Marathon de Sables 2016 – Race Summary and Images #MDS2016

©iancorless.com_MDS2016-5093

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

DAY ONE

MDSday1Moroccans 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.

Women
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

Men
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

DAY TWO

MDSday2

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.

WOMEN

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

MEN

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

DAY THREE

MDSday3

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

  1. D662 SEDYKH Natalia RUS 03:49:15
  2. D275 MAUCLAIR Nathalie FRA 03:53:34
  3. D482 MACIEL Fernanda ESP 03:55:53
  4. D33 RAJI Aziza MAR 04:16:41
  5. D2 BARNES Elisabet SWE 04:37:28

First 5 men

  1. D1 EL MORABITY Rachid MAR 03:03:41
  2. D4 EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader MAR 03:04:02
  3. D3 EL AKAD Aziz MAR 03:05:40
  4. D447 MARTINEZ Jose Manuel (Chema) ESP 03:18:55
  5. D6 AKHDAR Samir MAR 03:25:22

General Ranking

First 5 women

  1. D662 SEDYKH Natalia RUS 11:40:21
  2. D275 MAUCLAIR Nathalie FRA 12:15:48
  3. D482 MACIEL Fernanda ESP 12:45:31
  4. D2 BARNES Elisabet SWE 13:40:12
  5. D33 RAJI Aziza MAR 13:56:47

First 5 men

  1. D1 EL MORABITY Rachid MAR 09:38:16
  2. D4 EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader MAR 09:39:38
  3. D447 MARTINEZ Jose Manuel (Chema) ESP 10:22:31
  4. D3 EL AKAD Aziz MAR 10:27:52
  5. D6 AKHDAR Samir MAR 10:46:40

DAY FOUR

MDSday4

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

  1. D275 MAUCLAIR Nathalie 09:07:59 FRA 9,20
  2. D662 SEDYKH Natalia 09:19:53 RUS 9,00
  3. D482 MOURA ANTUNES MACIEL Fernanda 10:30:12 ESP 8,00
  4. D2 Elisabet BARNES 11:36:11 SWE 7,24
  5. D267 Sophie LAVERSANNE 267 12:00:25 FRA 7,00

First 5 men

  1. D1 EL MORABITY Rachid 08:11:24 MAR 10,26
  2. D4 EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader 08:14:28 MAR 10,19
  3. D447 MARTINEZ Jose Manuel 08:25:55 ESP 9,96
  4. D3 EL AKAD Aziz 08:28:04 MAR 9,92
  5. D87 CLAVERY Erik 08:41:20 FRA 9,67

General Ranking

First 5 women

  1. D662 SEDYKH Natalia 21:00:14 RUS 9,33
  2. D275 MAUCLAIR Nathalie 21:23:47 FRA 9,16
  3. D482 MOURA ANTUNES MACIEL Fernanda 23:15:43 ESP 8,43
  4. D2 Elisabet BARNES 25:16:23 SWE 7,76
  5. D33 Aziza RAJI 26:09:24 MAR 7,49

First 5 men

  1. D1 EL MORABITY Rachid 17:49:40 MAR 10,99
  2. D4 EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader 17:54:06 MAR 10,95
  3. D447 MARTINEZ Jose Manuel 18:48:26 ESP 10,42
  4. D3 EL AKAD Aziz 18:55:56 MAR 10,35
  5. D87 CLAVERY Erik 19:32:54 FRA 10,03

DAY FIVE

MDSday5

“The Moroccans are on a different planet” Erik Clavery

A thrilling race with the top 4 Moroccans claiming victory and leaving Jose Manuel (Chema) MARTINEZ  out of the podium. The female field remains unchanged with Natalia SEDYKH leading the field.

Once again the Moroccans claimed victory in the men’s field in today’s stage. They set off fast from the outset and widened the gap over the succession of sandy dunes and more runnable sections of the marathon day. Although yesterday’s stage pre-determined the winner Rachid El Morabity and runner-up, the third place was still uncertain with an 8-minute gap between Jose Manuel (Chema) Martinez and El Akad. Yesterday they knew that they would be battling it out the next day. For Chema the strategy was simple:

“I’m going to stick to Aziz and accelerate in the final runnable stretch.”

Aziz on the other hand intended to give it his best shot on the marathon stage

“I’m going to do everything I can to get on the podium tomorrow. I’ll make it or break it.”

