Day 2 was tough. It was a challenging route, incredibly beautiful but the added technicality, vertical gain and intense heat took its toll with many DNF’s.
The organisation made a decision to bring the stage 3 start forward by 1-hour, 0700 instead of 0800. It maybe caused some logistical, admin and timing issues for all but it was a good call.
At 34km, stage 3 had less challenges than stage 2, but still a tough day.
With flat km’s to Cp1, the pace was high and Mathieu Blanchard was a main protagonist. He often pushed the pace, closely followed by Aziz, Mohammed and Rachid.
After Cp2 a resplendent area of green vegetation brought a different life to the Sahara. Camels, birds and reptiles, rare to see so much wildlife in one area.
The main protagonists pushed the pace and eventually Mathieu faded leaving the overall top-3 on GC together.
As I expected, Mohammed attacked and not only took the stage but the overall lead. It’s what I expected. The ‘brothers’ have a plan for the long day, but, at 90km’s, anything can happen.
For the women, it was business as usual with Rgna leading. But, after Cp1 she went through a bad patch and Aziza El Amrany took over the front of the race with Ragna complaining of, ‘…feeling fine and lacking power.’
As the race progressed, it all changed. Ragna regained the front and won in 3:29:36.
Maryline Nakache once again ran a strong and consistent stage to not only catch Aziza, pass her and put time into her, the duo finishing in 3:4104 and 3:42:36.
Tomorrow is the big day! It’s beautiful route with some MDS classics in the terrain. At 90km, it will be extremely tough for all. The race will start 1-hour earlier than planned, 0700. The top-50 will start at 1000.
The 2023 MARATHON DES SABLES draws near and as usual, here is a preview of the coming edition. We will look at the top contenders for the male and female podiums, provide an overview of MDS history and look at some crazy statistics.
Since 1986, well over 22,000 participants have raced at the Marathon des Sables and we have record (or close to record) for 2023, with1200+/- toeing the line. As per usual, the race is multi-national with over 50 represented. The French and British providing the largest contingent.
THE TOP MEN AND WOMEN
Rachid El Morabity returns looking for his 10th victory, all eyes will be on him, but he is in for a fight! 2019 female champion, Ragna Debats returns and is without doubt the hot favourite for the top of the women’s podium.
THE WOMEN RACE
Ragna Debats dominated the race in 2019 and in recent years has become one of the top trail, ultra and skyrunner’s in the world. When in form, she is incredibly difficult to beat. In 2022 she had an incredible season with four top victories, Transgrancanaria 129km, Istria by UTMB, Montreux Trail Festival and the 100m Nice Côte d’Azur by UTMB. Ragna has had a relatively quiet start to 2023 and recently she has changed her coach of 13-years. She will be meticulously prepared for MDS 2023.
Gemma Game from the UK has been on the podium of MDS twice, 2018 and 2019, on both occasions placing 3. Gemma most definitely can win MDS but, as she will tell you, she runs for fun and MDS is an escape from a very busy and hectic life with a high-powered job and family. Is she wants to, she will be on the podium again in 2023.
Manuela Socco from Belgium is not a runner I am very aware of; however, two results stand out, victory at Cappadocia Medium Trail in 2019 and Tarawera 100km in 2020. She has also represented Belgium at the Olympic Games in the marathon distance. With a 35min 10km, a 1:16 half marathon and a 2:37 marathon, she has all the running fire power to create a stir in the Sahara.
Maryline Nakache from France has a string of top results, she often wins! However, stand-out markers come from Templiers (3rd) 90km du Mont-Blanc (3rd), CCC (5th) Transgrancanaira Advanced (1st), Tenerife Blue Trail (1st), UTMB (6th) and in 2022 alone she was never out of the top-5.
Tomomi Bitoh from Japan was 3 in the 2021 MDS and has recently participated in The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. She is an incredible personality, a fierce competitor and although the podium is a possibility in 2023, I feel that she will just be outside the top ranking.
Elise DELANNOY (France) was 18th in the 2016 MDS in 38-hours. This is a long way off the pace required to podium in 2023… But a great deal has happened since then, notably a 7th place at UTMB in 2019, so, Elise cannot be ruled out of shaking up the front of the race.
