The Coastal Challenge 2019 – #TCC2019 – Day 6

The 2019 The Coastal Challenge today came to an end on the stunning beaches of Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula.

Pere Aurell and Ida Nilsson are the champions after a masterclass of multi-day running. The duo ran amazing races and Ida obliterated the 2018 record of Ragna Debats and in the process set 4 female stage records and placed 2nd overall. Holly Page set two stage records also.

The 22km final day is a stunning day, starting and finishing on Bahia Drake, the loop is like a mini Coastal Challenge all compressed into one stage. Waterfalls, rainforest, plantations, dusty fire trail, water crossings, beaches, coves and the stunning Pacific as a backdrop as the runners make the way to the finish.

The dynamic of the day was the staggered start for the top-6 after the mass start at 0700.

They were released as follows:

6. Ragna Debats 07:01:00

5. Holly Page 07:03:00

4. Jorge Paniagua 07:06:00

3. Marcus Scotney 07:10:00

2. Ida Nillson 07:15:00

1. Pere Aurell 07:21:00

 

The race was on between Jorge and Marcus and in the early stages, Jorge opened a gap on the technical trail. However, as soon as the trail became more runnable, Marcus unleashed his natural fast pace and secured his 3rd overall on GC.

After a tough stage 5, Pere was keen to make sure he won the 2019 TCC and by the waterfall, he had caught Ida for the 6-minute time gap. He then ran to the line and secured his victory ahead of the incredible Ida, who placed 2nd overall and dominated the women’s race.

Ida won 4-stage CR bonus’ worth $250 each and $2500 for a new CR – That is $3500 for her week in Costa Rica.

Holly Page was the first to cross the line holding off the top-5 runners and catching all those before her – in the process she set a new stage CR and in addition to her female CR on stage 4, she netted $500. On timing, Pere was the stage winner just missing Tom Evans 2018 stage-6 record. Marcus was 2nd and Holly 3rd.

The finish-line was full of emotion as an epic journey has come to an end. The 2019 TCC will go down in history for the incredible performances of all the runners, but the truly inspiring story his how the top-3 women placed in the top-6 overall, with Ida 2nd on the podium – truly epic!

For now though, it’s all about Pere and Ida celebrating victory. This evening, the awards will take place on the beach with a roaring camp fire. 2020 will see the 16th edition of the race and I am sure we can expect another spectacular race.

PURA VIDA

Stage Results:

  1. Pere Aurell 2:00:00
  2. Marcus Scotney 2:06:32
  3. Holly Page 2:07:04
  4. Ida Nilsson 2:08:12
  5. Sebastian Jones 2:13:55

Overall standings, male/ female after 6-stages:

  1. Pere Aurell 23:10:23
  2. Marcus Scotney 24:01:03
  3. Jorge Paniagua 24:17:21
  1. Ida Nilsson 23:36:03
  2. Holly Page 24:50:38
  3. Ragna Debats 26:16:06

General Classification:

  1. Pere Aurell 23:10:23
  2. Ida Nilsen 23:36:03
  3. Marcus Scotney 24:01:03

Full results at www.webscorer.com

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The Coastal Challenge 2019 – #TCC2019 – Day 5

It was the longest day of the 2018 The Coastal Challenge and what a day! At 49km, it was only 2km more than day 3 but coming at this stage in the race, it is always a tough one.

 Runners departed camp via bus for a short bus ride to the Sierpe river and then a ferry across to the other side with the arrival of daylight. At 6:15am, they were released.

Much of todays race is very runnable on wide gravel roads and much of that chat pre-stage was that it was ideal for Ida and Marcus. It’s great if you can run, but for many it’s a tough day. Technical forest sections break up the distance and then at 2/3rd of the race covered, the runners turn right on a loop around the peninsula, running through forest trails before finally dropping to the beach and taking a small boat from one side to the other. Once across the estuary, it is 9km’s to the line with the final sections on the beach to the stunning Drake Bay, a Unesco Heritage Site

It was a day of drama, with the main podium contenders all running close together to checkpoint. Notably, Jorge was running side-by-side with Pere at the head of the race. Ida chased and then Marcus. Just before the right turn for the loop around the peninsula, Pere made his move and pulled away from Jorge.

Behind, Ida chased and Marcus was looking strong and gaining time.

Holly Page was some way back but looking relaxed and comfortable in the intense heat.

At the peninsula. Pere was first in the boat and crossed with no sign of any other runners. Jorge and Ida arrived together and shared a boat. Minutes later, Marcus arrived. It was all going to come down to the final 9-km’s!

What happened next, could not have been predicted. Pere struggled with exhaustion, the heat and sickness from a restless night before. He was reduced to a walk. Ida on the other hand went from strength-to-strength.

Ida left Jorge, pursued Pere, passed him and once again won the stage outright obliterating the previous female stage CR set by Ester Alves by almost 45-minutes – it was an incredible performance.

Marcus bided his time. Closed on Jorge and the duo fought an epic battle to the line. Marcus was 2nd just over 30-seconds ahead of the Costa Rican runner.

Pere finally arrived 20-minutes after Ida – he looked broken!

With the final stage tomorrow, an epic battle will unfold between Jorge and Marcus for the final podium spot on GC. Also, Pere and Ida have a potential fight. Pere has a lead of 17-minutes, one would normally say that is more than enough. However, after today, anything can happen…!

Holly Page finished 2nd woman and Ragna Debats lost time in the closing miles due to a navigation error, however, she did finish 3rd on the stage.

Tomorrow’s stage is a loop of Drake Bay – it’s a stunning day that manages to encompass all the previous 5 days in one loop. The top 6-runners will depart after the main group.

The starting times will be:

Mass start 07:30:00

6. Ragna Debats 07:31:00

5. Holly Page 07:33:00

4. Jorge Paniagua 07:36:00

3. Marcus Scotney 07:40:00

2. Ida Nilsson 07:45:00

1. Pere Aurell 07:51:00

Overall standings, male/ female after 5-stages:

  1. Pere Aurell 21:10:22
  2. Marcus Scotney 21:54:30
  3. Jorge Paniagua 22:00:49
  1. Ida Nilsson 21:27:51
  2. Holly Page 22:43:34
  3. Ragna Debats 23:54:00

General Classification:

  1. Pere Aurell 21:10:23
  2. Ida Nilsson 21:27:51
  3. Marcus Scotney 21:54:30

Full results at www.webscorer.com

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Marathon des Sables 2018 Race Preview #MDS #MDS2018

It is here, the 33rd edition of the iconic Marathon des Sables – 250km, 6 stages over 7 days and over 1000 runners from over 50 countries battling the sand and the heat of the Sahara in a self-sufficient manner.

The MDS is the granddaddy of multi-day racing and with its long history it is still the race that all other multi-day races base themselves on. Patrick Bauer’s vision is as strong today as it was back in the 80’s.

Bauer is not just a race director, he is a passionate man who loves Morocco and the people. The MDS ‘is’ Bauer and without him it is like the band QUEEN touring without Freddie Mercury center stage.

The stats for the race are impressive. They always are.

In 2018, as per usual. The 40-49 age group is the most popular. Yes, it is the mid-life crisis group with 349 males and 72 females toeing the line. The 30-39 group is next with 225 males and 58 females. Surprisingly, the 50-59 group comes in 3rd with a split of 177 to 37 male and female respectively.

