A beautiful sunrise over bivouac and the final timed stage of the 2023 and 37th edition of the Marathon des Sables would get underway.
The marathon stage had been highly anticipated as it was expected, that Rachid El Morabity would come from behind and gain time on his brother, Mohamed and clinch his 10th victory. However, this was not to be!
Rachid, along with Aziz El Akad failed an equipment check before the long stage (stage 4) of the Marathon des Sables. This check showed items that were not present at the initial kit check on admin day. The items, coincidentally, were provided each day in lunch packets for MDS staff. In simple terms, Rachid and Aziz were obtaining ‘outside assistance’ to gain an advantage and this, of course, is outside the rules of the race and the sense of fair play. On the rest day, a penalty of 3-hours was given to Rachid and Aziz and also, the Moroccan team was penalised. Rachid and Aziz decided to leave the race and not participate in the last stage.
Rachid has since posted on his Instagram account, and I quote:
“…it is with heavy heart I have decided to quit Marathon des Sables because I was punished unfairly for a mistake I dod not commit. When you are wrongly accused, it’s better to stand with your head high than to remain to suffer injustice…”
Sadly, this is a sad chapter in the history of the Marathon des Sables and the legacy of Rachid. However, it’s greatly important that self-sufficiency in the true nature of the MDS is held and when applicable, penalties are given, irrespective of if you have won 9 editions or not.
The 2023 edition will go down in the history of the race as one of the toughest! A beautiful but tough route, was made considerably tougher with intense heat that not only lasted the week, but increased in temperature daily. Also, early days were impacted with multiple sand storms. At the time of writing, the DNF rate is approximately 30% with just 771 runner’s starting the marathon stage.
It was a day full of emotion, finally, Mohamed El Morabity was finally released from the pressures of working for an elder brother and ran a smart race. He consolidated his lead by marking his closest rival Aziz Yachou and then in the final km’s he opened a gap crossing the line in 3:18. A huge victory for the Moroccan.
Aziz placed 2nd on the stage and 2nd overall on GC with Visiili Korytkin rounding out the stage podium. Mathieu Blanchard placed 3rd overall on GC, a great step up from his 2021 5th place.
For the women, Maryline Nakache won the stage and the overall GC. Tomomi Bitoh who won the marathon stage the last time she raced MDS today placed 2nd and 3rd on GC. Aziza El Amrany placed 3rd on stage and 2nd oveall.
Of course, today, the finish is full of tears, joy and emotion. The 37th edition has been a tough one and it’s clear to see the elation as the line is crossed and finally, it’s possible to relax and let go. There have been many highs and lows for all. As always, there are countless stories that transcend running and in time, those stories will be told. But just look at the images below to get a glimpse of the inspiration, the journey, the transformative process that MDS brings.
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