Corina Sommer from Zurich recently won the Oman Desert Marathon against Aziz Raji (past MDS champ) and Aziza El Amrany who had led the race only to have Corina run two incredibly strong days and take the victory. New to trail, she placed 18th at Templiers and 3rd at Istria by UTMB for the 68km. She will need a great week to make the podium, but it’s a distinct possibility.
Jodie Moss from the UK was 8th at MDS in 2019 and has been preparing meticulously for the 2023 edition. However, recent injury issues placed the race in question, but it looks like she will be in the Sahara, hopefully in great shape.
Ester Alves won The Coastal Challenge in 2016 and placed 3rd in 2017. She also raced MDS in 2017 ￼but the race did not go to plan… In recent years, she has had time away from the sport, but last year, Ester raced Everest Trail Race which will have no doubt provided some great momentum for the Sahara.
Maria Semerjian has results going back to 2009 and without doubt, she enjoys the tough mountain courses, UTMB, Raid de la Reunion, Grand Raid Pyrenees, UTMF, and more… The distance won’t be a problem, however, the speed to make the top-5 may well be the problem.
Brunhilde Girardet recently won Trail de Cité de Pierres as a warmup for MDS. It’s her first edition, so, let’s see…
Wild card – Katie Young from the UK.
Laurence Klein returns, she has won MDS three times, with no disrespect to the Queen of the desert, there is no chance of victory in 2023, but she will no doubt bring colour to the race.
Currently, Aziz Raji and Aziza El Amrany are NOT on the start list, but I hope they do make it to the 2023 edition. It’s important that Morocco has female representation and of course, both of them have great potential for the top 5. Raji has won the race and El Amrany was 3rd in 2022.
THE MEN RACE
The men’s race is extremely notable in 2023 as Rachid El Morabity will look for a 10th victory. This will without doubt add an extra dynamic to the race, particularly after the superb tactics which played out in the 2022 edition.
Rachid El Morabity is the boss of the Sahara and the hot favourite. BUT, I believe this year will be his toughest challenge. There are multiple reasons for this… Rachid has expectation on him, this is not really an issue, he can handle that. He has raced a great deal in the past 12-months, he may be tired? The Moroccan team is probably at its weakest, especially when compared to the past ten editions, so, the support network will be less. The competition, namely Mathieu Blanchard and Aziz Yachou are a serious threat. Will Rachid win? It is very hard to bet against him, but 2023 has the potential to be the upset year.
Mohamed El Morabity is the eternal 2nd at MDS and his possibilities of victory in 2023 are zero if Rachid is in good form. The only opportunity for Mohamed is if Rachid falters and he gets the green light from his elder brother to attack. In Oman Desert Marathon earlier in the year, Mohamed took victory ahead of Rachid, don’t be fooled in to thinking Mohamed was stronger, he was gifted the win as credit for April and the 2023 MDS. Mohamed can win the race, but just as we saw in 2022, he will be the super domestique for Rachid.
Aziz Yachou is the fly in the Moroccan ointment and 1-year on, has the potential to create fireworks and upset Rachid’s dream. He was 4th in 2021 and 3rd in 2022. Last year he was worked over by the tactics of Rachid and Mohamed, he will be prepared for that this year. Little is known about his training in the early part of 2023.
Mathieu Blanchard raced MDS in 2021 and finished 5th – he was hit by the bug that swept through camp just in time for the long day. One thing is for sure, after placing 2nd at UTMB in 2022, we are looking at a different Mathieu. He raced The Coastal Challenge in February and placed 2nd, he recently summited Kilimanjaro and most recently ran a 2:22 marathon in Paris. Mathieu can win MDS and the French have put a team together to potentially make that happen. Beating the Moroccans on home soil (sand) is tough, but THIS may be the year.
David KILGORE from the USA has been top-10 at Leadville 100, and recently 7th at Tarawera 50km. On paper, he is not an MDS podium contender, but he will be in the mix for the top-5.
Erik Clavery adds more fire power to the French line-up. He was 5th at MDS in 2016 and a fierce competitor. He has raced UTMB, WSER, Eiger Ultra and even 24H championships, so, he brings something special to the MDS.
Vasily Kortytkin (Russia) comes to MDS with a history in 6H and 24H races, he has PB’s of 86.493 and 260.570 respectively. He has won some trail races in Russia in 2021 and 2022, how he performs in the Sahara is a big question.
