s.

“I don’t like extreme events. Life in Russia is extreme as it is.”

Her big break came 5 years ago when a coach Serguei Popov discovered her potential. At the time she was still a sprinter. After a period of injury, she stopped for 2 years. She set herself the objective of running her first marathon.

“I am not a professional runner. I’m a professional coach so I coached myself.”

Her marathon PB is 2.46 last year. Her half marathon PB was on slippery ice with -25C. Not exactly your typical MDS temperatures! We talk a little about her life, it’s not easy living in Russia, you need determination, commitment, strength and most of all, willpower.

“I am an ordinary woman. I want to travel, keep fit, maybe get married, have a family and cook nice soups. My father is a train driver and my mother a seamstress. The standard of living in Russia is low. I hope to save and help my parents financially. They believe in me – I need to do my best for them.”

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So back to the subject of MDS. How did she train?

“I did a lot of preparation for this race. Last year I got a penalty so I decided to come back and settle a score. Last year I didn’t get in a lot of preparation. I was a tourist.” She laughs. “I was living in Russia. It was sub-zero, icy, a lot of snow.”

Needless to say the conditions were not the same.

“In addition to that I was overworked. I was working in a fitness club and worked long days.”

She then goes on to explain that she’s been in Dubai for 2 months and is still coaching – novice runners this time.

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I wonder if the past 2 months have allowed her to be heat-adapted?

“In March I missed 2 weeks of peak training as I wasn’t used to the heat. In Dubai you need to get up very early at 5am or 6am to go training because of the humidity.”

I ask her if training in Dubai is complicated?

“Women run with veils. They are very health-conscious. I do my training sessions early or in the desert so I don’t attract attention.”

It’s getting dark and she has to prepare for the next day. I leave her and wonder if this girl who doesn’t like extreme will be back to defend her title in 2017.

Time will tell …

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Words by Niandi Carmont for the Marathon des Sables media team ©marathondessables

Images ©iancorless.com

Natalia went on to dominate the 2016 Marathon des Sables. It was an outstanding performance. As Niandi questions, will Natalia return in 2017? Part of me things not, but then again, who knows… One thing is for sure, Natalia has set a benchmark for all the other ladies to follow, just as Elisabet Barnes did in 2015 by winning every stage. Natalia is the first lady to make the top-10 overall. A remarkable achievement.

Read a 2016 race summary HERE

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Marathon de Sables 2016 – Race Summary and Images #MDS2016

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Photography by iancorless.com

Race summaries by Emmanuelle Lamarle for MARATHON DES SABLES

Translations from French to English by Niandi Carmont

The 2016 and 31st edition of the MARATHON DES SABLES concluded in Morocco on Saturday April 16th. It will go down in the history of the race as one of the toughest and most beautiful editions. At 257km long, it was the longest in the races history and although the long stage was 84km, the daily distance were higher and continually hovered around the marathon distance and thus made the multi-day challenge considerably harder. In the early days, particularly day 1, strong winds and sandstorms battered the runners making what was already a very hard day, considerably harder. This was reflected in day 2 with a high drop out rate. Day 3 was a beautiful stage but just an appetiser for the long day. The feared long day lived up to its reputation and although a very tough, relentless and challenging route, it was compensated for with it’s incredible beauty. Day 5, the classic marathon day, was for many a walk in the park after the long day, this was reflected in the emotions on the finish line when 5 days of effort were released. Day 6, the compulsory charity day concluded the race and with it, each runner received a medal on the line from race director and race creator, Patrick Bauer.

The Sahara, Morocco and the MARATHON DES SABLES never disappoints, 2016 though was a special one – tough, relentless and beautiful. the desert, the multi-day experience and the challenge really does make everyone look inward. The Sahara has a way of stripping you bare, down to your core and the looks of emotion, relief and celebration are moments to savour and all those who completed the journey will be changed forever.

Below is a brief summary of the race week with images to provide some perspective to what has been an incredible 31st edition of the ‘MDS!’

Travel and arrival

DAY ONE

MDSday1Moroccans dominated the men’s race as expected and the female field was shaken up by Russian Natalia Sedyhk.

Make no mistake the top male and female runners were bursting to go. In the minutes preceding the start the Russian athlete Natalia Sedykh (3rd in 2015) was doing some sprint warm ups; a definite indication of her intentions for the race.

An hour and a half later, on the other side of the incredible Mezouga dunes, the first 2 Moroccan runners surged from the North, then 2 other Moroccans joined them. To no-one’s surprise, the fennecs of the desert took advantage of the 12km dune section to open the gap, leaving behind their European competitors. Their run gait is incredible to watch. Light-footed, they hardly touch the sand. Three Moroccans take the lead and finish the stage claiming the first three places: Rachid El Morabity, last year’s winner, Hammou Ou Mohamed Moudouji and Abdelkader El Mouaziz all within 35 seconds of each other. Third and fourth, the Spaniard Jose Manuel Martinez and the Frenchman Erik Claveryfollow 9 and 14 minutes later.

