The 27th Marathon des Sables is complete. In the end, nearly 800 competitors crossed the Merzouga Dunes to reach the finish after covering 150-miles on foot in 6-stages carrying everything they needed for the week except for the race-provided water and shade tent. Prior to the race we previewed the 2012 MdS and interviewed the defending champ, Rachid El Morabity, who withdrew a mere kilometer from the end of this year’s long stage. Following the race we interviewed the men’s winner Salameh Al Aqra and runner-up Mohamad Ahansal. Laurence Klein won the overall women’s title.
Below is our stage-by-stage coverage of the race. Click on the links below to jump to our coverage of a particular stage.
- Stage 1 results
- Stage 2 results
- Stage 3 results
- Stage 4 results
- Stage 5 results
- Stage 6/final results
If you’re generally interested in learning about the Marathon des Sables, we’ve previously collected Marathon des Sables tips, training advice, and a personal account of the 2009 MdS.
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Meghan Hick’s Stage 6 Report from the MdS Finish
It’s Sunday afternoon here in Ouarzazate, Morocco and the 2012 Marathon des Sables is officially complete. The race’s top competitors received awards at today’s prize-giving ceremony. Starting today, competitors will begin trickling out of Morocco on tired legs and blistered feet, back to their home countries around the world. What a year it has been!
Yesterday’s Stage 6 was 15.5 kilometers (9.6 miles), including a 6.5-kilometer rocky reg and a 9-kilometer crossing of the Merzouga Dunes, Morocco’s largest dunes. For many runners, the day was a near sprint stage. From the start line, the lead men took off at a five-minute-mile pace and the lead women at a six-minute-mile pace as they crossed the rocky flat. In the men’s race, Morocco’s Aziz El Akad won with Mohamad Ahansal and Salameh Al Aqra in hot pursuit for second and third place. In the women’s race, Morocco’s Meryem Khali won, with France’s Laurence Klein and the me taking second and third.
An interesting turn took place in the overall standings of both the men’s and women’s race as a result of Stage 6. Before this final stage, Portugal’s Carlos Sa and El Akad sat in respective third and fourth place overall. Sa possessed a mere two-minute lead over El Akad. El Akad erased that lead and more during Stage 6 as he won the stage, bested Sa by over eight minutes, and took over third place in the overall rankings. In the women’s race, Morocco’s Meryem Khali did the same thing over Karine Baillet when she won the stage, bested Baillet by 16 minutes, and took over second place in the women’s overall rankings. Such a wild way to wrap up 150 miles of running and this pretty much tells us that Moroccans are beasts when it comes to running sand dunes!
At the race’s conclusion, competitors climbed onto more than a dozen buses to be shipped out of the Saharan wilderness and back into Ouarzazate, Morocco. Last night, we ate feasts of couscous and tagine, traditional and nourishing Moroccan food. Slowly but surely today, we’ve been reintroduced to the “real world” beyond the Marathon des Sables bivouac and our tiny packs of self-sufficiency. I know I’m not the only one taking home a little bit of leftover sand in my clothes and shoes, and I’m excited to keep refueling on Moroccan food!
With this note, I conclude my 2012 Marathon des Sables personalized coverage. However, stay tuned as iRunFar will post a few interviews from the top competitors in the coming days. Thanks again for following along on this journey and to those of your who supported my personal competition. It was a great week for me and I’m entirely sated by my race results. Now, recovery and the next adventure!