The youngest runner is 17yr old Moroccan Ali Zaghloul who will be supported along the route by his father, Mehdi. The youngest female is Sally Wellock from the UK aged 23yrs.

France takes top honors for the oldest male, Jean-Claude Raymond aged 80yrs will look to complete his 12th MDS and Philippa Lloyd from the UK is the oldest female aged 69yrs.

I have to say, I have a soft spot for my good friend Didier Benguigui, this will be his 14th MDS and he is blind. I have seen him over the years overcome great adversity to achieve his medal. He is a true inspiration, he will make you cry – a legend of the MDS!

For those who love stats, believe it or not, the 2018 MDS will be Christian Ginter’s 31st MDS – yes folks, 31st edition – incredible!

ELITE RUNNERS

Female:

Natalia Sedykh returns to the MDS after winning the race in 2016 with a blistering performance. For me, she is the head and shoulders favourite for the 2018 race. She is currently in excellent shape and at the end of 2017 she won the Oman Desert Marathon.

Andrea Huser is a UTWT specialist and one of the strongest runners in the world with a string of incredible performances, be that UTMB or Transgrancanaria. She hasn’t run in the desert before and multi-day racing is a fickle beast. I see her doing well but I don’t think she will have the pace of Natalia.

One lady who will have the pace to take on the Russian is Magdalena Boulet. Magda has won Western States and placed 5th at UTMB. However, like Andrea, she is a desert Virgin and that will be her achilles heel for victory.

Anna Marie Watson can run in the sand, she won Half MDS Fuerteventura and recently placed top-10 at UTMB. She is likely to be a real contender for the podium this year and has trained specifically for the challenge ahead.

Gemma Game was 4th at MDS in 2015 and would have been a likely challenger for Natalia but has decided to ease of the gas for the 2018 race and she plans to have as much fun as possible.

Jax Mariash is a multi-day specialist who will bring her Gobi, Atacama and Namibia experience to Morocco. The question will be, does she have the speed to match the experience?

Also keep an eye on Bouchra Eriksen, Amelia Griffith and Beth Kay.

Male:

Rachid El Morabity is the desert king and you’d be a fool to bet against him. He won Morocco and Peru in 2017 and knows the sand like the back of his hand. He is an amazing runner with a wealth of experience and one of the nicest guys you will ever meet.

Mohamed El Morabity is Rachid’s younger brother and if Rachid was not running, Mohamed would have the nod for victory. He was 2nd in 2017, and he also won the 100km Ultra Mirage in Tunisia.

Abdelkader El Mouaziz won the London Marathon in 1999 and 2001. He has a marathon PB of 2:06:43 – ouch! He is a MDS vet having placed 2nd twice and 7th.

Aziz El Akad is a consistent Moroccan who has finished in the top 5 at MDS on 7 occasions – that speaks volumes!

Gediminas Grinius was new to sand and multi-day at MDS Peru at the end of 2017. The race didn’t start well for him, but he eased into the race and finished strong. I am sure Peru was invaluable for him to fine tweak his prep for MDS Morocco. I expect to see his kit and food fine-tuned and it to be lighter. He is a formidable performer, strong as on ox and never gives in.

Alejandro Fraguela placed 3rd at Half MDS Fuerteventura and that will set him up well for a strong and consistent run in Morocco.

Arnaud Lejeune is maybe the great French hope. However, his lack of desert experience will be against him despite great results at UTMF and a top-10 at UTMB.

Vajin Armstrong from New Zealand is a strong runner and fierce competitor, he’s a sand/ Sahara virgin and has a huge learning curve ahead of him.

Majell Backausen from Australia is also a strong competitor and like Armstrong will have his first desert experience in Morocco.

*Remigio Huaman is on my start list but I am not sure if he will race? If he does, he is a podium and most definitely, top 5 contender.

THE 2018 RACE

Speculation is always rife about the route the race will take and certainly looks like from the very brief description below that the 2018 edition of the race will be similar to 2017. I therefore predict a finish in Merzouga dunes.

For perspective, the 250km distance can be covered at 3km ph with an approximate 83hrs finish time. By contrast, the fleet of foot can cover the distance at 14km ph with a finish time of 18hrs.

For the record, 2017 distances per stage were as follows:

  • Day 1 30.3km
  • Day 2 39km
  • Day 3 31.6km
  • Day 4/5 86.2km
  • Day 6 42.2km
  • Day 7 Charity stage

I think it’s fair to say that the 2018 edition will have similar distances and therefore the key days will be day 2 and of course the long day!

2018 ROUTE OVERVIEW

Stage 1 – The terrain will be flat with a great deal of sand, small dunes and a small climb to the finish.

Stage 2 – Is a longer stage, with a great deal of sand. It will include a climb through a gorge and then a steep descent.

Stage 3 – Starts with a climb followed by small climbs one of which is very steep with a technical passage. This stage includes the first ‘real’ dunes of the 33rd MDS.

Stage 4 – The dreaded long day! It’s going to be a tough day with a great deal of sand. It includes two passages through small gorges, a climb up a djebel, a rollercoaster through sand and a technical descent. It’s a day about managing oneself and saving something for the night.

Stage 5 – Is the classic marathon stage with dunes to kick off the day. It’s a day of no major difficulty and it includes sandy oued and small sparse dunes. However, be prepared for the long plateau towards the end.

Stage 6 – Obligatory charity stage and buses will wait for the finishers to return them to civilization.

KEY STATS

Needless to say, key elements of the MDS are the distance, heat, sand and self-sufficiency. The combination of all these elements makes the race a tough one! For safety, each runner is tracked and monitored with a SPOT tracker.

Each runner must carry all the food they require for the journey and the race specifies a minimum per day. This must be adhered to; however, a runner can carry as much food as they like. The downside is the weight. Therefore, the race is all about balancing calories to weight.

The runner must also carry a sleeping bag, sleeping mat (if they wish), any luxuries and they must decide if they carry a change of clothes – many don’t!

Mandatory kit is specified by the MDS organization and this must be carried. It includes:

  • SPOT tracker
  • Knife
  • Compass
  • Whistle
  • Lighter
  • Venom pump
  • Antiseptic
  • Sleeping bag
  • Survival blanket
  • Mirror
  • Salt tablets
  • Light sticks
  • Headlamp

In addition to the above, other items are specified and failure to carry them will incur a time penalty.

The only items provided by the race for each runner is water (rationed) and a bivouac (tent) that holds 8 people.

SCHEDULE REMINDER

April 6 – arrive Morocco

April 7 – Inspection day

April 8 – race start, stage 1

April 9 – stage 2

April 10 – stage 3

April 11 & 12 – stage 4

April 13 – stage 5

April 14 – charity stage

April 15 – free day

April 16 – journey home

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The Coastal Challenge 2018 Race Preview #TCC2018

The 2018 ‘The Coastal Challenge’ is upon us! Six days, 230.5km of racing and 9543m of vertical gain, 9413m of vertical descent – TCC is more than a challenge!

Follow #TCC2018

Over the years, TCC has grown in stature with an ‘A’ list of elite runners from all over the world. The 2017 edition was won by Salomon International Athletes – Anna Frost and Tom Owens. For 2018, the race steps up a notch with arguably the greatest ever male field assembled for a multi-stage race.

The 2018 edition lists a who’s who of elite runners.