In the female field, Natalia Sedyhk (RUS) arrived first at CP1 looking very fresh, she was pushing a relentless pace and looking to improve on her 3rd place in 2015 when a 2-hour penalty impacted on her race. Nathalie Mauclair followed in pursuit sticking to a regular pace but the Russian was too strong. Natalia sprinted across the finish line victorious winning the stage having outdistanced Nathalie Mauclair by 17 minutes. 2015 race winner, Elisabet Barnes crossed the line third looking relaxed and comfortable. Nathalie was very happy with her performance today:

“I stuck with a group so that I didn’t waste energy battling the wind alone. In the dunes I felt really good but I didn’t want to speed up as I didn’t want to overdo it. In the second dune section I had to use my compass to navigate and that went very well”.

The day was notable in terms of difficulty, especially the strong winds and sandstorms that made running and navigation equally important.

Women
1 – Natalia SEDYHK (RUS) – 3:40:20
2 – Nathalie MAUCLAIR (FRA) – 3:57:30
3 – Elisabet BARNES (SUE) – 4:10:57
4 – Elizabeth HOWARD (USA) – 4:17:50
5 – Fernanda MACIEL (ESP) – 4:22:49

Men
1 – Rachid EL MORABITY (MAR) – TGCC – 3:10:29
2 – Hammou Ou Mohamed MOUDOUJI (MAR) – TEAMAROC – 3:10:45
3 – Abdelkader EL MOUAZIZ – (MAR) – TGCC – 3:11:04
4 – Jose Manuel MARTINEZ (ESP) – 3:20:30
5 – Erik CLAVERY (FRA) – TERDAV EQUINOX 1 – 3:25:52

DAY TWO

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The Gap opens in the Moroccan field in the men’s race and Natalia SEDYHK keeps the lead in the women’s race.

In the first fifteen kilometres of the second stage of the MARATHON DES SABLES race predictions were that the Moroccans would yet again dominate the race and rank in the top 10 of the male field.

On the second part of the course, the Europeans held on and better still even overtook some of their Moroccan rivals including Hammou Ou Mohamed Moudouji , who for his first edition would have liked to stick to the heels of Rachid El Morabity, but he blew up. Which goes to show that even the Moroccans are not perfect!

At the finish Rachid finished before Abdelkader El Mouaziz , and was followed by a duo arriving hand-in-hand : the Spaniard Jose Manuel (Chema) Martinez  and Aziz El Akad . Erik Clavery (D 087 – FRA) finished sixth and was first Frenchman. Sondre Amdahl was seventh.

In the female race, Natalia Sedykh was in the lead again, she seemed a little fragile and less fiery but despite this, she once again dominated the stage making many runners comment, ‘she is on another planet this year!’ Natalia won the stage, finished in the top-10 overall – incredible! Nathalie Mauclair followed 15 minutes later and Fernanda Maciel  came in third position, 2 minutes behind her gaining an advantage over 2015 champion Elisabet Barnes who finished fourth.

WOMEN

D662 SEDYKH Natalia RUS F 7:51:06
D275 MAUCLAIR Nathalie FRA F 8:22:13
D482 MOURA ANTUNES MACIEL Fernanda ESP F 8:49:36
D2 BARNES Elisabet SWE F 9:02:43
D525 HOWARD Elizabeth USA F 9:15:40

MEN

D1 EL MORABITY Rachid TGCC MAR M 6:34:33
D4 EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader TGCC MAR M 6:35:35
D447 MARTINEZ Jose Manuel ESP M 7:03:36
D6 AKHDAR Samir TGCC MAR M 7:21:16
D3 EL AKAD Aziz TGCC MAR M 7:22:11

DAY THREE

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A foregone conclusion to today’s race – not only do the Moroccans hold a faster pace but they know how to manage their race strategy running together in a small group.

Moroccan runners once again lead the race, setting off at a very fast and regular pace on a course which is going to be very runnable. Apart from two successive dune sections and a climb up a djebel, this pace was maintained. At the first check-point El Morabity was leading but closely followed by his compatriots. Only Manuel (Chema) Martinez  and Erik Clavery manage to keep up the gruelling pace that the local set. Clavery was definitely feeling much better today at the start. “It was much better today, I managed my race better”.

After the tough stoney djebel, three Moroccans continued to lead the race: Rachid El Morabity, Aziz El Akad and Abdelkader El Mouaziz. Sticking together they manage their race cleverly, running fast enough to hold off the competition but not too fast to risk blowing up. Behind them Chema Martinez was running hard though and he eventually caught up with  Samir Akhdar moving into 4th place with Erik Clavery hot on his heels. This order didn’t change before the finish although the gap between the runners widened confirming the Moroccan superiority and the leaders’ positions.