Pierre Meslet (France) placed 9th at MDS in 2021 and returns in 2023 not only to perform to the best of his ability (top-10) but to also help the French maybe win the race and also get the team prize.
Anton Samokhvalov also from Russia has been racing trail since 2014. He has a list of solid results but nothing spectacular, in 2021 he made 10th at Transgrancanaria Advanced.
Duncan Slater from the UK lost both legs during a mission in Afghanistan, he’s back this year for another medal!
Christian Ginter, dinosaur of the desert, returns for the 35th time!
1150 runners will toe the line (1263 were registered) and the youngest runner is 16-year-old Girard Fialon (she will run with her father, Grégory) and the eldest, Henry Botha, 81!
Crazy Statistics of the MDS
“The logistics are a big headache, and we organize every detail in advance! We’re a village of 2,000 people that must be set up and dismantled every day. We need to be self-sufficient in energy, food, water, and fuel. As one of my friends says, ‘Let’s expect the worst because the best will never surprise us!’ We also benefit from the infallible support of the Royal Moroccan Army, which makes available about 25 6WD military trucks to transport all our equipment.” – Patrick Bauer
You must see Marathon des Sables to appreciate the size and scale of the event. It’s like the largest moving circus you will ever see and it’s impressive to witness.
Following statistics provided by the Marathon des Sables office:
▪ 150 volunteers to supervise the race,
▪ 450 general support staff,
▪ 120,000 liters of bottled mineral water,
▪ 300 Berber and Saharan tents,
▪ 120 all-terrain vehicles and trucks,
▪ 2 Squirrel helicopters and 1 Cessna plane,
▪ 8 Transavia ‘MDS special’ commercial planes,
▪ 30 buses,
▪ 4 dromedaries,
▪ 1 incinerator lorry for burning waste,
▪ 5 quad bikes to monitor race environment and safety,
▪ 14 km/hr.: average maximum speed, 3 km/hr.: average minimum speed,
▪ 15 years of age for the youngest competitor and the oldest, 83!
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.
1996: First participation by Mohamed, a younger sibling of Ahansal. The two Moroccan brothers set off together and rank 4th and 5th respectively.
1997: This year heralds the start of the Ahansal saga. Morocco is honored with Lahcen’s first victory. He beats his two pursuers by nearly 30 minutes, despite them being international long-distance running champions.
1999: A mobile hospital on the MDS comes into being. There are around thirty practitioners on the ground, with doctors and nurses joining the caravan. A dedicated helicopter and ten all-terrain vehicles track the competitors each day. On- board these vehicles there are doctors of course, as well as high-tech equipment. The village boasts a genuine field hospital.
2000: Internet appears in the large MDS village. The organization decides to broadcast the texts and photos of the race live, day after day. The competitors can communicate with their nearest and dearest and receive messages of encouragement.
2001: For the first time the long leg, traditionally called “The 70”, exceeds the 80km barrier to reach 82km. The threshold of 240km is also surpassed since the 16th MARATHON DES SABLES spans 243km. Another first relates to the fact that there are no Moroccans on the podium this year.
2002: This edition is punctuated by a sandstorm, involving headwinds, which lasts the entire week. The doctors invent a machine for ‘low pressure cleansing’ to rinse out the runners’ eyes. Despite the difficult conditions, there are few retirements to report as the wind considerably reduces the temperature.
2005: The Luxembourg runner Simone Kayser is the first woman to win 3 MARATHON DES SABLES. For this 20th edition, the total number of runners exceeds 700 for the first time, with no fewer than 777 runners taking the start.
2006: A drying wind and very high humidity levels cause damage to the runners’ bodies. Despite additional allocations of water, a whole series of retirements ensues. There 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. Sportswise, 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.
2020: The Corona virus takes over the world.
2021: The Marathon des Sables returns but with an October edition due to the global pandemic. Celebrating 35-years, it is remembered as on one of the hottest editions and almost 50% not completing the race due to a possible Norovirus that swept through bivouac.
2022: Rapid El Morabity wins his 9th edition setting himself up for 10 in 2023. Sandstorms made for some difficult and challenging days.
Follow the race here with a daily update and selection of images. Also, follow on IG @iancorlessphotography.
It has been a long journey, and here you are, 14-days to the start of the Marathon des Sables.
DO NOT PANIC!