And that is what happened Jose Manuel (Chema) Martinez lost 30 minutes to EL AKAD however this does not reflect the true story. ‘Chema’ was stopped early on in the race and was required to change his numbers due to a ‘technicality’ based on the race rules. This stopped Chema in his tracks and while he removed his pack and changed his numbers, his race was broken…  Rachid El Morabity did not win the stage coming in second behind El Mouaziz. Erik Clavery came in 3rd looking shattered.

“It’s the first time I am in tears at the end of a race. I am so happy. I really managed the race to the best of my ability. But the Moroccans are unbeatable – it’s another planet.”

In the female race, the ranking hardly changed. Natalia Sedykh lead the stage and opened a small gap with her rivals. She was flying at the finish of this 5th stage. Nathalie Mauclair tried to hang on but couldn’t keep up with the pace set by her Russian rival. Very moved she spent several minutes in front of the webcam at the finish blowing kisses to her kids and family back in France. Surprise of the day was the performance of the Chinese runner Pui Yan Chow who crossed the line in 2nd place. Fernanda Maciel remained third but like Chema, Maciel also was penalised for a number infringement, luckily it did not impact on her 3rd place but it was close….

Top 5 women Stage 5

Running Runner Number Time Country Speed
1 SEDYKH Natalia 662 3:45:12 RUS 11,19
2 CHOW Pui Yan 766 3:50:23 CHN 10,94
3 MAUCLAIR Nathalie 275 4:07:08 ESP 10,20
4 RAJI Aziza 033 4:32:07 MAR 9,26
5 MOURA ANTUNES MACIEL Fernanda 482 4:43:00 ESP 8,90

NOTE – “Puy Yan CHOW has received a time penalty of 3 hours for non-respect of the starting wave at stage 5 and we are going to update the ranking.”

Top 5 men Stage 5

Ranking Runner Number Time Country Speed
1 EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader 4 3:11:32 MAR 13,16
2 EL AKAD Aziz 3 3:11:34 MAR 13,15
3 EL MORABITY Rachid 1 3:11:41 MAR 13,15
4 AKHDAR Samir 6 3:18:54 MAR 12,67
5 CLAVERY Erik 87 3:27:24 FRA 12,15

General Ranking 2016

Top 5 women MDS 2016

Ranking Runner Number Time Country Speed
1 SEDYKH Natalia 662 24:45:26 RUS 9,61
2 MAUCLAIR Nathalie 275 25:30:55 FRA 9,33
3 MOURA ANTUNES MACIEL Fernanda 482 27:58:43 ESP 8,51
4 BARNES Elisabet 002 30:02:26 SWE 7,92
5 RAJI Aziza 033 30:41:31 MAR 7,75

Top 5 men MDS 2016

Ranking Runner Number Time Country Speed
1 EL MORABITY Rachid 1 21:01:21 MAR 11,32
2 EL MOUAZIZ Abdelkader 4 21:05:38 MAR 11,28
3 EL AKAD Aziz 3 22:07:30 MAR 10,76
4 MARTINEZ Jose Manuel 447 22:27:50 ESP 10,59
5 CLAVERY Erik 87 23:00:18 FRA 10,35

The Charity Stage

MDScharity

The compulsory charity stage concluded the 2016 MARATHON DES SABLES and although the overall rankings would not change with is stage, it offered all the runners a casual way to transition from aggressive racing to recovery. Patrick Bauer awarded each and every runner, first to last, with a medal. A significant moment that concluded the 2016 MDS!

Local colour in Ouarzazate

All images ©iancorless.com – all rights reserved

A series of runner profiles by Niandi Carmont will allow over the coming days

A full image gallery will be displayed on iancorless.photoshelter.com

Many thanks to the MARATHON DES SABLES

MDSlogo

Ultra Trail Mount Fuji 2014 Preview #UTMF2014

logo

 The UTWT rolls on and Japan will host what will arguably be one of the most competitive 100-mile races we will see this year… certainly over a tough course (Hardrock excluded). I say a 100-miles but actually the course is 105 with approximately 10,000 meters of altitude gain. The fifth race in the UTWT (Ultra Trail World Tour) in reality, UTMF is a follow on race from Transgrancanaria as many of the big hitters will re-assemble in Japan, to do battle once again for key ranking points. Nuria Picas was always going to race on the clockwise loop around Mount Fuji, by contrast, Ryan Sandes after his success in the Canaries has shifted focus from Australia and placed his emphasis and efforts on this tough and challenging race.