In the female race, Natalia Sedykh once again set a gruelling pace to shake off her rivals and although the long stage would follow, word in the camp was that it would take a monumental mistake by the Russian to loose the race. Aziza Raji, third at the first check-point, didn’t manage to stave off Nathalie Mauclair  and Fernanda Maciel.

Ranking of Stage 3:

First 5 women

  1. D662 SEDYKH Natalia RUS 03:49:15
  2. D275 MAUCLAIR Nathalie FRA 03:53:34
  3. D482 MACIEL Fernanda ESP 03:55:53
  4. D33 RAJI Aziza MAR 04:16:41
  5. D2 BARNES Elisabet SWE 04:37:28

First 5 men

  1. D1 EL MORABITY Rachid MAR 03:03:41
  2. D4 EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader MAR 03:04:02
  3. D3 EL AKAD Aziz MAR 03:05:40
  4. D447 MARTINEZ Jose Manuel (Chema) ESP 03:18:55
  5. D6 AKHDAR Samir MAR 03:25:22

General Ranking

First 5 women

  1. D662 SEDYKH Natalia RUS 11:40:21
  2. D275 MAUCLAIR Nathalie FRA 12:15:48
  3. D482 MACIEL Fernanda ESP 12:45:31
  4. D2 BARNES Elisabet SWE 13:40:12
  5. D33 RAJI Aziza MAR 13:56:47

First 5 men

  1. D1 EL MORABITY Rachid MAR 09:38:16
  2. D4 EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader MAR 09:39:38
  3. D447 MARTINEZ Jose Manuel (Chema) ESP 10:22:31
  4. D3 EL AKAD Aziz MAR 10:27:52
  5. D6 AKHDAR Samir MAR 10:46:40

DAY FOUR

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Rachid El Morabity  and Natalia Sedykh claim victory on the 31st edition of the MARATHON DES SABLES with excellent long day results.

Rachid El Morality was congratulated like never before on the finish line of the long day in the 31st edition of the MARATHON DES SABLES. The Moroccan almost certainly sealed his 4th consecutive edition, claiming victory in all the stages with a comfortable lead on his rivals – just the marathon stage to go! His race management has been exemplary and irreproachable. Abdelkader El Mouaziz lost 2 more minutes to Rachid but crossed the finish to claim a well-deserved second place. Jose Manuel (Chema) Martinez ran a hard race and completed the podium of the long stage – a great result and a real improvement on his 2015 6th place overall.

Frenchmen Erik Clavery and Jean-Sébastien Braun, as well as Carlos Sa  and Sondre Amdahl all came in the top 10.

Talking about the Top 10: female Russian runner Sedykh  is the only women to rank in the top-10 general ranking, in spite of her loss in energy during the long stage where she placed 2nd behind Nathalie Mauclair. Sedykh has a 24-minute lead on the French lady and although Macular will try to take back that time in the marathon, it is highly unlikely she will succeed. It really is is hard to see how Sedykh’s rivals can close the gap on the marathon stage tomorrow. Nathalie Mauclair did manage to gain 12 minutes on her Russian counterpart on the long day with a really aggressive run but the Russian remained consistent. Fernanda Maciel placed 3rd, which as with the men’s podium should change very little on the marathon stage. The gaps have widened in the leading field and behind.

Ranking Stage 4

First 5 women

  1. D275 MAUCLAIR Nathalie 09:07:59 FRA 9,20
  2. D662 SEDYKH Natalia 09:19:53 RUS 9,00
  3. D482 MOURA ANTUNES MACIEL Fernanda 10:30:12 ESP 8,00
  4. D2 Elisabet BARNES 11:36:11 SWE 7,24
  5. D267 Sophie LAVERSANNE 267 12:00:25 FRA 7,00

First 5 men

  1. D1 EL MORABITY Rachid 08:11:24 MAR 10,26
  2. D4 EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader 08:14:28 MAR 10,19
  3. D447 MARTINEZ Jose Manuel 08:25:55 ESP 9,96
  4. D3 EL AKAD Aziz 08:28:04 MAR 9,92
  5. D87 CLAVERY Erik 08:41:20 FRA 9,67

General Ranking

First 5 women

  1. D662 SEDYKH Natalia 21:00:14 RUS 9,33
  2. D275 MAUCLAIR Nathalie 21:23:47 FRA 9,16
  3. D482 MOURA ANTUNES MACIEL Fernanda 23:15:43 ESP 8,43
  4. D2 Elisabet BARNES 25:16:23 SWE 7,76
  5. D33 Aziza RAJI 26:09:24 MAR 7,49

First 5 men

  1. D1 EL MORABITY Rachid 17:49:40 MAR 10,99
  2. D4 EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader 17:54:06 MAR 10,95
  3. D447 MARTINEZ Jose Manuel 18:48:26 ESP 10,42
  4. D3 EL AKAD Aziz 18:55:56 MAR 10,35
  5. D87 CLAVERY Erik 19:32:54 FRA 10,03

DAY FIVE

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“The Moroccans are on a different planet” Erik Clavery

A thrilling race with the top 4 Moroccans claiming victory and leaving Jose Manuel (Chema) MARTINEZ  out of the podium. The female field remains unchanged with Natalia SEDYKH leading the field.