You – You signed up for the challenge, you wanted to be on the start line and therefore you are responsible for the outcome. Believe me, the you that leaves the Sahara is not the same you that entered. Arguably, you changed the moment you paid the deposit, the transformation process had already begun. Embrace the journey ahead and apply yourself. But keep perspective, the MDS journey is an enhancement of you as a person. It’s easy to become too obsessed. Ultimately the majority of runners at MDS are enthusiasts, if you keep that in mind the journey will be a complete one.
Pack – Minimum pack weight is 6.5kg plus water (8kg,) get as close to this as you can. Additional weight is additional stress and just makes the journey harder.
Friends – You are going to share bivouac with 7 other people and you are going to have some serious highs and lows. These tent mates will pull you through and motivate you. They will become friends for life. Ideally find tent mates before you head out to the Sahara and create a support network. Now, with 14-days to go is the perfect time to do this, if you haven’t already done so.
Feet – Look after them, along with dehydration, blistered and damaged feet are a key reason for failure in any multi-day race.
Extras – Mandatory kit is as one would expect, mandatory! So purchase what is on the list. You can save weight by shopping around. Simple rule; the lighter and smaller, the more expensive it will be! Optional extras are very personal and my advice would be take nothing extra other than a MP3 player and earphones.
Mental Game – The legs, lungs, heart and feet will only get you so far. The mind is what will get you to the finish. Broken individuals with bodies in tatters but mentally strong can make the finish. Despite the hardships and pain, they embraced the journey and mentally where superior in strength. It was the mind that got them to the line.
Laugh – If you laugh, you are having fun. Laugh when you hit rock bottom, why not. Laugh when you are going the toilet in a brown plastic bag and most of all laugh with and at your tent mates and fellow runners. The comradeship of MDS is quite unique, embrace it.
Heat – In the final 14-days, make sure you get some heat acclimation, bikram yoga, sauna, heat chamber, hot batch, whatever it may be, get 6-8 sessions before the race. You have signed up for a race in the Sahara, no point in complaining it is ‘too hot!’ This is the challenge you signed up for. Dehydration is one of the main causes for NOT finishing the race.
TOP TIPS BEFORE THE RACE STARTS
Take essentials on the plane and wear your run apparel and shoes. That way, should a baggage disaster happen your chances of racing improve.
Take food with you for the travel and on the plane.
The journey from the airport to bivouac 1 is now typically 1-hour or less, this helps considerably with fatigue and tiredness.
Night 1 and night 2 in bivouac are NOT self-sufficient so take extras such as an inflatable bed, food and luxuries. Don’t use them? Give them away to the berbers. May as well have 2 comfortable nights and a comfortable day before the racing starts.
Food before the race starts is by Moroccan caterers. It is excellent food BUT for some, may be too challenging for the stomach. Take options to be self-sufficient should you need to make the choice.
Admin day is slick and streamlined now, but, you may be in the sun for over 1-hour. Wear a hat, take shade (an umbrella) and have water and snacks.
Keep sun screen on and keep hydrated. No need to drink vast volumes – drink to thirst before the racing starts.
Have additional items such as a base layer, sleeping bag liner and other items that may be on a ‘question’ list for the race. On night 1 and before you go to admin, you can make final decisions of what to and what not to take. Particularly important if you think you may be cold at night.
Remember that after bag drop and check-in you have no access to any additional items, however, you only become completely self-sufficient when you start the race. With that in mind, you can have additional food and luxuries with you until day 1 kick-off, it’s a useful tip and does mean that you can have additional comfort for a good 12-hours.
Marathon des Sables is a magical and life changing journey as are most if not all multi-day races. It really is a true challenge of mind and body to race over many days, irrespective of finish time. It’s a hark back to a more primitive time, a time without clutter and modern technology. Embrace this. Embrace the silence of the surroundings and the simplicity of placing one foot in front of the other, eating, resting and sleeping and then doing it all again.
Finally, set yourself a realistic goal (that may just be to finish) so that you manage not only your expectations but pace. Way too many start off too quick and most dropouts come on days 1 and 2.
The 2023 The Coastal Challenge concluded today in Bahiá Drake on the north side of the Osa Peninsula located on the coast of southwestern Costa Rica.
In many respects, the 2023 race concluded in regards to general classification after stage 5 when Didrik Hermansen opened up a 20-minute gap over race leader, Mathieu Blanchard.