Michael Wardian, a past winner and yours record holder returns. The unstoppable Chema Martinez from Spain returns once again looking for that top spot. Rising GB star, Tom Evans heads for his first rainforest experience after planing 3rd at MDS in 2017. Add to this, the legendary and iconic Timothy Olson, Drgagons Back and Cape Wrath winner, Marcus Scotney and the USA’s rising star and fast-man, Hayden Hawks – needless to say, the rainforest of the Talamancas may be ablaze after these guys have forged a path through its stunning trails.

For the ladies’ Ester Alves returns, a past champion, Ester has just placed 2nd at the Everest Trail Race in Nepal. She will be joined by the Dutch mountain goat and fast lady, Ragna Debats. Our top three female contenders should have been rounded out by Elisabet Barnes but unfortunately, illness has taken its toll and she will not make the start in Quepos.

“Due to several occurrences of cold and flu in the last few months I have had to reevaluate my upcoming race schedule. I have raced nine demanding multi-stage races in the last two years and my body is telling me to back off a bit. I plan to come back stronger and one thing is guaranteed, I will be back at TCC2019 – It is a race I love!”

– Elisabet Barnes

The Race:

Stage 1 34.6km 1018m of vert and 886m of descent

Stage 2 39.1km 1898m of vert and 1984m of descent

Stage 3 47.4km 1781m of vert and 1736m of descent

Stage 4 37.1km 2466m of vert and 2424m of descent

Stage 5 49.8km 1767m of vert and 1770m of descent

Stage 6 22.5km 613m of vert and 613m of descent

Stats:

Total 230.5km

Vertical 9543m

Descent 9413m

Description

Hugging the coastline of the tropical Pacific, TCC is the ultimate multi-day experience that weaves in and out of the Talamancas; a coastal mountain range in the Southwest corner of Central America.

The terrain is ever-changing from wide, dusty and runnable fire trails to dense and muddy mountain trails. Runners will cross rivers, boulders, swim through rivers, pass under waterfalls, survive long relentless beaches and finally finish in the incredible Corcovado National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site with a stunning final loop around Drake Bay before departing for their journeys home via speedboat.

THE ROUTE

Stage 1 

It’s a tough day! Runners depart San Jose early morning (around 0530) for a 3-hour drive to Playa Del Rey, Quepos. It’s the only day that the race starts late and ‘in the sun!’. It’s the toughest day of the race, not because the the terrain or distance, but because of the time of day! The runners are fresh and feel great. That is until about 10km and then they realise the heat and humidity is relentless. It’s a day for caution – mark my words! The 34.6km is very runnable with little vertical and technicality – it welcomes the runners to Costa Rica.

Stage 2

From here on in, it is early breakfast. Around 0400 runners wake and the race starts with  the arrival of the sun! The only way is up from the start with a tough and challenging climb. It’s a tough day with an abundance of climbing and descending and a final tough flat stretch on the beach, just as the heat takes hold.

Stage 3

It is basically 25km of climbing topping out at 800m followed by a drop to the sea and a final kick in the tail before the arrival at camp. For many, this is a key day and maybe one of the most spectacular. Pura Vida.

Stage 4

It’s another tough start to the day with a relentless climb, but once at 900m the route is a rollercoaster of relentless small climbs and descents, often littered with technical sections, rainforest, river crossings and boulders. At 30km, it’s a short drop to the road and the finish at 37.1km.

Stage 5

The long day but what a beauty! This route was tweaked a couple of years ago and now has become iconic with tough trails, plenty of climbing, sandy beaches and yes, even a boat trip. The finish at Drake Bay is iconic.

Stage 6

The victory lap! For many, this stage is the most beautiful and memorable. In just over 20km, the route manages to include a little of all that has gone before. It’s a stage of fun and challenges and one that concludes on the beach as a 2018 medal is placed over your head – job done!

THE RUNNERS – MALE

 

Michael Wardian has won the race and set a course record. He knows the lay of the land and if anyone knows how to race hard, day-after-day, it is Mike. You can never bet against him and he always comes ‘to race!’ There is no sandbagging, no pretenses, just a full-on let’s race and let the best man win!

Hayden Hawks burst on the scene in recent years blazing a trail of fast running. He is one of the new breed of trail runner who is moving from the road/ track to the trails. That natural speed is making trail racing faster and faster. Hayden won CCC in 2017 – a huge win. He loves to train with big weeks and TCC will feel like a ‘training week’ but just a whole lot faster… he is a favourite for the win! 

Timothy Olson needs no introduction. This man blasted Western States to a whole new level and was the man to beat at any race. A tough 2016 started to overturn in 2017 with a slow but calculated return to form. One of the nicest guys out there, Timothy will bring his love for all things to TCC and will inspire with his feet and his heart. On his day, this guy could rip the legs off the competition.

Tom Evans burst on the scene in 2017 placing 3rd at Marathon des Sables. He played the Moroccans at their own game and had them worried. Interestingly, Michael Wardian also placed 3rd some years ago… Tom placed 4th at the Eiger Ultra and CCC and recently has earned a slot on the GB Squad for the World Trail Championships in May. He is fast and can run technical trails, he has the multi-day format nailed – it is going to be awesome!

Marcus Scotney has represented GB and has won ‘The Challenger’ at the UK’s Spine race, won the Cape Wrath Ultra and most recently, The Dragons Back Race – both of which are gnarly UK multi-stage races. Marcus has all the skills for a great race at TCC, the biggest question may well come with heat adaptation from a cold UK?

Finally, Chema Martinez is slowly but surely become Mr. TCC. He has raced many times and played 2nd year-on-year. Will 2018 be the year when he tips the scales in his favour? Who knows, one thing is for sure, he will race hard every day.

THE RUNNERS – FEMALE

Ester Alves has won the race before and last year placed 3rd. Recently, she placed 2nd at the Everest Trail Race in Nepal. Ester brings experience and excellent mountain/ technical running to TCC and as such, will always be a favourite for the win.

Ragna Debats in recent years has been a revelation mixing fast running (IAU World Trail Champs) with Skyrunning. On paper, Ragna is a hot favourite for victory in Costa Rica. The combination of speed and technical ability may well give her a supreme edge over the competition.

Inge Nijkamp placed 11th at Marathon des Sables and although she won’t appreciate me highlighting her name here, she will be one to watch. Her form, in her own words, “Is not what it should be,’ but, she has the ability and skill to certainly edge onto the podium should all go well.

Of course, we can not rule out the local talent who, over the years, has made the race exhilarating and exciting. We will update this report with a review of both the male and female talent once the race list has been confirmed.

Registration takes place on February 10th

Racing starts on the 11th

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Ragna Debats to join the 2018 The Coastal Challenge #TCC2018

Ragna Debats had a stunning 2017 racing all over the world in multiple Skyrunning events and distances – surprising that someone born in the flatlands of the Netherlands can run so well in the Mountains. It was a full year and one that at times could have so easily pushed her over the edge. However, Debats managed her time well and concluded her racing year with an epic journey to Nepal.

A break over the Christmas period and a return to consistent training, Ragna now sets her sights on Costa Rica and The Coastal Challenge. It will be a new challenge and one that should suit the Skyrunner well, the mixed terrain and technical challenges should suit her skill set.

In May, Ragna has her sights set on the IAU World Trail Championships.

I caught up with Ragna, with 1-month before Costa Rica it is all systems go.

You have had a great year – Skyrunning Champion, IAU World Trail top result and recently racing in Nepal – what has been a highlight?