utmf_map

Without doubt, at the stroke of 3pm (local time) on Friday 25th April a battle royal will unfold both in the ladies and men’s respective races. Dropout rates are usually around 30% to give an indication of how tough this race is.

utmf_elevation

Race statement:

The ULTRA-TRAIL Mt. FUJI is an unparalleled event that challenges the human spirit through the outdoor sport of trail running. By connecting mountain trails, local footpaths and forest roads around the foothills of Mt. Fuji, this 168km course allows participants to enjoy majestic 360 degree views of Mt. Fuji while experiencing the stunning natural beauty and culture of this region.’

LADIES

Nuria Picas Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Nuria Picas; would you want to bet against her? Nuria has transformed herself in the last 24-months into one of the most competitive and focused female mountain, trail and ultra runners in the world. Her skill, dedication and focused attitude has seen the Catalan excel over every distance and terrain. Her only nemesis has been her good friend, Emelie Forsberg. In 2013, Nuria raced TNFUTMB, her first 100-mile race and placed 2nd behind an unstoppable Rory Bosio. Earlier this year at Transgrancanaria we once again had a master class in how to prepare for, run and win a race! Without doubt, Nuria is a hot favourite for UTMF.

Francesca Canepa Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Francesca Canepa excels at tough, long and hilly races when the terrain is not too technical. To be honest; the longer, the better. A 100-km race is very much a warm up for Francesca as her impressive victories at Ronda dels Cims and Tor des Geants confirm in 2013. However, Francesca is no one trick pony. She has placed highly at shorter and faster races such as Speedgoat 50k and UROC. UTMF will without doubt suit Francesca’s running style and after her win at HK100 and second at Transgrancanaria earlier this year, Francesca will without doubt be looking for a consistently strong repeat performance and important UTWT points.

Nathalie Mauclair Transvulcania ©iancorless.com

Nathalie Mauclair Transvulcania ©iancorless.com

Nathalie Mauclair burst onto the scene in 2013 with a stunning top placing at Transvulcania La Palma. A relative unknown, Nathalie went on to impress her female competitors (especially Emelie Forsberg) and not only did she become IAU World Trail Champion that required pace, she also was crowned Raid de le Reunion (Diagonale des Fous) champion. Her diversity of pace, endurance and technical ability earmarks Nathalie as ‘one-to-watch’ at UTMF.

Shona Stepenson, Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Shona Stepenson, Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Shona Stephenson placed 2nd at UTMF last year but had a very mixed 2013. Shona dropped from TNFUTMB and Ice Trail Tarentaise and just recently placed 6th at Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon (also a UTWT race) where I expected her to place top-3, so, the jury is out. She will be in the game early on pushing at the front, let’s hope she can hold on and keep the momentum going.

Fernanda Maciel Everest Trail Race ©iancorless.com

Fernanda Maciel Everest Trail Race ©iancorless.com

Fernanda Maciel after a 3rd place at Transgrancanaria is looking for more UTWT points to boost her overall rankings. Her Everest Trail Race win in late November 2013 would appear to have boosted Fernanda’s running after a troubled 2013 season. Certainly Fernanda’s 7th at TNFUTMB and Transgrancanaria win in 2012 shows that she has all the required armory to compete with the best-of-the-best; she will just need a little luck!

Nerea Martinez Ronda dels Cims ©ianccorless.com

Nerea Martinez Ronda dels Cims ©ianccorless.com

Nerea Martinez like Francesca Canepa like races that are long and tough. Winner of the inaugural UTMF, Nerea won’t repeat that performance in 2014. She has all the required abilities but lacks the pace required that Picas, Mauclair and Canepa have in abundance. However, if it comes down to survival and pushing on through to the line, Nerea will be around and ready to mop up the places. Her 2nd place at the 2012 Tor des Geants proves that she cannot be ruled out in any race.