It was clear as day 6 started that there would be no racing, instead a victory loop with friends.
For the women, the same applied, Katie Schide ran conservatively enjoying the day. Tomomi Bitoh ran in 2nd place and Paolo Herrera took it easy finishing in 3rd with a 2nd place on GC confirmed.
Stage 6 is a highlight of TCC with a loop that manages to encapsulate a little of everything that has gone before in the previous five stages. Gravel roads, river running, waterfall crossings, water crossing, beaches, rocks, coasteering and of course, heat and humidity.
It was a day to run slower, with friends, enjoy the views and get ready to relax and recover.
As with all races, there was plenty of emotion at the finish line, tears, joy and relief.
Now it’s time to relax, hang up the run shoes and enjoy some down time. Next year is the 20th edition of TCC, already the plans are being made for a special edition.
Crossing the Sierpe river at dawn with a new sun welcoming the day, stage 5 of TCC is always a key day due to large amounts of gravel road, a technical and steep descent, the iconic estuary crossing and the heat and humidity that punishes the runner’s when they leave the shade.
Of course, all the talk was about Mathieu Blanchard and Didrik Hermansen, we and they knew it was going to be a key day. The writing was on the wall when Didrik offered Mathieu his hand before the start, it was a clear statement of let the best man win.
In the early stages the duo were matched but it didn’t take long before Mathieu dropped back on one of the early climbs. As the race progressed, this gap opened and at first it was difficult to ascertain if this was a tactic by Mathieu?
At CP2 the gap was 3-minutes, at CP3 it was 6-minutes. Didrik was pushing hard and looking relaxed and in control.
Mathieu by contrast seemed to be off his normal relaxed look. The toll of 4 hard stage was taking its toll and it was clear to see.
Didrik came to the estuary crossing, 4km to go. He jumped on the boat, crossed and pushed for the line.
It was over 20-minutes later when Mathieu arrived. It’s fair to say, the 2023 TCC was decided today. Didrik’s effort, pace and consistency has been text book stage racing.
“After yesterday, I would not have been happy with 2nd. So the plan was to push the pace. Mathieu was having a bad day and he let me go early. I pushed and kept it steady. I opened a gap and more, and more minutes. It was motivating. I had considered taking it easy and saving something for stage 6, but, if Mathieu was having a bad day, I decided to push and get more time. It’s not over, we still have a day to go.” – Didrik Hermansen
“Yes a tough day. But last night I had already decided to go easier. Yesterday I witnessed Didrik push the downhill at an incredible pace. I little bit mad maybe? But for me, it’s February, I have a long season and I can’t risk it all here in Costa Rica. Today we had another downhill like yesterday, he took many minutes again and it’s just not possible for me to get that time back when he runs so well. I came here for an adventure and fun, I didn’t expect these first 4-days and such a pace. I am very happy.” – Mathieu Blanchard
For the women, Katie Schide had a controlled and relaxed day. Her lead is far in advance of 2nd and 3rd and still she was able to take another stage win.
Behind, Tomomi Bitoh started strong leading Paolo Herrera. But as the day passed they switched places and although close together at the end, it was another solid 2nd for Paolo.
Tomorrow, the final stage at 35.7km and with 875m+ is to all intents and purposes a victory loop, if you can call running 35.7km a victory loop. With GC places decided, I don’t anticipate a charge from Mathieu, so, let’s expect a Pura Vida loop of enjoyment.
Stage 4 of The Coastal Challenge and today, the runner’s move away from the coast and climb high on the relentlessly rolling terrain that is backed by the Talamanca range.
Steep climbs, steep descents and technical terrain. It’s a tough stage, especially when you add heat and humidity.
Today, was an anticipated key stage for Mathieu Blanchard and Didrik Hermansen, the duo have been closely matched each day and despite Didrik’s best efforts, Mathieu has come 1st each day.
The duo today once again went head-to-head, it’s stunning to watch and also exhausting. The pace is unbelievable and between them it’s impossible to tell who is the most tired.
At each point along the route they were never more than meters apart but for those watching, and knowing the course, the crux would come at the end of the day with a very steep and technical descent to the line.
Didrik threw caution to the wind and attacked. The gap opened and opened and he crossed the line in 4:39:23.
