Photography by iancorless.com
Race summaries by Emmanuelle Lamarle for MARATHON DES SABLES
Translations from French to English by Niandi Carmont
The 2016 and 31st edition of the MARATHON DES SABLES concluded in Morocco on Saturday April 16th. It will go down in the history of the race as one of the toughest and most beautiful editions. At 257km long, it was the longest in the races history and although the long stage was 84km, the daily distance were higher and continually hovered around the marathon distance and thus made the multi-day challenge considerably harder. In the early days, particularly day 1, strong winds and sandstorms battered the runners making what was already a very hard day, considerably harder. This was reflected in day 2 with a high drop out rate. Day 3 was a beautiful stage but just an appetiser for the long day. The feared long day lived up to its reputation and although a very tough, relentless and challenging route, it was compensated for with it’s incredible beauty. Day 5, the classic marathon day, was for many a walk in the park after the long day, this was reflected in the emotions on the finish line when 5 days of effort were released. Day 6, the compulsory charity day concluded the race and with it, each runner received a medal on the line from race director and race creator, Patrick Bauer.
The Sahara, Morocco and the MARATHON DES SABLES never disappoints, 2016 though was a special one – tough, relentless and beautiful. the desert, the multi-day experience and the challenge really does make everyone look inward. The Sahara has a way of stripping you bare, down to your core and the looks of emotion, relief and celebration are moments to savour and all those who completed the journey will be changed forever.
Below is a brief summary of the race week with images to provide some perspective to what has been an incredible 31st edition of the ‘MDS!’
Travel and arrival
Moroccans dominated the men’s race as expected and the female field was shaken up by Russian Natalia Sedyhk.
Make no mistake the top male and female runners were bursting to go. In the minutes preceding the start the Russian athlete Natalia Sedykh (3rd in 2015) was doing some sprint warm ups; a definite indication of her intentions for the race.
An hour and a half later, on the other side of the incredible Mezouga dunes, the first 2 Moroccan runners surged from the North, then 2 other Moroccans joined them. To no-one’s surprise, the fennecs of the desert took advantage of the 12km dune section to open the gap, leaving behind their European competitors. Their run gait is incredible to watch. Light-footed, they hardly touch the sand. Three Moroccans take the lead and finish the stage claiming the first three places: Rachid El Morabity, last year’s winner, Hammou Ou Mohamed Moudouji and Abdelkader El Mouaziz all within 35 seconds of each other. Third and fourth, the Spaniard Jose Manuel Martinez and the Frenchman Erik Claveryfollow 9 and 14 minutes later.
In the female field, Natalia Sedyhk (RUS) arrived first at CP1 looking very fresh, she was pushing a relentless pace and looking to improve on her 3rd place in 2015 when a 2-hour penalty impacted on her race. Nathalie Mauclair followed in pursuit sticking to a regular pace but the Russian was too strong. Natalia sprinted across the finish line victorious winning the stage having outdistanced Nathalie Mauclair by 17 minutes. 2015 race winner, Elisabet Barnes crossed the line third looking relaxed and comfortable. Nathalie was very happy with her performance today:
“I stuck with a group so that I didn’t waste energy battling the wind alone. In the dunes I felt really good but I didn’t want to speed up as I didn’t want to overdo it. In the second dune section I had to use my compass to navigate and that went very well”.
The day was notable in terms of difficulty, especially the strong winds and sandstorms that made running and navigation equally important.
1 – Natalia SEDYHK (RUS) – 3:40:20
2 – Nathalie MAUCLAIR (FRA) – 3:57:30
3 – Elisabet BARNES (SUE) – 4:10:57
4 – Elizabeth HOWARD (USA) – 4:17:50
5 – Fernanda MACIEL (ESP) – 4:22:49
1 – Rachid EL MORABITY (MAR) – TGCC – 3:10:29
2 – Hammou Ou Mohamed MOUDOUJI (MAR) – TEAMAROC – 3:10:45
3 – Abdelkader EL MOUAZIZ – (MAR) – TGCC – 3:11:04
4 – Jose Manuel MARTINEZ (ESP) – 3:20:30
5 – Erik CLAVERY (FRA) – TERDAV EQUINOX 1 – 3:25:52
The Gap opens in the Moroccan field in the men’s race and Natalia SEDYHK keeps the lead in the women’s race.