Men’s Stage 6 Results
- Aziz El Akad (Morocco) 1:13:30
- Mohamah Ahansal (Morocco) +0:36
- Salameh Al Aqra (Jordan) +3:35
- Mustapha Ait Amar (Morocco) +4:32
- Abdessadek Zaid (Morocco) +5:41
Men’s Overall Rankings through Stage 6:
- Salameh Al Aqra (Jordan) 19:59:21
- Mohamad Ahansal (Morocco) +21:02 (MdS profile)
- Aziz El Akad (Morocco) +1:38:56
- Carlos Sa (Portugal) +1:45:06
- Lorenzo Trincheri (Italy) +1:59:25
- Christophe Le Saux (France) +2:03:43
- Antonio Filipo Salaris (Italy) +2:13:13
- Anton Vencelj (Slovenia) +2:30:56
- Iino Wataru (Japan) +2:42:47
- Jean Sebastien Braun (France) +2:46:15
Women’s Stage 6 Results
- Meryeh Khali (Morocco) 1:31:37
- Laurence Klein (France ) 1:36:25
- Meghan Hicks (US) 1:44:35
- Karine Baillet (France) 1:47:38
- Susana De Oliveira Simoes (Portugal) 1:49:44
Women’s Overall Rankings through Stage 6:
- Laurence Klein (France) 26:15:40
- Meryem Khali (Morocco) 27:35:18 (MdS profile)
- Karine Baillet (France) 27:46:47
- Jen Salter (UK) 28:48:47
- Meghan Hicks (US) 29:31:18
- Susana De Oliveira Simoes (Portugal) 29:53:42
- Nicola Boyd (UK) 32:05:58
- Edith Doyen (France) 32:50:06
- Emmanuelle Blanck (France) 32:57:57
- Isabelle Degrand (France) 34:17:36
Additional Information – Stage 6 and Awards Ceremony
- The “Roadbook” (map) for Stage 6
- Official Stage 6 Press Release
- Stage 6 Photos
- Award Ceremony Photos
- Award Ceremony Videos
Stage 5: Jebel El Mraier/Merdani – 42.2 km (26.2 miles)
Today, runners ran in cool temperatures under bluebird skies after a week of heat, wind, and sand. Tonight, an orchestra serenades them during their final night in the desert. The hard racing (today, a marathon on the sands) is done. All that remains is a 15 kilometer (10 mile) run across the iconic Erg Chebbi in tomorrow’s final stage of the 2012 Marathon des Sables.
Meghan Hick’s Stage 5 Report from the MdS Bivouac
Greetings from the last bivouac. It’s early evening as I write you, and the sun is making long shadows across this desert. It’s cool and it has been all day long, and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. It’s an evening perfected.
Shall I tell you about the weather yesterday, the second day of the long stage and a rest day for those who completed the stage in a day: Rain, wind, hail, and lightning, short but severe enough to make many of our Berber tents collapse and our gear wet. In the desert, no less! Luckily, it cleared into a beautiful afternoon, warm and sunny enough to dry our gear before night. I tell you, we’ve had almost every kind of weather.
I need to make a correction to a statement I made in my last update regarding the men’s race in the long stage. Perhaps this has already been sussed out there in the wide world, but I originally told you that Rachid El Morabity led the long stage line to line. In talking with the fast boys over the rest day, I learned that this wasn’t true. Salameh Al Aqra and Mohamad Ahansal passed Rachid during the final 20 kilometers of the long stage, then very close to the finish line Rachid became injured.
Perhaps the wide world beyond this bivouac has news, too, on Rachid. I am told, via the race administration, that he’s at a Casablanca hospital and will receive reconstructive surgery tomorrow. Gosh, I wish him the best of recoveries and this race isn’t the same without him.
Today’s marathon stage featured lots of flat running with a couple spurts of dunes, including one long stretch with dunes a few hundred feet high. The far off scenery was fantastic, especially the approach to the finish with the Erg Chebbi, some of Morocco’s biggest dunes and those through which we’ll finish tomorrow, close by.
In the mens’s race, Salameh held strong, solidifying his place at the top of the overall ranking. It seems like the top spots are sussed out, save for third place Carlos Sa and fourth place Aziz El Akad, who are separated by only 2 minutes and 6 seconds. I wonder if they will choose to duke it out tomorrow.
In the women’s race, Laurence Klein, with her huge lead, ran today easily, finishing as the sixth woman. Second and third place Karine Baillet and Miryem Khali remain very close in the race standings and Miryem was lit on fire today, attempting to work off her deficit to second place. She is now within five minutes of Karine for second overall. I wonder if they, too, will fight for spots in tomorrow’s short 15.5 kilometer stage.
My day was a good one: I ran hard from the twenty five kilometer point; after I found myself being challenged for my overall fifth place ranking by Portugal’s Susana De Oliveira Simoes, who sat 26 minutes behind me in the overall ranking. She began her challenge at about 10 kilometers in, and my body wasn’t yet ready to go hard. Once it was, I did. Impressively, she still managed to best me in this stage by nine minutes over the race’s last 20 miles. Strong, powerful legs that woman has! I’m grateful that I still possess a 17-minute lead over her, and that I don’t have to kill myself in tomorrow’s short stage to maintain my overall place.