For me personally, my highlights have been the Olympus Marathon where I won and set a new race record, High Trail Vanoise where I became EU Champ. The Rut, USA, I won and set a new race record too whilst having fun – a dream! However, I have enjoyed all of the races, 2017 was a great year!

Racing in Costa Rica will be very different but it will suit your skill set, what are you looking forward to?

I am looking forward to racing in a completely new scenery! I can’t wait to see the tropical rainforests and the beaches, it is going to be incredible.

Are you doing any specific training for the heat, humidity in Costa Rica – if so, what?

I have just started training again after a break over Christmas. Basically, I am working towards the IAU World Championship in May and during January and February I will mainly focus on strength training and volume, Costa Rica will work well in this plan, however, adapting to the heat will be difficult.

You have just done a multi-day race in Nepal, is multi-day something you’d like to do more of in the future?

Nepal was a great experience, mainly on a humane level and because it was a real cultural adventure. From a running prospective I was a little disappointed, but Nepal offered so many new challenges it was always going to be a learning curve. Also, the race concluded a long and hard year of racing.

Do you have a plan or strategy for Costa Rica, or will you take each day as it comes?

I hope I will feel like when I ran the Pyrenees Stage Run in 2017 where I could push every day and enjoy the race from the beginning until the end. We shall see what happens!

You will have strong competition from Ester Alves, Elisabet Barnes and more… does that excite you?

Yes, definitely! I’m always looking for good competition and I will revel in it. It’s exciting. 

Tell me a little about your preparation for Costa Rica – what are you doing at the moment?

At the moment, I am just getting back to regular training sessions after my running break and my Christmas holidays in Holland. But I feel really motivated to get into a good shape for 2018.

What will a multi-day race bring you for your plans later in 2018?

I think it will give me a good base for the season. After the race, I will start with specific speed work which will lead into the world champs!

What are the plans for 2018?

Until May I will be mainly focused on the Trail World Championship and afterwards I will follow the ISF World Series and the ISF World Championship.

Finally, what is your lifetime, long-term dream race or goal?

I would love to win the UTMB, the Trail World Championship and to become the overall World Champion!

TCC as it is affectionately known is a multi-day race starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula. It is an ultimate multi-day running experience that offers a new challenge even to the most experienced runner. Taking place over 6-days, the race hugs the coastline of Costa Rica, traveling in and out of the stunning Talamanca mountain range. Even the strongest competitors are reduced to exhausted shells by the arrival of the finish line due to the combination of technical trails, dense forest, river crossings, waterfalls, long stretches of golden beach, dusty access roads, high ridges and open expansive plains.

You can read and view images from the 2017 edition HERE

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The Coastal Challenge

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Website (Global) HERE

 

 

 

 

The Coastal Challenge 2016 #TCC2016 – Stage 4 Results and Summary

©iancorless.com_TCC2016-0246

Images available for personal and commercial use HERE

The 2016 ‘TCC” (The Coastal Challenge, moved inland today for 35km’s of relentless climbing, at times technical trail and a brutal descent that hammered tired legs all the way to the finish line. The early morning start of 0530 guaranteed the runners a good 1-hour window of cool temperatures but as they climbed higher and higher, low cloud sheltered them but eventually the cloud burned away and searing heat punished the runners.

Ester Alves made her mark on the race today by extending her lead by over 30-minutes, however, the winning margin doesn’t tell a true story. Elisabet Barnes fought very hard early on the keep Alves in sight and hopefully pull away, however, technical trail and a long section in a very technical river bed ruined any chance.

Alves was in her element; comfortable with Skyrunning and mountain races, she pushed at a comfortable pace and never looked in any discomfort on the challenging terrain. Although she had a 10-minute lead in the river bed section at approximately 30km covered, it was on the final descent (almost 1000m) were the real gap was opened. Barnes said post race:

“I hated that final descent, I was out of my comfort zone and I knew any chance of catching Ester was over. I took my time and made my way down without injury.”

Alves finished the stage and many commented how relaxed she looked and how well she has adapted to the heat after a tough day 1. A real point of topic is how little she has been drinking… a no, no for the local but it has worked for Alves.

“Every stage I have anticipation, I never know what to encounter… roads, forests, rivers or trails. It has been amazing. I wasn’t ready for the heat but as the days pass I am getting better and better. I love the heat. I trained before the race for 30km run sessions on little water and that has worked well here. Everyone has been amazed how little I am drinking but it has worked. I like to go simple; fast and light! The competition with Elisabet has been great. She has won MDS and that inspires me, she has been a great competitor. I think if we were in the desert I am sure she would pull away from me but here I love the technical trail and that has been a great advantage for me.” – Ester Alves

The overall standing in the ladies’s race are now:

  1. Ester Alves
  2. Elisabet Barnes
  3. Amy Gordon

Full ladies’s results HERE

©iancorless.com_TCC2016-0408

The men’s race looked all set for a group run to the line with Iain Don-Wauchope, Gonzalo Callisto and Chema Martinez running side-by-side over all of the first 25km. Don-Wauchope safe in 1st place, Callisto safe in 2nd and Martinez no threat to the overall standings. But where was Sa?

©iancorless.com_TCC2016-0114

Sa was trailing a few minutes back.

When the trio entered the river bed, Sa apparently flew past like a man possessed. It was a last ditch effort to secure 2nd place ahead of Calisto.

“We were having a great run, relaxed, chatting and just a great day on the trails and then Sa flew past us,” Don-Wauchope said. “He really mixed things up and as he pulled away I went with him. He was really motoring. We started to pull away and I felt good. Eventually I pulled away and Calisto bridged the gap back to Sa. The downhill at the end was tough as it was so rutted but I was glad for another stage victory” – Iain Don-Wauchope.

All credit to Sa for making a move and throwing it all on the line. Tomorrow is the longest stage of the week and I wonder if Sa will have another go? The longer the stage, the better he gets and heat is no issue as he proved by winning Badwater 135.

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The overall standings in the men’s race are now:

  1. Iain Don-Wauchope
  2. Gonzalo Calisto
  3. Carlos Sa

Full men’s results HERE

Stage 5 starts is the longest day of the week and leads into the stunning Drakes Bay. Everyone is tired now, no exhausted! It’s going to be a tough day.

Full race results HERE

BIG RED RUN Australia June 2016 – Entries Open

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Marathon des Sables celebrated 30-years in 2015. An amazing achievement. Just think about it, multi-day racing has been in existence for so many years. It’s a sign of how ultra running and the challenge of testing oneself over long distances and over multiple days is so appealing.

Racing is a word I like to use in a very casual way when I talk about ultra running. After all, only a very few runners can really race an ultra. The real story often is those who test and push themselves to see what is possible, to push a boundary, to achieve something that they thought impossible is what captivates me. Don’t get me wrong, I marvel at the front of the race but I can often feel a little removed from the supreme efforts.

Over recent years, multi-day racing has boomed due to several key factors:

  • It’s an opportunity to travel
  • It’s an opportunity to push boundaries
  • It may well be a once in a lifetime experience
  • It allows you to escape back to our primitive roots of survival and escape a material world
  • It affords an incredible opportunity to socialize with like minded people and create special bonds
  • You get memories that will last a lifetime

Imagine finding all of the above in Australia?

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The Big Red Run is the brainchild of Greg Donovan, a runner who ran the 4 Deserts and then decided he needed a 5th, back home, in Oz.