In the first fifteen kilometres of the second stage of the MARATHON DES SABLES race predictions were that the Moroccans would yet again dominate the race and rank in the top 10 of the male field.
On the second part of the course, the Europeans held on and better still even overtook some of their Moroccan rivals including Hammou Ou Mohamed Moudouji , who for his first edition would have liked to stick to the heels of Rachid El Morabity, but he blew up. Which goes to show that even the Moroccans are not perfect!
At the finish Rachid finished before Abdelkader El Mouaziz , and was followed by a duo arriving hand-in-hand : the Spaniard Jose Manuel (Chema) Martinez and Aziz El Akad . Erik Clavery (D 087 – FRA) finished sixth and was first Frenchman. Sondre Amdahl was seventh.
In the female race, Natalia Sedykh was in the lead again, she seemed a little fragile and less fiery but despite this, she once again dominated the stage making many runners comment, ‘she is on another planet this year!’ Natalia won the stage, finished in the top-10 overall – incredible! Nathalie Mauclair followed 15 minutes later and Fernanda Maciel came in third position, 2 minutes behind her gaining an advantage over 2015 champion Elisabet Barnes who finished fourth.
D662 SEDYKH Natalia RUS F 7:51:06
D275 MAUCLAIR Nathalie FRA F 8:22:13
D482 MOURA ANTUNES MACIEL Fernanda ESP F 8:49:36
D2 BARNES Elisabet SWE F 9:02:43
D525 HOWARD Elizabeth USA F 9:15:40
D1 EL MORABITY Rachid TGCC MAR M 6:34:33
D4 EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader TGCC MAR M 6:35:35
D447 MARTINEZ Jose Manuel ESP M 7:03:36
D6 AKHDAR Samir TGCC MAR M 7:21:16
D3 EL AKAD Aziz TGCC MAR M 7:22:11
A foregone conclusion to today’s race – not only do the Moroccans hold a faster pace but they know how to manage their race strategy running together in a small group.
Moroccan runners once again lead the race, setting off at a very fast and regular pace on a course which is going to be very runnable. Apart from two successive dune sections and a climb up a djebel, this pace was maintained. At the first check-point El Morabity was leading but closely followed by his compatriots. Only Manuel (Chema) Martinez and Erik Clavery manage to keep up the gruelling pace that the local set. Clavery was definitely feeling much better today at the start. “It was much better today, I managed my race better”.
After the tough stoney djebel, three Moroccans continued to lead the race: Rachid El Morabity, Aziz El Akad and Abdelkader El Mouaziz. Sticking together they manage their race cleverly, running fast enough to hold off the competition but not too fast to risk blowing up. Behind them Chema Martinez was running hard though and he eventually caught up with Samir Akhdar moving into 4th place with Erik Clavery hot on his heels. This order didn’t change before the finish although the gap between the runners widened confirming the Moroccan superiority and the leaders’ positions.
In the female race, Natalia Sedykh once again set a gruelling pace to shake off her rivals and although the long stage would follow, word in the camp was that it would take a monumental mistake by the Russian to loose the race. Aziza Raji, third at the first check-point, didn’t manage to stave off Nathalie Mauclair and Fernanda Maciel.