Julia Boettger, Salomon ©iancorless.com

Julia Boettger, Salomon ©iancorless.com

Julia Boettger had a solid start to 2013 placing 2nd behind Jo Meek at the tough multi day race, The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. However, she was DNS at Transgrancanaria due a potential niggling injury. Recently she has been working on and providing instruction on several training camps. If in form, UTMF will suit Julia’s skill set and we can expect a top-10 performance and if she has ‘one of those days’ we may well see her top-5.

Nora Senn placed 3rd at UTMF in 2012 behind Nerea Martinez. Taking into consideration that result and the ladies previously mentioned, Nora can hope for top-10.

Hitomi Ogawa along with Kumiko Amikura and Akemi Ban may well have the hopes of Japan in their legs, placing 3rd, 4th and 6th respectively in 2013; they all have the knowledge and understanding of what UTMF requires from a race and survival aspect. Top-10 is possible for all-3 and top-5 with this quality of field would be an incredible result.

MEN

Yoshikazu Hara gets the nod first as last years UTMF champ. One could arguably say it was a lucky day… but hold on a minute, you don’t beat Julien Chorier and Seb Chaigneau on luck alone! Had Hara excelled at the 2013 TNFUTMB I would be hailing him as a potential 2014 champ as he does seem able to use some seriously fast 100km speed (6:33) on long courses. However, Hara dropped from Tarawera with injury and this leaves some huge question marks in this quality of field.

Ryan Sandes Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes is on a roll… having spent a great deal of time with him on Gran Canaria and getting a great understanding of the man, his training and his thought processes, I’d find it difficult to bet against Ryan at UTMF. As we are all aware, his 2013 season was one to forget but his 2012 season had moments of brilliance and his 2014 victory at Transgrancanaria and then subsequent FKT on the Drakensberg Traverse with Rhyno Griesel will either mean ‘Sandman’ will be in the form of his life or a little jaded. What do you think?

Seb Chaigneau Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Seb Chaigneau Transgrancanaria ©iancorless.com

Seb Chaigneau placed 3rd at UTMF in 2013 so knows the course. A tough competitor with a unique and endearing view of our sport, he is a true champion. His win at Hardrock 100 and CR in 2013 was a popular result and without doubt he would be a popular champion in Japan. His recent drop from Transgrancanaria leaves a couple of question marks but I don’t have the answers… you see, dropping from a race whilst in the lead leaves the door wide open. I think we will see Seb pushing top-3.

Iker Karrera ©iancorless.com

Iker Karrera ©iancorless.com

Iker Karrera is understated and arguably one of the best ultra distance runners out there. His quiet, modest, no nonsense approach of arriving, winning and leaving a race often leaves a void in this media savvy world. However, you would have to have been in an ultra void not to notice his impressive victory at Grand Raid des Pyrenees in 2013 and then his follow on victory at Tor des Geants. Potential winner!

Francois D'Haene ©iancorless.com

Francois D’Haene ©iancorless.com

Francois D’Haene has a vineyard and that has taken a priority. His run season now evolves around seasons, grape picking and bottling, however, it hasn’t affected Francois’s performances. When Francois races, he races in top form. His 2nd at Ice Trail Tarentaise where he raced side-by-side with fellow teammate, Kilian Jornet shows he has all the skill and speed required to win any race. He proved this with a great victory at the tough and technical Raid de la Reunion (Diagonale des Fous). This race amongst all his experiences, even his victory over a shortened UTMB course, will put him in a great place for success at UTMF.

Nick Clark The Coastal Challenge ©iancorless.com

Nick Clark The Coastal Challenge ©iancorless.com

Nick Clark; enough said really! Tough as nails, really competitive and one of the best 100-mile runners out there; his consistent performance over the ‘Grand Slam’ in 2013 was a joy to behold. Nick kicked off 2014 with a tough outing at his first multi day race at The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica, a race that provided Nick with a new perspective on how tough running back-to-back, day-after-day can be. With some solid training behind him and experience on tough courses such as Hardrock 100, one has to give a nod to Nick and put him on the ‘hot’ list for this race.

Mike Foote TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Mike Foote TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Mike Foote has been super consistent at TNFUTMB with 3rd place at the shortened race when Francois D’Haene won and 5th place in 2013. Don’t expect to see him up front in the early stages… Mike has a canny knack of almost being out of the race and then in the latter third applying the afterburners and moving up through the field. In addition to great climbing ability, he also has speed. This natural speed will be extremely useful on the faster section of the UTMF course.