Taking on the classic multi-day racing format created by Marathon des Sables, runners at the Big Red Run will travel through the Simpson Desert on mainly untracked paths but gear is transported to each night’s camp allowing you travel each day without the burden of a heavy pack.

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Sleeping in tented accommodation for the entire race, the week is topped and tailed with accommodation at the Birsdville Caravan Park or Sports Hall.

Mixing sand dunes, gibber plains, salt lakes, clay flats and several station tracks, the Big Red Run is a true adventure. Camp will be near Big Red for the first 2 nights and on a gibber plain in a dune amphitheater for the next 2 nights. The final camp after the long day is on the Diamantina River just outside of Birdsville.

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Covering the classic distance of 250km in 6-stages the race is a great adventure into the Australian outback. 5 marathons and a long day of 84.39km make up the total distance for the race and if that is too much, a shorter race of 150km is available; The Little Red Run.

As with any race, the after party is a key element. Here in Oz they celebrate properly with a concert. Yes, runners gain entry into the ‘Birdsville Big Red Bash Music Festival’ that coincides with the end of the race.

Attracting a global audience, the Big Red Run in 2016 is inviting past winners to rejoin the race and to increase the competition, 2015 Marathon des Sables ladies champion, Elisabet Barnes will toe the line.

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Entries for this unique experience opened on the 16th September 2015 and places are limited.

I caught up with Greg Donovan, the Big Red Run race organizer in a one-to-one interview to find out about him, his history and of course the Big Red Run – Listen HERE

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Elisabet Barnes needs no introduction to a worldwide or UK audience, her rise in the sport in the past 12-months has been quite incredible. Speaking about the Big Red Run she said:

“I am really excited to be taking part in the Big Red Run. It will be my first time in Australia and getting the opportunity to experience it through a multi-stage desert race is just fantastic. Greg Donovan, the race director, has extensive experience from other multi-stage races around the world and he has created a truly unique event, aiming to offer the best possible experience to the participants. Having heard the feedback from previous entrants I can’t wait to head out to the Simpson Desert!”

Elisabet Barnes at the 2015 Marathon des Sables

Elisabet Barnes at the 2015 Marathon des Sables

In conjunction with Elisabet, iancorless.com is running a multi-day desert training camp in late January that will provide a perfect opportunity to gain information and train specifically for a desert race such as Marathon des Sables or Big Red Run – Details HERE

Big Red Run logo

Entries close on May 5th for the Big Red Run and all entrants who enter before January 16th will obtain an early bird discount.

Entry details are as follows:

Be sure to get in early and take advantage of the early bird specials outlined below which apply to both Australian and overseas participants!

All competitors and volunteers receive free tickets to the Birdsville Big Red Bash music festival on 5th and 6th July valued at over $300! Festival details to follow in late 2015.

Payment Installments

Register by 31st October 2015 Deposit $500 Balance8th April
Register 1st November 2015 to 16th January 2016 Deposit $1000 Balance 8th April*
Register 17th January 2016 onwards Full entry fee payable  on registration
ENTRIES CLOSE 15TH MAY 2016

* Balance of entry fees will be invoiced and payable by 8th April 2016. Entry fees can be paid by direct transfer or credit card. Credit card payment will incur a 2.5% surcharge.

Early Bird Offers

For all entrants who register BEFORE 16th January 2016

Early Bird extras include

  • $100 entry fee discount
  • Helicopter flight voucher valued at $60
  • Big Red Run fleece valued at $60
  • Big Red Run casual T Shirt valued at $40

Total Early bird extras valued at $260. Early bird packs will be sent by 29th February 2016.

UK and European entrants can find out key information HERE. Pricing is as follows:

Overseas Fundraiser: AUD $2,850
Overseas Non Fundraiser: AUD $3,200

Please use the contact form below to express an interest in the race or book a place.

All images ©alisonstepens / ©bigredrun

Iain Don Wauchope (aka Gandalf) writes about winning The Coastal Challenge 2015

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On Sunday, 25 January, at 15:30pm I departed my home in the Drakensberg, South Africa, and embarked on the longest and most challenging trip of my life. I finally arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica, on Wednesday, 28 January. Actually, I only arrived at my hotel at 17:30 after taking 3 local buses from the airport to Poasito where I had booked a hotel room for the next few nights. In total, 82 hours had elapsed since I had left home! Not only was this trip long and testing in duration, it was extremely stressful and proved to be a bigger challenge than the actual trail running race that was the purpose of my trip to Costa Rica.

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The Coastal Challenge is a 6-day, 225km, supported trail run through the tropical rainforests of the South Western region of Costa Rica, Central America. All runners bring along their own tents, sleeping mats, sheets, mosquito nets etc. The organisers provide the meals, the overnight camping venues, transport for your bag, a well-marked route, aid stations on each day’s route and the usual back-up crew of media, medics, volunteers and logistics people. All runners are treated the same whether you are an international trail running legend or a local Costa Rican that the organisers haven’t even heard of before.

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For me, this race was a true test of perseverance and a reminder of how important it is to maintain a positive mental outlook no matter how bad the situation seems. I struggled for the first 2 days with headaches, my legs feeling lethargic, without rhythm and generally out-of-sorts. It felt as though my body was fighting off a bug or possibly still recovering from my arduous trip. Nevertheless, I kept plugging away and just tried to enjoy the journey and the beautiful surroundings. Despite how I was feeling and the results of each day, it was a privilege and honour to be in Costa Rica running through forests, rivers and beaches that most people would never get to experience.

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As it turned out, the final result of day 1 was not bad. Mike Murphy, the Canadian, was galloping off ahead in the lead, looking mighty fit, when he failed to see the course markings and continued in the wrong direction. As a result, I found myself in the lead and somehow managed to maintain that lead all the way to the end. It was extremely hot towards the end of the stage and it required a lot of mental effort to keep going all the way to the finish. I only had about 6 minutes on Ashur Yousseffi, a local Costa Rican, but about 14 minutes on Mike. There was no doubt that Mike was in great shape and the fastest runner on the day. I would have to keep an eye on him. As expected Karl Meltzer had started slowly and make good progress towards the latter stages. Joe Grant struggled in the heat, as did everyone else. I just seemed better able to adapt to the conditions and get to the finish quickest despite not feeling great.

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Day 2 started with a steep climb from our lovely overnight campsite at Rafiki Lodge. Mike immediately took the lead closely followed by Joe and I. While I kept an eye on Mike and Joe, I remained focused on myself maintaining a constant pace that I was comfortable with at that stage. By the top of the climb Mike and Joe had a few minutes on me and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t see them again. So I continued to slog away up and through an overgrown track through the jungle, not feeling great but moving forward. By the 2nd check point / aid station, another local Costa Rican, Jeffrey Portuguez, had caught up to me while Mike had extended his lead to about 10 minutes. Joe was only 3 minutes ahead so I was hoping we could reel him in at some point. The section towards checkpoint 3 was flatter along a good gravel road but it was also getting very hot. Jeffrey dropped off the pace along this section but I was also suffering, so I stopped to buy a coke at a local shop. Shortly thereafter, at checkpoint 3, I was surprised to catch Joe; he had rolled his ankle badly and was hobbling along. We headed off together to tackle the last section along a long open beach; it was hot and we were both suffering a bit. It was great to have some company for this last stretch and I was very relieved to finally reach the end of day 2 alongside a new friend. Mike had a stormer of a run; he set a new stage record and finished almost 30 minutes ahead of us. That evening I mentioned to someone that the only way to beat Mike would be to chop his legs off! He had a 16-minute lead, I still wasn’t feeling 100% and he looked like he was ready to take on the world! Little did I know that he was having a few issues of his own that would soon escalate into more serious problems.