The clock ticked, 1-minute, 2-minutes and Mathieu crossed in 4:42:23, exactly a 3-minute gap. Wow! Seriously exciting racing and then the calculations, had Mathieu held the overall on GC?
Yes, 16:48:32 for Mathieu and 16:49:16 for Didrik. Before stage 4, the 19th edition of the TCC was witnessing an epic race, now stages 5 and 6 are going to be epic. Who’s your money on?
Dani Jung once again placed 3rd looking relaxed despite a sleepless night. He had questioned wether to start, gladly he did.
“I had to do something, I felt during the days I was better than him on the downhill and I was willing to take the risk, I couldn’t believe I would take 3-minutes… It’s a real fun battle, we are neck-and-neck, we are so similar in strength. It’s fun, it’s cool. Nice to finally take a stage. I feel as though I could have pushed harder. I wanted to win and obviously reduce the gap. I am prepared to fight and compete, if I come 2nd so be it, but I will fight!” – Didrik Hermansen
By contrast, Mathieu looked relaxed post-race and he was candid with his thoughts.
“Didrik went down the last decent like a mad man. It was steep, technical with many potential problems. I have a long season ahead and I wasn’t prepared to risk everything here. I feel good, so, let’s see what happens.”
For the women, Katie Schide was a long way clear of any other competition and looked relaxed on the trail. Victory in the 2023 The Coastal Challenge is hers to lose, so, she just needs to run smart over the next two days.
Tomomi Bitoh today ran strong and finished 2nd ahead of 2nd on GC, Paolo Herrera. The gap between the two only 6-minutes.
With no ocean and beaches, today was a contrast of farms, farmland, animals and epic rural vistas. It felt like ‘real’ Costa Rica.
Runner’s have arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica ahead of the 2023 edition which starts on Sunday February 5th.
Admin day, pre-race protocols and race briefing will soon be completed and then an early morning journey to Quepos and the start line of stage 1 awaits.
For 2023, the runner’s in both Expedition and Adventure categories will experience some new route changes and distances. Notably, the expedition category, on paper, appears to be a tougher race.
Stage 1 is always brutal as for many, the heat and humidity really takes a hold and exhausts the un-prepared body. In the past, this stage has hovered around the 30km mark, for 2023 it will be 41km with 1071m+ for the Expedition category.
Stage 2 40km and 1828m+
Stage 3 49km and 1884m+
Stage 4 35.5km and 2434m+
Stage 5 40.6km and 1670m+
and the final stage 6 35.7km and 875m+
This makes a total 0f 241.8km and 9762m+.
For the shorter Adventure race, unlike in past editions, stage 1 will be shorter than the expedition at 32km.
Stage 2 17km
Stage 3 16.5km
Stage 4 12.5km
Stage 5 22.3km
Stage 6 35.7km
The Adventure race totals 136km with 4032m+.
With an International line-up, all eyes will be on the front of the race with a stellar male and female line-up.
For the men:
Mathieu Blanchard, Didrik Hermansen, Sebastian Krogvig, Dani Jung and Peter van der Zon will go head-to-head for the TCC crown. Sadly, local ever-present and multi podium finisher of the TCC, Erick Aguero will not start due to injuries sustained in a fall.
For the women:
UTMB one and two, Katie Schide and Marianne Hogan will once again do battle along with Tomomi Bitoh from Japan.
Departing from San Jose around 0330am, the journey to the coast will be undertaken in darkness. The hope is that runner’s can start the stage as early as possible, therefore taking advantage of cooler temperatures before the heat of the day arrives.
The TCC is the ultimate Costa Rican multi-day adventure. The route hugs the coastline of the tropical Pacific, weaving in and out of the Talamancas; a coastal mountain range in the Southwest corner of this Central American country. The terrain is ever-changing and challenges each participant, from wide, dusty and runnable fire trails to dense and muddy mountain trails. Add river crossings, boulder hopping, swimming through rivers, passing under waterfalls, and long and relentless beaches, TCC is a unique experience. Finally, the finish will come in the incredible Corcovado National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site with a stunning final loop around Drake Bay. After an evening relaxing, the runner’s will depart for their journeys back to San Jose via speedboat to Sierpe and then a follow on coach trip.
