Marathon des Sables 2017 #MDS – Stage Four 86.2km

Two start times, 0815 and 1115, the same distance – a gruelling 82.2km of the best of what the Sahara has to offer, incredible views and at times brutal terrain with intense heat.

The route echoed much of the 2016 edition passing early through the oasis of El Maharch, a flat dried up lake before the first couple of climbs of the day starting at 10km. Cp1 offered some refreshment before the climb of Mhadid Al Elahau followed by a high level plateau traverse before a fast and thrilling sandy descent. Heading south a great deal of soft sand took the runners to Cp2 and then climbing a path, the runners came back on themselves through the nest valley. Cp3 to Cp4 was a long sand passage that eventually crossed a Oued. Cp4 to Cp5 and Cp5 to Cp6 were relentless dunes to sap the mind and energy. The push from Cp6 to bivouac via Cp7 was relatively flat but continually sandy – a tough day in Morocco!

The day in many ways unfolded at the front as one may have anticipated with Rachid El Morabity and Nathalie Mauclair taking stage victories. However, the story was not clear cut.

Mauclair took the race to Elisabet Barnes in a last ditch effort for victory. It was expected by everyone, after all, Mauclair is a long distance specialist. Through half the race the gap between the two hovered around 3-4 minutes. From Cp5, Mauclair extended her lead over Barnes but the 2015 Marathon des Sables champion dug in, used her flat running speed and closed on the French lady. Mauclair took victory in 9:39:58 and Barnes crossed the tape in 9:41:16 – job done! With the marathon stage to follow tomorrow, Barnes is in a strong perdition for a 2nd victory at this iconic race. Fernanda Maciel, also a long distance specialist, followed the duo ahead and she finished in 10:00:58. Emilie Lecomte was 4th.

In the men’s race, Rachid ran behind a lead pack that continually changed for much of the day. He never quite looked his fresh self but he pulled it out of the bag as he has done so many times before. He finished in an impressive 8:16:44.

Man of the day was British runner Thomas Evans who set his stall out on day 1 and has played the Moroccans at their own game. He has impressed day-on-day and on the long stage he didn’t sit back and defend, he attacked. At times leading the race. His efforts were rewarded with 2nd in 8:27:46. The margin of time behind him and El Morabity does not reflect a stunning performance! Rachid’s brother Mohamad placed 3rd and then Abdelaziz Baghazza and Remigio Huaman in 8:28:33, 8:41:42 and 8:43:39 respectively.

As I write this, runners are still out on the course enduring another day that will test them to the limit. Don’t listen to anyone who says ‘this’ is an easy race – it is not! So many are fighting demons, some fail, but the grit and determination is inspiring. For example, two people have inspired me – Duncan from the UK who is participating with two prosthetic legs and Louis from Luxembourg who has no arms – inspiring!

The fifth stage of the 2017 Marathon des Sables if the classic marathon stage of 42.2km and medals will be awarded on the line. The race is Rachid El Morabity and Elisabet Barnes for the taking – four sections of dunes will not make it easy!

Ultra Pirineu 2016 Preview – Skyrunner® World Series

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The 2016 Skyrunner® World Series championship for the ULTRA distance will be decided in Spain this coming weekend at the Ultra Pirineu located 2-hours north of Barcelona in the Parc Natural del Cadí Moixeró.

A 110km race with 6800m of ascent, Ultra Pirineu is a seriously tough way to end a season. As the last race in the calendar, a 20% points bonus is available and therefore a good placing is required to guarantee a podium place for the 2016 series.

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Cristofer Clemente, recent winner of the RUT placed 5th at Ultra Pirineu in 2015 and this year is leading the Skyrunner® World Series ranking. He will be looking for a strong showing in the race but more importantly, he will be working out calculations to make sure that he retains his position at the top of the series.

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Roger Viñas has been a revelation in 2016 consistently racing and performing to accumulate points and place within the top-3 of the Skyrunner® World Series. His presence at Ultra Pirineu is two-fold just like Cristofer, have a good race but more importantly retain his position within the ranking.

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Legendary runner Miguel Heras, will toe the line and he is no stranger to the Ultra Pirineu. He placed 1st in the race in 2010 and 2011 and in 3rd in 2015. Miguel is one of the most talented runners in the world but is often prone to injury. When he is in-form, he is often unstoppable and he may well be looking for the good old days of 2010 and 2011 in 2016. ©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria2016-0586

Pau Capell has consistently grown as a runner over the past few years and this was confirmed with victory at the TDS and a strong performance at Transgrancanaria earlier this year – along with Cristofer, I see Pau being a potential winner of the race. ©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria2016-0993

Yeray Duran, although not contesting the Skyrunner® World Series is a potential winner of the race and like Pau has slowly but surely impressed over the last couple of years with strong and dominant performances. ©iancorless.com_HTV2016-2444

Dimitry Mityaev had a stunning race at High Trail Vanoise which unfortunately left him injured. However, if he is fit and has the form shown in France, he may well be a podium contender. ©iancorless.com_HTV2016-2710

Marcin Swierc currently is placed 4th in the Skyrunner® World Series and his placing and the placing of Roger Vinas and Cristofer Clemente may well be instrumental in his opportunity to move up and on to the podium – remember a 20% bonus is available.

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Nuno Silva (5th) Remigio Huaman (6th) and Fulvio Dapit (8th) are all top-10 contenders on the Skyrunner® World Series and with this race coming so late in the season, many possibilities are available for a jump upon the rankings.

Francesc Soler, Cristobal Adell and Toti Bes make up the other main contenders for the top-10 places.

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In the ladies’ race, Ida Nilsson is without doubt the hot favourite for victory after showing fine form at the season’s opener in La Palma, Transvulcania! Recently, Ida backed this up with victory at the RUT. Ida does like to run and the relentless 6800m of vertical in Spain will test her. ©iancorless.com_Rut2015-7685

The USA’s Hillary Allen (2nd on ranking) is making the long journey to Spain to participate in the final race of the series in the hope to gain more points after placing 2nd at Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira and 3rd at the RUT.

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Gemma Arenas, like Hillary, has been consistently gaining points in the Skyrunner® World Series in 2015. She won in Madeira and last year placed 4th at Ultra Pirineu. A recent ‘dnf’ at UTMB may well leave Gemma feeling a little tired? It’s all to fight for in Spain.
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Anna Comet (6th) and Kristina Pattison (5th) have been ever-presents on the 2016 series and they have both placed consistently. Here in Spain, they may well find that little extra to move up the rankings and gain additional important points. Tina Bes will also be a contender for the podium.

©iancorless.com_SWC2016-6255 A huge ball may well come from Maite Maiora who usually prefers the SKY distance. In recent years she has raced longer distances and we have seen her on the podium at races such as Transvulcania. Recently she was crowned Skyrunning World Champion at the Buff Epic. The terrain here in Spain suits this fierce competitor.

As with any race, we can expect surprises. Action starts on Saturday and you can follow as the race unfolds via the usual social media feeds and live via tracking on the race website.


Thanks to the support of our Partner Migu Xempower, Sponsor Alpina Watches and Official Pool Suppliers, Scott RunningCompressport and Salomon.

About Skyrunner® World Series
Skyrunning was founded in 1992 by Italian Marino Giacometti, President of the International Skyrunning Federation which sanctions the discipline worldwide and sports the tagline:
Less cloud. More sky.

The Skyrunner® World Series was launched in 2004 and has grown to represent the peak of outdoor running defined by altitude and technicality. In 2016, the Series, composed of four disciplines, features 23 races in 15 venues on three continents.

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