Once again the Moroccans claimed victory in the men’s field in today’s stage. They set off fast from the outset and widened the gap over the succession of sandy dunes and more runnable sections of the marathon day. Although yesterday’s stage pre-determined the winner Rachid El Morabity and runner-up, the third place was still uncertain with an 8-minute gap between Jose Manuel (Chema) Martinez and El Akad. Yesterday they knew that they would be battling it out the next day. For Chema the strategy was simple:

“I’m going to stick to Aziz and accelerate in the final runnable stretch.”

Aziz on the other hand intended to give it his best shot on the marathon stage

“I’m going to do everything I can to get on the podium tomorrow. I’ll make it or break it.”

And that is what happened Jose Manuel (Chema) Martinez lost 30 minutes to EL AKAD however this does not reflect the true story. ‘Chema’ was stopped early on in the race and was required to change his numbers due to a ‘technicality’ based on the race rules. This stopped Chema in his tracks and while he removed his pack and changed his numbers, his race was broken…  Rachid El Morabity did not win the stage coming in second behind El Mouaziz. Erik Clavery came in 3rd looking shattered.

“It’s the first time I am in tears at the end of a race. I am so happy. I really managed the race to the best of my ability. But the Moroccans are unbeatable – it’s another planet.”

In the female race, the ranking hardly changed. Natalia Sedykh lead the stage and opened a small gap with her rivals. She was flying at the finish of this 5th stage. Nathalie Mauclair tried to hang on but couldn’t keep up with the pace set by her Russian rival. Very moved she spent several minutes in front of the webcam at the finish blowing kisses to her kids and family back in France. Surprise of the day was the performance of the Chinese runner Pui Yan Chow who crossed the line in 2nd place. Fernanda Maciel remained third but like Chema, Maciel also was penalised for a number infringement, luckily it did not impact on her 3rd place but it was close….

Top 5 women Stage 5

Running Runner Number Time Country Speed
1 SEDYKH Natalia 662 3:45:12 RUS 11,19
2 CHOW Pui Yan 766 3:50:23 CHN 10,94
3 MAUCLAIR Nathalie 275 4:07:08 ESP 10,20
4 RAJI Aziza 033 4:32:07 MAR 9,26
5 MOURA ANTUNES MACIEL Fernanda 482 4:43:00 ESP 8,90

NOTE – “Puy Yan CHOW has received a time penalty of 3 hours for non-respect of the starting wave at stage 5 and we are going to update the ranking.”

Top 5 men Stage 5

Ranking Runner Number Time Country Speed
1 EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader 4 3:11:32 MAR 13,16
2 EL AKAD Aziz 3 3:11:34 MAR 13,15
3 EL MORABITY Rachid 1 3:11:41 MAR 13,15
4 AKHDAR Samir 6 3:18:54 MAR 12,67
5 CLAVERY Erik 87 3:27:24 FRA 12,15

General Ranking 2016

Top 5 women MDS 2016

Ranking Runner Number Time Country Speed
1 SEDYKH Natalia 662 24:45:26 RUS 9,61
2 MAUCLAIR Nathalie 275 25:30:55 FRA 9,33
3 MOURA ANTUNES MACIEL Fernanda 482 27:58:43 ESP 8,51
4 BARNES Elisabet 002 30:02:26 SWE 7,92
5 RAJI Aziza 033 30:41:31 MAR 7,75

Top 5 men MDS 2016

Ranking Runner Number Time Country Speed
1 EL MORABITY Rachid 1 21:01:21 MAR 11,32
2 EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader 4 21:05:38 MAR 11,28
3 EL AKAD Aziz 3 22:07:30 MAR 10,76
4 MARTINEZ Jose Manuel 447 22:27:50 ESP 10,59
5 CLAVERY Erik 87 23:00:18 FRA 10,35

The Charity Stage

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The compulsory charity stage concluded the 2016 MARATHON DES SABLES and although the overall rankings would not change with is stage, it offered all the runners a casual way to transition from aggressive racing to recovery. Patrick Bauer awarded each and every runner, first to last, with a medal. A significant moment that concluded the 2016 MDS!