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Day 3 started in much the same way as the first 2 days. Mike sped off from the start and the rest of us followed. I needed a few minutes to warm up and then started feeling okay. I soon realised that Mike wasn’t gaining any more distance on me and I slowly caught up to him. I knew we had a rocky river section ahead of us and I suspected that I would be able to negotiate the slippery rocks better than Mike. As it turned out, this was a critical part of our race and the turning point of our dual. We arrived at the river section together. I focused on just getting over the rocks and through this river section as efficiently as possible. Mike, on the other hand, was struggling over the rocks and kept falling and slipping. He lost his sunglasses and most of his pre-mixed race juice. He grew increasingly angry with himself and I knew I should keep the pressure on by moving swiftly through this tricky section. After 10km, we arrived at checkpoint 1 together. The big difference was that Mike had expended a lot of energy up until this point. He was battered and bruised with numerous cuts on his legs, he had lost his sunglasses and his pre-mixed race fuel and, more importantly, this was now playing on his mind. Incidentally, I had also lost my cap but I didn’t worry too much about it. I filled up my bottles, grabbed some delicious fruit and then ducked off into the bush to alleviate a bit of diarrhoea.

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Soon thereafter, we trotted off from checkpoint 1 together and immediately started a climb out of the valley. Mike dropped back half a stride and then a full stride. I was feeling good so I increased my tempo slightly. I knew I had to take advantage while I was feeling good and Mike was struggling. Even though I was aware of Mike, I remained focused on myself realising that it was still a long way to go to the finish on day 6. I got into a comfortable rhythm, kept myself well hydrated and as cool as possible. Towards the end of the day we had a long beach section to negotiate. It was very hot and, without my peak, the sun felt more intense than usual. I attempted to make a plan with a large leaf to provide some protection from the blazing sun, but it only lasted about 500m. Despite feeling good at the start of the beach section, by the time I reached the other end of the beach I was suffering and really feeling the heat. To everyone’s relief, including mine, there was an Eden-like freshwater stream and plunge pool as the route left the beach and entered the forest. I submerged by body in the cool water, gulped down some oh-so-refreshing water and then started the slog up the steep forest track towards the final checkpoint. From there it was a blistering hot 4km stretch along tar towards the finish. I didn’t want to over-exert myself but I also didn’t want to lose any advantage that I had built up over Mike. Keep in mind that you have no idea of the time gaps between yourself and those behind you; I didn’t know whether Mike was 3 minutes or 30 minutes behind me and how he was feeling or moving. So I just kept trudging along towards the finish. I was pleasantly surprised to arrive in a new stage record time of 4:43, beating the previous record by almost 33 minutes. Mike arrived about 16 minutes later, also under the old stage record. Overall, I was now leading Mike by less than 2 minutes. The race was on!

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Day 4 was another big day starting with a long, steep climb and ending with a very steep descent with a total ascent of 2950m. Mike was a little more tentative at the start and didn’t go tearing off as usual. As soon as we hit the first climb he fell off the pace again. I applied the same strategy as in the previous stages; I kept going at a good, steady pace that I knew that I could sustain all the way to the finish. My body was feeling better each day and I was now in the groove of running on a daily basis in the hot and humid conditions. Interestingly, the long and steep descent towards the end of the day was actually very dry.

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It reminded me of running back home in South Africa with brown, dry grass and dusty paths. My legs felt very good over the last few kilometres and I had a nice spring in my stride. This was a good place to be after 4 days of tough running. In contrast, Mike was taking strain and had fallen again on his elbow. This elbow later became infected and added to his health issues. Nevertheless, he wasn’t giving up and kept persevering all day long. My time of 3:58 was more than 20 minutes faster than the previous stage record and almost 40 minutes faster than Mike. I know had a comfortable lead but anything can happen in a multi-day event so I didn’t want to take my foot off the accelerator.

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Day 5 was the last tough day and the longest in distance of the race. We were greeted overnight with some rain and started the day’s run in a gentle drizzle. The road conditions were good for the first 16 kilometres and with the cooler temperatures this made for a relatively fast pace. I was happy to tick along at my pace and soon found myself running alone up front. Shortly after the first check point the route headed onto a smaller forest road that had recently been graded. In fact, I passed the grader and other trucks at the start of this forest section. Consequently, the next section was very muddy and slippery. Even gentle gradients became almost impossible to run up. Instead of fighting through this section of about 16 kilometres, I once again focused on getting through the mud as efficiently as possible. Once I was through the slippery quagmire, I was able to pick up the tempo again and head towards the finish at Drake Bay. Despite the testing conditions I was very surprised to beat the previous stage record by 3 minutes. Unfortunately for Mike, this was the day that his body starting shutting down. He put in a huge effort just to reach the finish line unassisted but he was clearly in some serious trouble. The medics were very quick to attend to him and he was ultimately admitted to hospital the following morning with multiple health issues.

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Mike’s withdrawal from the race left the door wide open for Ashur and Roiny to fight it out for 2nd and 3rd place overall. The final day’s stage was only about 24 kilometres and in the end Ashur secured a well-earned 2nd place with Roiny about 10 minutes back in 3rd. I decided to run the last day just like I had run all the other stages and managed to set another stage record.

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In summary, I won 5 out of 6 stages, I set records in the last 4 stages and I set a new overall record by almost an hour. I surpassed all my own expectations and was very grateful that I did not experience any major problems. What appeared to be problems for me in the early stages were, in fact, minor in comparison to what others endured, especially Mike. The beautiful setting of the finish at Drake Bay, the wonderful people and fantastic weather (despite the humidity it’s great to be in the sun!) made my victory even more enjoyable.

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While any stage race over this distance requires careful body management, a distinguishing feature of this particular race is learning to deal with the very high humidity and high temperatures. As expected, correct hydration, nutrition and recovery are vital components of this jungle race. And don’t forget to look after your feet and to avoid infections from cuts and grazes while negotiating the trails! Most importantly, remember to maintain a positive attitude and enjoy the beautiful surroundings; Costa Rica has tremendous biodiversity and is a paradise waiting to be explored.

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All in all, The Coastal Challenge is a great event that tests your physical fitness and mental toughness to the maximum. However, what I will remember most about this unique event are the wonderful people that I met along the way. The local race organiser, Rodrigo Carazo is a gem. This guy has done some of the most amazing backpacking trips, adventure racers and explorations that I have ever heard about. Furthermore, he has a fantastic team of workers and volunteers, from the cooks to the medics to the aid station crew to the sweepers. A bunch of great people who have a single purpose, to make The Coastal Challenge as enjoyable as possible for each and every participant.

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Entries for the 2016 The Coastal Challenge are now available online.

Please go to tcccostarica.com and thecoastalchellenge.co.uk

 

Everest Trail Race #ETR2014 – Stage 2

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Day 2 #ETR2014

Day 2 of the Everest Trail Race is the toughest of the race: fact! It’s a brutal exercise in climbing and one that takes place at attitude stretching each and every participant to the limit.