Gary Robbins TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Gary Robbins TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Gary Robbins 4th at UTMF in 2013 and recent winner at HURT100 will bring his adventure racing background, the love of the tough and gnarly and some pure old grit back to Japan and armed with knowledge, I can’t help but think that Gary will be a force this year. Of course, one must consider that this field is super stacked and to repeat 4th or move even in higher in 2014 will be a supreme effort, but Gary on his day can do it.

Thomas Lorblanchet looked to be about to break into the big time after winning Leadville 100 and placing highly at Transvulcania whilst running under Salomon colours. However, since moving to a new sponsor, Thomas appears to have been in a running wilderness. Surely a win at the highly competitive ‘Templiers’ was a great result in late 2013 but I have little else to go on… he may well surprise us.

Joe Grant Cavalls del Vent ©iancorless.com

Joe Grant Cavalls del Vent ©iancorless.com

Joe Grant recently won Alaska White Mountains 100 with a new CR; a great result! However, it is extremely difficult to say how this performance will set up Joe for UTMF. Post his impressive Iditarod performance in 2013, Joe struggled to find form (more due to fatigue) and even at his beloved Hardrock 100, he had to drop (whilst in 2nd place) with medical issues. Regularly training with Anton Krupicka, Joe is very much a new breed of ultra runner, inspired by Kilian Jornet, who combines running, climbing and time in the mountains to fulfill his passion. UTMF in principal will suit Joe 100% and if in form, we can expect him to be a main protagonist at the front of the race.

Brendan Davies Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Brendan Davies Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Brendan Davies 5th at UTMF in 2013 has plenty of speed but lacks true mountain experience. He openly said that the 2013 edition of the race was a shock to the system and the time he lost going up, he pulled back on the fast flatter sections. I am sure Brendan will come to UTMF with more vertical training. However, this field is stacked with out-and-out mountain men. It’s going to be a tough race to keep in touch with the top-5 and repeat his 2013 performance.

Antoine Guillon 4th at Reunion and 5th at Transgrancanaria will be hunting UTWT points. I think he will be in the mix but not top-5.

Dave Mackey was one of the first runners to embrace the UTWT and I am sure we will see his presence throughout the series. One of the most respected ultra runners out there, had this been a 100km race he would be a hot favourite. But over the 100-mile distance and on this terrain, I don’t see Dave making top-5 despite his success at Western States. But he is due a big performance…

John Tidd to many will be a complete unknown, I first met him at Transgrancanaria in 2013 when he went on to place 6th running a strong and consistent race. Later in the year he repeated this consistency with 6th at UTMF and then 10th at TNFUTMB. I very much doubt he will make top-5 but top-10 is a distinct possibility.

Emmanuel Gault recently won the Eco Trail de Paris in a quick 5:40, so, he’s in good shape. However, even dating back to 2007, I am not sure he has raced over 100km. So, he may be up front in the early stages but past 80km he may well fade. It’s an unknown? Without doubt, Emmanuel specialises in French races such as Templiers, SainteLyon, CCC and so on, his recent 22bd place at Transvulcania gives us little insight into what may be achieved at the tough UTMF.

Stone Tsang from Hong Kong will potentially be a ‘one-to-watch’ after solid UTMB and HK100 performances, but he will need a great day to break top-5.

Minehiro Yokoyama,

Kenichi Yamamoto,

Koji Yamaya,

Minehiro Yokoyama,

Shougo Mochizuki

And Shinsuke Isomura have all raced UTMF in the past and in reality it is about as much insight as I can provide.

Kenichi Yamamoto Ronda dels Cims ©iancorless.com

Kenichi Yamamoto Ronda dels Cims ©iancorless.com

If I had to pick one runner it would be Kenichi Yamamoto. Kenichi raced against Julien Chorier in 2013 and placed 2nd. A happy and talented guy (expect film crews following him) he has had success with a top-3 at UTMF in 2012 but not against a field of this quality.

The 2014 UTMF will be quite a race. In addition to all the above, several other notable runners are taking part and it almost feels rude not to mention the ever present Christophe Le Saux, Jeremy Ritcey or Timo Meyer. But I have tried to preview who will contend top-5.

UTMF website – http://www.ultratrailmtfuji.com/en/

Runner entry list – http://www.ultratrailmtfuji.com/en/about/entrylist/