Local colour in Ouarzazate

All images ©iancorless.com – all rights reserved

A series of runner profiles by Niandi Carmont will allow over the coming days

A full image gallery will be displayed on iancorless.photoshelter.com

Many thanks to the MARATHON DES SABLES

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Marathon des Sables 2016 #MDS2016 in Images

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The 2016 Marathon des Sables is over and what an edition. The ‘MDS’ calls itself the toughest race on earth and the 31st edition lived up to its reputation providing all participants with a brutal test. At 257km, the race was the longest edition in the races history and although the long day was not as long as many expected (84km), the overall daily distances were higher making recovery a delicate balancing act.

In addition to one of the toughest courses in the races history, brutal weather with strong winds, sand storms and intense heat over the last couple of days made every runner who crossed the line fully appreciate the enormity of the task.

Rachid El Morabity once again took top honours in the men’s race and Russian, Natalia Sedykh ran a jaw dropping race not only to win the ladies race (she was 3rd in 2015) but she also placed in the top 10 overall.

In-depth reports, interviews and a selection of stories will follow over the coming week to provide an insight into the 31st edition of the Marathon des Sables, until then, here is just a taster of images to come to provide an insight of an incredibly intense, brutal and of beautiful journey through the Sahara.

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all images ©iancorless.com

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

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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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Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp 2016 – Day 6 and 7

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For the participants of the 2016 Lanzarote multi-day training camp, it all got ‘real’ on day 6 and 7 of the camp.

It all started of with blue skies, sun and a 2 hour run without packs so that everyone had an opportunity to work on a little faster running. In most cases it was a great tempo 10-12 miles in the bag.

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Following this we had a 2-hour talk, demo and an opportunity to test packs from WAA, OMM, Raidlight and Aarn with a very informative and enlightening discussion on bag packing from Elisabet Barnes. It really raised the question; what is and is not an essential item?

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Ultimately the day (and night) was all about a medium length run of 2-3 hours and an overnight bivouac.

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Heading out along the course, the runners departed in three groups: walking, run/ walking and ‘mostly’ running to a pre-arranged rendezvous on the coast.

Ian Corless moved ahead and set up camp inside an incredible and dormant volcano. Rendezvous time was 1900 and right on cue, the three groups all arrived from different directions within 15-minutes of each other.

Running with packs, the runners carried all essentials less the additional days food. Food requirements were snack for the run on both days, evening meal and snacks plus breakfast.

At the overnight bivouac we operated self-sufficiency, water was provided but rationed. The only treat came from 24 beers (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) transported in as a special treat.

A clear starry sky, camp fire and the illumination of head torches within the stunning setting of an amphitheatre of rock made everyone suddenly realise that it was one of the special moments.

It wasn’t all plain sailing though. One or two runners realised on the run that their chosen pack just wasn’t the one for them. This is the whole reason behind providing a real scenario such as this on a training camp. It’s invaluable to find out these issues before your chosen must-day race.

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It was lights out, well, head torches out around 9pm and as the warm night drifted past midnight, the temperatures dropped. Unlike races such as Marathon des Sables, the night was damp lowering temperatures even more. One common thread with 0700 wake up call, a cockerel crow by Niandi, was, ‘My sleeping bag is not warm enough!’

Yes, it had been a rough night for some.

Elinor Evans said, “This experience has been incredibly invaluable. I have learnt my packs not right for, my sleeping bag is not warm enough and I need a warmer jacket. Last night was beautiful but also a little harrowing as I got so cold. Better here though than at my race!”

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It was a sentiment echoed by Leon Clarance, “I was just cold last night. Despite additional layers, my sleeping bag was not warm enough. I also made the mistake of removing my socks. I woke up with feet of ice.”

In general though, freeze dried food and peoples selections seemed to hit the spot, apple pieces with custard proving to be a hit with those lucky enough to be carrying it.

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The bivouac provided everyone with a very real and practical scenario and valuable lessons were learnt. A bivouac debrief back at Club La Santa will allow everyone to discuss this.

Leaving camp, the sun was getting higher in the sky, a new day and more valuable experiences to follow. But before that debrief, there was another 2-3 hours of running.

It’s been a great two days and night.

If you would like to join our 2017 camp, please go HERE

Many thanks to Raidlight, OMM, PHD, inov-8, Berghaus, Scott Running and MyRaceKit for the support

 

The Sunset Relay – 1300km in 96 hours

Sunset Relay Logo

A newcomer in the world of outdoor pursuits, the first edition of the Sunset Relay will take June 21 to 25 in Swedish Lapland.

The itinerary starts and finishes in Luleå, and form a big loop around and above the arctic circle. This new challenge will see over thirty participants on a journey under the Midnight Sun, covering 1300 kms in under 96 hours. Many outdoor sports will be on the menu, and the highlight of the itinerary will be the part running on the mythical Kungsleden (the ‘Royal Path’), a 430 km long trail to run in less than 43 hours!