Starting in Bhandar runners have the pleasure of running downhill along some twisting and technical trail before crossing a suspension bridge that stretches over Kinja Khola River. What follows is a lung busting and leg-sapping climb to Golla at just over 3000m. A little respite and then climbing starts again firstly to Ngaur and then onward to the highest point of the ETR; Pikey Peak at 4063m. From the summit at Pikey Peak an amazing Himalayan vista awaited but the runners had to work for it… really work for it! Dropping down a tough technical descent for several kilometres, a tough short climb is the sting in the tail to the arrival at Jase Bhanjyang at 3600m.

As one would expect Nepalese runners Samir Temsang and Phudorje Lama Sherpa set the pace for today. To be honest, they have a huge natural advantage on this high altitude terrain and they put this to great use. One again they ran together all day and in a repeat of day-1, Samir opened up just a short gap in the final meters to take the stage win and a slender lead overall. Zigor Iturrieta ran a stronger race today and looked in his element on the tough terrain. At the summit of Pikey Peak he laughed and joked and ran away sprinting… he may just get better as each day passes?

The ladies race was a repeat of day-1 with Anna Comet running strong and controlled from the front. Poles in hand, Anna powered her way up Pikey Peak with a huge smile and after the technical descent crossed the finish line with a repeat stage win. Kerry Sutton from the UK performed exceptionally well at altitude and produced a strong consistent performance to consolidate her 2nd-overall. Yangdi Lama Sherpa finished 3rd but says that she isn’t feeling too great at the moment. These things happen in multi-day racing and as we all know, anything can happen!

It was a tough day with many runners coming close to the cut-off time. Officially we only have one runner not making the cut-off and although he will be allowed to continue (if he feels he can) he will be withdrawn from the overall classification.

As camp settles to what will be a cold night under canvas (-12) ladies race leader Anna Comet has been sick and so we have some question marks for day-3.

Results top-3

  1. Samir Temsang 4:14:06
  2. Phudorje Lama Sherpa 4:14:12
  3. Zigor Iturrieta 4:31:05

 

  1. Anna Comet 5:01:46
  2. Kerry Sutton 6:10:00
  3. Yangdi Lama Sherpa

 

 

Day 3 Jase Bhanjyang – Karikola

 

is 37.4km and for a change has more descending (4110m) than ascending (2512m).

 

Starting in Jase Bhanjyang runners will pass through Jumbesi, Phurteng, Salung, Taksindu and then from Jubhing the race finishes with a tough climb to the stunning monastery at Kharikola.

Marathon des Sables, 29th Edition, Race Preview

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It begins again, the Marathon des Sables! Now in its 29th year, the epic multiday race in the Sahara is considered by many the Father of stage racing. Often called ‘The Toughest Race on Earth’ we all know that it isn’t but one thing is for sure… it’s no walk in the park.

all images ©iancorless.com – all rights reserved

iancorless.comP1030603Heat, sand, survival, reduced calories and self sufficiency pushed to the limits will test each and everyone of the 1079 participants who will toe the line in South Morocco.

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 Participants from France will represent 30% of the field and over 45 other nations make up the remaining 70% with the UK providing the largest contingent. The provinces of Errachidia and Tinghrir will host the 2014 Marathon des Sables over 6-stages with a total distance of 250km’s. An easy day will be 30km and the longest day, 75km. It’s a wonderful way, albeit a tough and challenging way to embrace the Moroccan dessert.

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The 2013 edition of the race was noted as ‘one of the toughest’ in the races prestigious history, 2014 will be no different; traversing ergs, djebels, stony plateaus, dried-up lakes (wadis) and of course lush oasis. Occasional passing traditional villages and encampments of nomads, the 29th edition of the Marathon des Sables promises to be a ‘secret garden’ of the Sahara.

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Described by race founder, Patrick Bauer as ‘the greatest show on earth’, his comparisons to a circus are apt. The Marathon des Sables really is a large circus like operation on a scale that is second to none. Volunteers number 130 to supervise the race, 430-general staff support the race and 300-local Berbers man the bivouac. All-terrain vehicles number 120, 8 ‘MDS’ planes, 25-buses, 4-dromederies, 1-incinerator lorry, 5-quad bikes and 2-helicopters keep the show on the road. Add to this 52-medical staff, journalists, photographers and you really have what I have come to call, the ‘Cirque de Sahara’, it’s quite special.

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A race with a history, the Marathon des Sables dates back to 1984 when Patrick Bauer, aged 28, ventured into the Sahara to traverse solo a 350km journey with a pack weighing 35kg. It was an ultimate self-sufficient expedition that lasted 12-days.

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Inspired by the experience, in 1986 the first edition was created, just 23-pioneers embarked on what must have been ‘the ultimate’ expedition. Who would have thought those formative years would have laid the foundations for what is, without question, the father of multiple day racing. The race has had memorable moments; in ‘1991’ the Gulf drama had an impact on the race, ‘1994’ the arrival of Doc Trotters, ‘1995’ the 10th anniversary, ‘1996’ Mohamed Ahansal participates for the first time, ‘1997’ Lahcen Ahansal wins his first MDS one of many),  ‘2000’ internet arrives in the Sahara, ‘2001’ the ‘long’ day exceeds 70km, ‘2002’ a week of sandstorms and wind, ‘2009’ flooding at the MDS, ‘2010’ the 25th edition and finally, in ‘2013’, solar energy arrives in bivouac. What does ‘2014’ hold for us…?

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Results recap

2013

  1. 1. Mohamad Ahansal (MAR) 18:59:35
  2. 2. Salameh Al Aqra (JOR) 00:41:40 deficit
  3. 3. Miguel Capo Soler (ESP) 1:19:56 deficit
  1. 4. Meghan Hicks (USA) 24:42:01
  2. 5. Joanna Meek (UK) 00:00:59 deficit
  3. 6. Zoe Salt (UK) 02:21:57 deficit

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2014 Preview

Ladies

2013 female winner, Meghan Hicks unfortunately will not return to the Sahara this year. Meghan would have loved nothing more than to defend her title, however, Meghan has received an injury and has had no other option but to retire; a real shame.

Laurence Klein

Laurence Klein

Jo Meek and Zoe Salt will not return, this leaves the floodgates open for 2011 and 2012 champion, Laurence Klein (Fra) to return and dominate the race. Laurence dropped from the 2013 edition of the race with dehydration whilst in the lead. I have no doubts, Laurence will return, 1-year wiser, 1-MDS wiser and with lessons learnt. Laurence raced at Gruissan Phoebus Taril 50km in February this year and won, in the process, she also placed 20th overall. She’s in form!

Nikki Kimball

Nikki Kimball

Nikki Kimball (USA) looks to be the hot US replacement for Meghan Hicks and I have no doubt that this formidable lady can push Laurence all the way to the line. It’s a showdown that I am really looking forward to watching unfold. Nikki returned to Western States in 2013 and placed 2nd, she was also 2nd at Run Rabbit Run 100-miler… would you like to bet against her? *UTWT entrant

Simone Kayser from Luxemburg has 3-MDS (2002, 2004 and 2005) victories and returns in 2014. With past experience, knowledge of multi-day racing and an understanding of the Sahara, Simone will also test the podium positions. However, her current form is unknown.