“TCC has always grabbed my attention, February is early in the year, so, there are not many races. For me, it will be a challenge, I’m usually home skiing in Norwegian winter and in 2023 I will be in an exotic race in the Jungle – it’s exciting! The landscapes and nature looks spectacular! The trails look challenging and fun, a perfect mix of racing and adventure.” – Sebastian Krogvig
Day 2 of the Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp kicked off with a nice easy run/ warm up to the infamous volcano hill-rep location.
At just 70 (ish) meters of vertical, the route may well not seem to hard, however, when you repeat it enough times, it becomes very tough. The target was 10-reps, of course it varies what each individual can achieve…
The decent is a single-track trail of loose stone and gravel and the ‘recovery’ phase is a flat gravel road back to the start. It’s always a great session.
In the afternoon, a ‘How To Use Poles Session’ gave an introduction to the technique required to effectively use poles for a trail or mountain race.
This was followed with adidas Terrex athlete, Tom Evans, holding a talk on Process over Outcome and then a Q&A.
The day concluded with a short recovery session of 30-minutes as the sun set over the lagoon and sea that surrounds Club La Santa. It was a perfect day and stunning weather. Tomorrow, soft-sand.
Interested in joining us? 2024 is open for booking HERE
It was day-1 of the 2023 Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp and what a perfect day! The rain from ‘arrival’ day disappeared leaving a perfect sunny and windy day.
The morning was a 24km ‘Coastal Run’ that had over 50-participants moving along some wonderful, technical single-track on the outward route and easier gravel trails for the run home.
Spilt in to three main groups, Tom Evans and Pierre Meslet guided the faster runners, Ian Corless and Abelone Lyng the middle group and Inge Nijkamp, Kevin Webber and Steve Diederich guided the run/ walker and walkers.
The trails here a stunning and the backdrop superb. Technical trails are compensated with easier non-technical trails but the group bonding, chats and views help the km’s fly past…
After a lunch break, the afternoon was taken up with two talks: the inspirational Kevin Webber told his story of his Prostrate Cancer diagnosis and Steve Diederich (UK agent for MDS) gave an informative talk around MDS logistics.
A 5km recovery run conclude the activities of the day and then relaxation was the order of the day, with some good food, as plans were made ready for day-2.
Interested in joining us? 2024 is open for booking HERE
It’s countdown time to the 2023 Oman Desert Marathon.
Now in its 8th edition, the Oman Desert Marathon will take place January 21st to 24th. A self-sufficient race, the race takes place over 4-stages with a total distance of 165-kms.
January offers excellent conditions for a desert adventure, with highs anticipated and 25-degrees and lows of 17-degrees.
A unique race, the route provides participants the opportunity to explore and discover untouched sands and the highest dunes of Oman while running 47, 55, 42 and 21km.
“The OMD, changed my perspective on ultra-marathon running for the better. The desert is magical and beautiful, but will test you mentally and physically to your limit, but you will be a better person from it. The OMD event should be on every runner’s calendar.” – Adam May.
Arrival in Oman will be on January 20th with transfers to Al Jawharat Resort in Bidiyah. The afternoon will taken up with admin protocols and a race dinner.
Stage 1 – 47km
Satge 2 – 55km
Stage 3 – 42km
Stage 4 – 21km
Daily start times fluctuate and interestingly, Stage 3 has three starts, 1200, 1400 and 1600.
Stage 4 has an 0800 start with the race concluded by 1300 at the Al Jawharat Resort in Bidiyah resort. In the evening, an award ceremony and prize giving will take place.
While Omani runner’s will make up the majority of the field, there are participants from Spain, France, Ukraine, Italy, Germany, Poland, Britain, Belgium, Switzerland and not surprisingly, Morocco will have the main contenders for overall victory.
King of the desert, Rachid El Morabity, 9x winner of the Marathon des Sables will once again lead the field and he is without doubt, the hot favourite for overall victory.
Rachid’s brother, Mohammed, will be his main contender and should Rachid have a bad day, his brother will be able to pounce.
For the women, desert specialist, Aziz Raji, also a winner of Marathon des Sables, will be the main protagonist not only for the female victory, but quite possibly, a highly-ranked overall placing.
How to follow:
Daily reports and images will be issued on this website (connection allowing) each evening and a full and detailed race summary will follow after January 24th. On IG, @iancorlessphotography and @marathonoman
We look forward to welcoming you to the Oman Desert Marathon experience.