Sunset Relay

An original concept, the Sunset Relay also aim to raise awareness of the dangers of sun exposure.

Inspired not only by the sport challenge but also by the messages conveyed by the event, many reknown sports men and women will be participating in the relay.
Amongst them you will find :

Jérôme Fernandez (FRA) handboll player in the French national team, with an impressive number of medals ( Olympics, World championships and European Championships)
Georg Kreiter (DE) World champion in Alpine skiing, downhill handisport
Youri Zoon (NL) World champion in kitesurfing

They will all particpate in the roadbike or adventure sports sections.
The section in trailrunning on Kungsleden will include some of the disciplines specialists:

Sylvain Court (FRA), new IAU World champion in trailrunning

©iancorless.com_MDS2015_1Elizabet Barnes (SWE), recent winner of the Marathon des Sables,

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Jonathan Wyatt (NZL) a legend runner, both on trails and mountain marathons, with an impressive track record and numerous medals.

Along with many other athletes and personalities, they will participate in this physical challenge. You will be able to follow them on their personal social media to learn more about the event, their impressions and the the messages around sun protection conveyed through the race.

Follow the event live on

sunsetrelay.com,

Twitter #SunsetRelay

 Instagram @SunsetRelay.

Participants:

Section 1 : Luleå -> Hemavan (roadbike)

• Nicolien SAUERBREIJ (NL) • Georg KREITER (DEU)
• Richard USSHER (NZ)
• Daniel DAUM (DEU)

• Bob DE JONG (NL)
• Juliette BENEDICTO (FR)

Section 2 : Hemavan -> Abisko (trail on Kungsleden)

• Olof HÄGGSTRÖM (SWE) • Sylvain COURT (FR)
• Jonathan WYATT (NZ)
• Linus HOLMSÄTER (SWE) • Elina USSHER (FIN)

• Maud GOBERT (FR)
• Elisabet BARNES (UK/SWE)

Section 3 : Abisko -> Luleå (adventure sports)

• Jérôme FERNANDEZ (FR) • Youri ZOON (NL)
• Aïda TOUIHRI (FR)
• Laura FOUNTAIN (UK)

• Vanina ICKX (BEL)
• Bob MAESEN (BEL)
• Vincent BANIC (BEL) • Tobias ÖSTRÖM (SWE)

Elisabet Barnes writes about victory at Compressport Trail Menorca Costa Sur

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The trail that runs along the coastline of Menorca, Cami de Cavalls (CdC), was originally established by the settlers of Menorca as part of a defence system. It was patrolled by soldiers on horses, hence the name (Cavalls mean horses in Catalan). The path weaves its way in and out of the coast, and lets the traveller experience varying terrain and views. These include woodland trails, white beaches with intensely turquoise water, beautiful rock formations, farmland, ravines and urban areas. The profile is undulating with moderate climbs but yet offers a technically challenging experience.

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Now in its fourth year, the Compressport Trail Menorca Cami de Cavalls has grown quickly since its inception and in 2015 offered 5 courses ranging from 32km to 185km. I opted for the 85km Trail Menorca Costa Sur, TMCS. This starts in Es Castell in the east and finishes in Ciutadella in the west, following the CdC trail along the south coast of the island.

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A bus was organised for Saturday morning at 6am to take participants from Ciutadella to the start in Es Castell. During the night there had been thunderstorms and heavy rain was falling as we made our way. Niandi Carmont and I both agreed that this was not what we had come to Menorca for! Luckily, an hour later the skies were clearing. As we were about to start some dark clouds were looming but the temperature was perfect.

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I fell into a comfortable pace, which turned out to be amongst the front 20 or so runners. No other women seemed to be in that group but I didn’t look back to figure out where they were, I was going to do my on race. The first few hours took us through a variety of landscapes as we made our way forward on roads along the coast and pretty, undulating trails in a mix of farm- and woodland.

As I was beginning to approach half way it started to get a bit tougher. A few more climbs slowed the pace down and there were many gates to negotiate. I seemed to be running with the same group of people but we were more spread out now. Weaving in and out of each other, some stronger on the ascents, other on the descents or the flats.

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The checkpoints were fairly well stocked: sandwiches with jam, peanuts, almonds, fresh fruit (apples, bananas, orange), cheese… I did take orange at most checkpoints but I was largely self-sufficient. The volunteers were very helpful, asking if I was ok or if I needed anything. Good thing I speak a little bit of Spanish so I could understand them.

Just before the half way point at about 39km everything was going swimmingly well. I felt great, I was on a roll and I was moving at good pace. Another gate to negotiate laid ahead at the end of a slight down hill section. A lovely couple held it open for me so I didn’t have to stop. Instead of looking at the ground ahead I looked them and smiled as I cruised though the gate. Just as I passed them, much to their horror and my embarrassment, I stumbled and abruptly face planted on the stony trail.