Ranking of Stage 3:
First 5 women
- D662 SEDYKH Natalia RUS 03:49:15
- D275 MAUCLAIR Nathalie FRA 03:53:34
- D482 MACIEL Fernanda ESP 03:55:53
- D33 RAJI Aziza MAR 04:16:41
- D2 BARNES Elisabet SWE 04:37:28
First 5 men
- D1 EL MORABITY Rachid MAR 03:03:41
- D4 EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader MAR 03:04:02
- D3 EL AKAD Aziz MAR 03:05:40
- D447 MARTINEZ Jose Manuel (Chema) ESP 03:18:55
- D6 AKHDAR Samir MAR 03:25:22
First 5 women
- D662 SEDYKH Natalia RUS 11:40:21
- D275 MAUCLAIR Nathalie FRA 12:15:48
- D482 MACIEL Fernanda ESP 12:45:31
- D2 BARNES Elisabet SWE 13:40:12
- D33 RAJI Aziza MAR 13:56:47
First 5 men
- D1 EL MORABITY Rachid MAR 09:38:16
- D4 EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader MAR 09:39:38
- D447 MARTINEZ Jose Manuel (Chema) ESP 10:22:31
- D3 EL AKAD Aziz MAR 10:27:52
- D6 AKHDAR Samir MAR 10:46:40
Rachid El Morabity and Natalia Sedykh claim victory on the 31st edition of the MARATHON DES SABLES with excellent long day results.
Rachid El Morality was congratulated like never before on the finish line of the long day in the 31st edition of the MARATHON DES SABLES. The Moroccan almost certainly sealed his 4th consecutive edition, claiming victory in all the stages with a comfortable lead on his rivals – just the marathon stage to go! His race management has been exemplary and irreproachable. Abdelkader El Mouaziz lost 2 more minutes to Rachid but crossed the finish to claim a well-deserved second place. Jose Manuel (Chema) Martinez ran a hard race and completed the podium of the long stage – a great result and a real improvement on his 2015 6th place overall.
Frenchmen Erik Clavery and Jean-Sébastien Braun, as well as Carlos Sa and Sondre Amdahl all came in the top 10.
Talking about the Top 10: female Russian runner Sedykh is the only women to rank in the top-10 general ranking, in spite of her loss in energy during the long stage where she placed 2nd behind Nathalie Mauclair. Sedykh has a 24-minute lead on the French lady and although Macular will try to take back that time in the marathon, it is highly unlikely she will succeed. It really is is hard to see how Sedykh’s rivals can close the gap on the marathon stage tomorrow. Nathalie Mauclair did manage to gain 12 minutes on her Russian counterpart on the long day with a really aggressive run but the Russian remained consistent. Fernanda Maciel placed 3rd, which as with the men’s podium should change very little on the marathon stage. The gaps have widened in the leading field and behind.
Ranking Stage 4
First 5 women
- D275 MAUCLAIR Nathalie 09:07:59 FRA 9,20
- D662 SEDYKH Natalia 09:19:53 RUS 9,00
- D482 MOURA ANTUNES MACIEL Fernanda 10:30:12 ESP 8,00
- D2 Elisabet BARNES 11:36:11 SWE 7,24
- D267 Sophie LAVERSANNE 267 12:00:25 FRA 7,00
First 5 men
- D1 EL MORABITY Rachid 08:11:24 MAR 10,26
- D4 EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader 08:14:28 MAR 10,19
- D447 MARTINEZ Jose Manuel 08:25:55 ESP 9,96
- D3 EL AKAD Aziz 08:28:04 MAR 9,92
- D87 CLAVERY Erik 08:41:20 FRA 9,67
First 5 women
- D662 SEDYKH Natalia 21:00:14 RUS 9,33
- D275 MAUCLAIR Nathalie 21:23:47 FRA 9,16
- D482 MOURA ANTUNES MACIEL Fernanda 23:15:43 ESP 8,43
- D2 Elisabet BARNES 25:16:23 SWE 7,76
- D33 Aziza RAJI 26:09:24 MAR 7,49
First 5 men
- D1 EL MORABITY Rachid 17:49:40 MAR 10,99
- D4 EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader 17:54:06 MAR 10,95
- D447 MARTINEZ Jose Manuel 18:48:26 ESP 10,42
- D3 EL AKAD Aziz 18:55:56 MAR 10,35
- D87 CLAVERY Erik 19:32:54 FRA 10,03