Men

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Salameh Al Aqra and Mohamad Ahansal have battled ‘royal’ in the dunes of the Sahara for years. In 2009, Ahansal won, Al Aqra was 3rd, in 2010 it was Ahansal 1st, Al Aqra 2nd, 2011 Ahansal placed 2nd and Al Aqra 3rd, 2012 Al Aqra took honours relegating Ahansal to bridesmaid, however, last year, Ahansal once again regained his crown with Al Aqra chasing the locals heals. Both return in 2014 and based on past records you have to tip Ahansal with his 5-victories and 9-second places to dominate once again.

Mohammed Ahansal

Mohamad Ahansal

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Salameh Al Aqra

Rachid El Moriaty won in the race in 2011 and in doing so placed Ahansal in 2nd by just 7-minutes. He’d do well to repeat that performance.

Miguel Capo Soler is arguably the hot prospect to place Mohammed and Salameh under pressure, his 2013 3rd place will without doubt have ignited a fire and a desire within him to take his performance one step further and move up one notch on the podium and if all goes well, two notches to reign supreme.

Carlos sa

Carlos sa

Carlos Sa, 4th in the 2013 edition will do all he can to infiltrate the podium and if his form is good, he may very well upset the front of the race. His 2013 season was quite spectacular, in particular, his win at Badwater a highlight and his 4th at the 2012 TNFUTMB establishes him as ‘hot’ for the podium at the 29th edition. *UTWT entrant

Miguel Heras certainly is a surprise entrant for MDS and I guess this is a significance of the *UTWT flexing its muscle and introducing runners who we would not normally see at a multi-day race. This is a good thing! However, Miguel had to withdraw from Transgrancanaria with injury issues and I am not sure currently his status? Should he race he will without doubt bring an interesting dynamic to the race. When in form, he is world class and one of the best ultra runners in the world, Miguel has proved this time and time again and is 2nd place at the 2013 TNFUTMB proves this. I hope he’s fit, firing on all cylinders and ready to bring his ‘A’ race to the Sahara.

Danny Kendall

Danny Kendall

UK hopes are in the legs and lungs of Danny Kendall. A ‘regular’ at the MDS, Danny has consistently worked hard on his training, racing strategy and in in 2013 he placed 10th overall, the best ever performance by a Brit. The podium may well be out of reach but anything higher than 9th will be something to celebrate and embrace.

Cyril Cointre also takes a *UTWT place and will be a potential force at the front of the race. Cyril placed 8th at Transgrancanaria and 11th and HK100 in the last 2-months. Will he be recovered.

Wild card may well be Abdelkader El Mouaziz who has 13 sub 2:10 marathons! He hasn’t run the MDS before and that speed may well transfer well to the dunes and terrain of the Sahara, however, one has to wonder what if? Mouaziz won London Marathon in 1999 and 2001; in addition, he also won New York in 2000 and Madrid in 1994. He may well be nowhere near his glory days but Mouaziz is an exciting addition to the 29th edition.

Who else to watch:

Christophe Le eaux

Christophe Le Seaux

Marco Olmo

Marco Olmo

Christophe Le Saux – 9th at MDS 2013

Marco Olmo – 13th at MDS 2013

Anything can happen and without doubt, 2014 will throw up some surprises and names that we have never heard of before. 2013 was no different and that is what makes this sport so exciting and exhilarating.

What does the 2014 course look like?

Leg No.1 – Sunday 6 April

We get straight to the point and attack hard with a good fifteen kilometers or so of dunes in total on this first leg. Our imagination transports us into the shoes of British explorer, Sir Wilfred Thesiger, or to the very core of superb cinema, which were a wonder to us all!

Leg No.2 – Monday 7 April

This is coloured by fields of dunettes on the mountainside and a vast reg plateau, where the marathon runners will be able to really show what they’re made of at over 16km/hr. An abandoned adobe village, a dried-up lake crossing, a small erg with some beautiful dunes, an extensive plateau of black rock, the negotiation of a remote village and a djebel climb will make up the varied menu of this long second leg, where managing ones effort will take on its full meaning.

Leg No.3 – Tuesday 8 April

After 8km of running on fair terrain, the sand will put in an appearance again prior to a djebel ascent where a fabulous erg can be perceived at the bottom of the valley. There the runners will again negotiate some high dunes to make CP2, from where they will discover an ancient town, in ruins and perched on a hill, before making the night’s bivouac.

Leg No.4 (referred to as the long leg or the 80) – Wednesday 9 / Thursday 10 April

An ultra flat plateau running along a series of dunettes will form today’s backdrop before the runners traverse a wadi and hopefully get a bird’s eye view of the desert from up high after a tough little climb of around thirty-minutes. The landscape is truly breathtaking! Once you make it to the valley, you can make out a fabulous little erg followed by vast plateaus and a succession of djebels. The images here are strikingly beautiful and herald the discovery of an impressive sandy valley. Here, a laser beam will guide runners surprised by the cover of darkness. Participants will then link onto terrain dotted with crevasses before traversing a long, winding, sandy wadi and finally the bivouac. It will be important to follow the markers!

Leg No.5 (Marathon leg) – Friday 11 April

A long plateau of black reg will lead the runners into the ‘Out of Africa’ valley before they link onto a mountainous path, which will guide them to the bottom of a deep wadi. It’s a place where a number of villagers have taken up residence along this dried up river in which the palm trees are kings and agriculture is the only resource. A vast plateau peppered with dunes and dunettes will lead the competitor to the bivouac in this final timed leg.

Leg No.6 (the solidarity leg) – Saturday 12 April

As they make for the small village that will play host to the final finish destination, the competitors, sponsors and families that form the caravan will be able to appreciate the beauty and softness of the landscape in the ambience of closeness and sharing that is synonymous with this UNICEF leg (which supports projects benefiting disadvantaged children). For the majority of participants, this walk gives them time to reflect on this beautiful human adventure and collectively realize their accomplishments before getting back to civilization.

Links:

Follow the 2014 Marathon des Sables on www.iancorless.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/talkultra and on Twitter @talkultra

Updates will be posted daily as and when possible based on wifi connection and gps. Please be patient. I will do all I can to upload images and daily reports.

Info:

*UTWTIn 2013, the event became part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour Series, which groups together the major Ultra Trail races across all the different continents. The MARATHON DES SABLES will represent Africa in this circuit, where the distance (at least 100km), the site, the participation (at least 500 at the start), the internationality (at least 20 nations) and the length of existence (at least two editions) determines which events are selected. Beyond these sporting criteria, moral and ethical values, sporting equity, respect for oneself and others, as well as a respect for the environment, must be brought to the fore. Such values have always been conveyed by the MARATHON DES SABLES. 10 races, 5 continents, 150 global elite athletes… the Ultra-Trail® World Tour 2014 draws together the superlatives to provide the biggest number of runners with a world tour of the most prestigious races off the beaten track. Indeed, through their specific features, the #UTWT races illustrate the true diversity of the trail. Their sporting formats call for participants to have a real ability to adapt. As such you need a range of very different qualities to be a contender for victory! The MARATHON DES SABLES, the 4th leg of the 2014 tour, ranks among the ‘series’ races. As such, the number of points won in this event is increased, which makes it a decisive race in the bid for the #UTWT 2014 champion’s title. Participating in the Ultra-Trail® World Tour gives everyone a chance to discover unique cultural and sporting features. All the continents will be visited: Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania. So many opportunities to enrich one’s sporting culture, to create new friendships and to feed on emotions and perhaps, one day, be a ‘finisher’ in every one of the events!