At first I thought disaster had struck but after a quick assessment I decided that I was only bruised and scraped. Blood was pouring from my knees and pumping rather heavily from a wound in my thumb but it looked worse than it was (or so I told myself!). At this point I was glad that I had carried my first aid kit. After some moderately successful patching up I hobbled on.

©iancorless.com_Menorca2015-4266It was a mental relief to get over the first Marathon and know that I “only” had half way to go. Here, the terrain started to get a bit trickier. We ran on beautiful but equally brutal uneven rock formations, close to the coastline. It was now also getting warmer and I had to drink more and focus on my nutrition and hydration. This part of the race was hard mentally. I kept thinking: “when I get to 65km it’s only 20km left and flat”. That became my next target but little did I know that flat could be so hard!

©iancorless.com_Menorca2015-4525After a while I started to see more people around me on the trail. I was catching up the slower runners in the 185km race (they had been out for nearly 30 hours at this point!), and the fresh runners who had just started the shorter Trekking Costa Sur (TCS) came bouncing along on annoyingly fresh legs.

To my relief we hit roads as we were approaching the last checkpoint at 73 km. I ran into it feeling positive and was informed I was the leading lady. I had incredible support from the spectators and the checkpoint volunteers were very helpful, just as they had been at all support points so far.

I left the checkpoint to cheers and felt good. I followed the road to the end where it turned, about 100 metres or so. As I turned the corner I was abruptly hit by the next obstacle which came in the form of an extremely forceful headwind. It would of course be silly not to expect strong winds on a small island like Menorca but this was something different altogether. Apparently there is a Menorcan legend that the winds of the island change people’s personalities. Whether there is any truth in that I don’t know but I certainly needed a large portion of positivity at this point!

I told myself that it could be worse, that I could still be on those treacherous rocks and that at least I was on the road. Well, guess what awaited a few hundred metres ahead… That’s right, the rocks, taking us even further out on a completely exposed section of coastline. There was nowhere to hide, no shelter.

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This went on for what felt like an eternity but eventually we entered an urban area and could run on the road again. The finish in Ciutadella came quicker than I thought. I could hear the music from the speakers and the cheering from the crowds. I recognised my hotel on the other side of the little bay by Platja Gran, just a stone’s throw from the finish line. What a relief! I turned left onto the final stretch, entered the funnel on the artificial grass that had been laid out and to the sound of the cheering crowds I crossed the line.

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I was very happy to have battled through all the obstacles of this race! Knowing how tough the finish was I felt for those brave runners I had passed out there who were completing the final stretch of the 185 km. Some of them would not finish until Sunday morning and maybe some would not finish at all, finding the challenge too big to muster this time. I sent a thought their way before enjoying my post-race relaxation in the finish area, which offered a pool, cold beer and paella to the competitors. What more could you wish for?

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This was my first time in Menorca and I hope there will be many more (maybe those winds did have some impact after all!). The scenery is stunning and the coastline, having been protected from development, offers many areas of raw beauty and wilderness. The course is very pretty but deceptive and should not be underestimated. Having said that it is perfectly achievable. On reflection I think it could be a great race for those looking for a course with some technical challenge but who don’t like heights or who struggle at altitude. It is also perfect to combine with a long weekend or holiday. The people involved in this event and the passion and effort they put into it makes it a very memorable experience and I can highly recommend it.

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Entries for the 2016 Compressport Trail Menorca Cami de Cavalls are not yet available, however, please check the website HERE

Elisabet Barnes won the 2015 Marathon des Sables (ladies category) holds course records at the GoBeyond C2C and XNRG Pilgrims. She now holds the course record for the 85km for the Compressport Trail Menorca Cami de Cavalls

Zoe Salt – Ladies winner race report Iznik Ultra

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Zoe Salt may not be a name that you know… however, a little look back to 2013 and you will see that Zoe placed 3rd (behind Meghan Hicks and Jo Meek) at the Marathon des Sables. It’s a podium place that didn’t get the recognition it deserved. Fast forward to 2015 and Zoe has now won the 130km Iznik Ultra and in the process placed 4th overall. In the coming weeks, Zoe is preparing for Transvulcania La Palma, she knows full well that the racing in La Palma will be very different to the racing in Turkey. Here Zoe writes about her Turkish experience.

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I arrived in Istanbul. It’s not quite the West, it’s not quite the East, and it is different, special and unique. Minarets dominate the skyline as the sun begins to set.

I am a kid in a sweet shop – literally! Turkish delight and Baklava abound.

Friday – I awake to the exotic sound of the call to prayer. The sun has come out and it is gorgeous! From the breakfast room at the top of our hotel we realise how enormous Istanbul is (14.4million people). It stretches out in every direction towards and beyond the horizon. From the ferry crossing we can still see its sprawl an hour after leaving the port of Yenikapi. But enough sightseeing – I really should try to sleep!

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Arriving in Yalova everything is much calmer. Driving to Iznik reveals some of the terrain we are likely to be encountering in a few hours…. Namely hills. Panic. They look a lot bigger than Muswell Hill… Must try and sleep…

The race village is already buzzing when we arrive. Where is my list?

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  1. Register – check!
  2. Kit – check!
  3. Nerves – check!
  4. Food – check!
  5. Water – check!
  6. Pin number to t-shirt – check!
  7. Change t-shirt – check!
  8. Pin number to new t-shirt – check!
  9. Eat – check!
  10. Take photo of incredible sunset over the lake – check!

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Then to bed to try and sleep…. count sheep…. count breathing…. so that’ll be no sleeping then….

We leave for the midnight start, which is completely new to me – way past my bedtime. It is cold. I already have on a fleece top, gloves and balaclava … should I put my jacket on? That will require a re-pin of the number. But surely even cold-blooded me will be running in a t-shirt when the sun comes out? No. Leave it alone. Number is on t-shirt. 11:50pm I think I’ll put my number on my fluorescent vest. Re pin!

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11:55pm on the start line. Vaguely distracted as a little Labrador puppy comes to see me off! And soon we are on our way into the darkness of Iznik. Within a few metres I am on my own, so I speed up to follow someone as my worst fear is getting lost in the dark. It turns out that this is another of my unnecessary stresses as there are markers every 50’ish’ meters – foolproof even for me! We run through miles and miles of olive groves and trees full of blossom. It is so quiet. Then bam! I am confronted with what in the dark seems to be a near vertical climb. Have I packed climbing shoes or rope? My calves are burning. And this is only a smallish hill, according to the course profile! Just as I’m worrying about the big hills to come, a certain Mr Corless runs past me backwards taking pictures!

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Dawn arrives and with it the wonderful call to prayer. As the sun rises over the hills, bathing the landscape in beautiful colours, I reach the halfway point and am told by the race director that the most picturesque part of the race is still to come.

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I have caught up with Mariya Niklova and Alper Dalkilic. I like having them in sight, especially as we are hounded by packs of dogs, some baring teeth. I run behind them for miles, them pulling away, me catching up, until eventually, around 72km they slow enough and I pass them. I’m on my own and the uphill begins again. Up, up, up… when do we go down again? I see a runner in front and I am spurred on. Up, up, up – how high is this going? I pass the runner. I have no idea how far it is to the next checkpoint as my watch has died. I’m wondering if this is a metaphor. Finally I start descending. It seems like an eternity to the next aid station. The dirt track gives way to a paved road, a few right turns into a village and there is the checkpoint! I ask a man how many girls are ahead of me and he replies ‘Three.’ My heart drops. ‘Three girls?’ I repeat.

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He laughs.

I obviously give him a confused look and he says ‘Three people.’ I’m obviously still giving my best confused face as he repeats in very slow English, as if it is me whose first language is not English, ‘THREE. MEN. IN. FRONT. YOU. ARE. 4th’ Well, this I don’t believe so I laugh along with them, eat a bit of orange while they kindly fill my water bottle and am off again.

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Up, up, up again. I see no other runners but the scenery is as promised. The hills offer views of distant snow-capped mountains. In the foreground a lake, its surrounding fields and minarets marking each village and town. How I manage to resist the urge to stop to take pictures I will never know. Wild tortoises, goats and their shepherds, dogs and toads surround me. I feel like David Attenborough!

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I keep looking behind me. Where is everyone else? I feel like I’m travelling in reverse. Surely others should be overtaking me? I keep going. Plodding. Finally I reach the last checkpoint. I stick my head under the village fountain because I am so hot! The villagers come out and cheer. It is an incredible atmosphere – I will appreciate it more later!

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It’s downhill, at least for a bit then the uphill starts again! Where is Iznik? I could see it before but now I’m back in the trees and the lake has vanished. I come to a puddle I can see no way around. It’s quite big but I know it’s not the lake! I put one foot in and half my leg disappears. At least it’s cold! Back on track and it’s now downhill. Iznik finally comes into sight; I keep looking behind me as I feel like I’m barely moving. Still nobody else in sight! A bicycle that escorts me to the finish meets me. I work out it’s about a mile left to go. I concentrate and dream of my legs carrying me a little more. Eventually I cross the finish line…. 4th overall and the ladies winner.

Presented with a lovely ceramic medal, I try to say, ‘this is nice, I am from the *Potteries’ (the *Potteries – known as Stoke on Trent in the UK) but now it is they who look on, confusingly at me…!

Iznik Ultra – Check!

View the Iznik Ultra race images HERE

Iznik Ultra report on RUNULTRA HERE