Here in the bivouac, the mood is joyful. Bodies are sore, feet blistered, everything filthy, but we all know that just 15 or so kilometers separate us from the finish line. A beautiful, dune-filled stage at that. Tonight there’s a party, members of the Paris Opera are here, as per MdS tradition, to help us celebrate our near ending. I’m feeling particularly happy. My body has been strong and has done everything I’ve asked of it. My blisters are healing and I haven’t received new ones over the last two stages. I just read my emails from all of you and am filled with your positive energy. The sunset is outstanding. Can life get any better than this?
Well, this is it from my bivouac reports. Next time you’ll here from me, I’ll be all cleaned up and fed on real food that doesn’t come from my tiny, filthy, sand-filled pack. Thanks for all your support and encouragement this week!
Women’s Stage 5 Results
Confident in her enormous lead, overall leader Laurence Klein (France +29’05”) relaxed in Stage 5 with five women besting her. In her place, Moroccan Meryem Khali went for the win and second place in the overall standings. She got the stage win, but remains 5 minutes behind second place Stage 5 finisher Karine Baillet (France +14’16”). Susana de Oliveira Simoes (Portugal +17’44”) placed third and cut significantly into Meghan Hicks’ hold on fifth place in the overall rankings. The UK’s Jen Salter (+18’11”) finished fourth, only 27 seconds behind her Portuguese competition. Meghan Hicks (US 26’22”) rounded out the top five.
Women’s Overall Rankings through Stage 5: (all runners within five hours of lead)
- Laurence Klein (France) 24:39:14 – huge lead
- Karine Baillet (France)
- Meryem Khali (Morocco) (MdS profile) – less than 5 minutes behind Baillet
- Jen Salter (UK)
- Meghan Hicks (US)
- Susana De Oliveira Simoes (Portugal) – 17 minutes behind Hicks
Men’s Stage 5 Results
Moroccan Aziz El Akad made today his day in winning the stage by more than four minutes. Overall leader Salameh Al Aqra (+4’19”) placed second two minutes ahead of his nearest overall rival, Morocco’s Mohamad Ahansal (+6’41”). Finishing fourth, Mustapha Ait Amar (+12’28”) of Morocco also made a showing in the marathon stage that moved him from eighth to fourth in the overall standings. Carlos Sa (+17’38”) of Portugal came in fifth on the day.
Men’s Overall Rankings through Stage 5: (all runners within two and a half hours of lead)
- Salameh Al Aqra (Jordan) 18:42:15
- Mohamad Ahansal (Morocco) +24:01 (MdS profile)
- Carlos Sa (Portugal) +1:40:25
- Aziz El Akad (Morocco) +1:42:31
- Lorenzo Trincheri (Italy) +1:54:44
- Christophe Le Saux (France) +1:59:02
- Antonio Filipo Salaris (Italy) +2:08:11
- Anton Vencelj (Slovenia) +2:27:48
Additional Information – Stage 5
Stage 4: El Maharch/Jebel El Mraier – 81.5 km (50.6 mil
Today (and tomorrow), MdS runners face “the long stage.” This year, the long stage was just over 50 miles long. Most of the field started at 8:45 am local time on Wednesday with many not likely to finish until the sun sets and comes up again. However, the top 50 men and top 5 women began their runs at 11:45 am and, barring blowups, will finish the stage during the night.
As this stage is so long, we’ll be updating it a few times during the day on Wednesday (US Mountain Time) and adding Meghan Hick’s report from the bivouac after she sends it on Thursday. As the fifth place woman overall, she was in the late start and will likely run well into the night. As the top men have already finished while the ladies are still out on the course, it’s men first again today. You can also jump down to Meghan’s report from the bivouac.
Men’s Stage 4 Results
Salameh Al Aqra (Jordan) won the long stage with a 17 minute victory over Morocco’s Mohamad Ahansal (+17’35”) in a time of 7:23:00. Both runners passed Rachid El Morabity, who made an early move prior to Checkpoint 3 (37km/mile 23), but withdrew from the race after encountering a medical issue with 1 kilometer to go! Here’s the press release describing El Morabity’s withdrawal.
Wataru Iino (+32’41”) of Japan finished third the day in a remarkable show of patience after finishing 22th, 10th, and 12th in first three stages. The next six spots were all taken by European competitors led by Christophe Le Saux (+38’54”) of France in fourth and while Italian countryman Antonio Filippo Salaris (+48’01 ) and Lorenzo Trincheri tied for fifth.
Men’s Overall Rankings through Stage 4: (all runners within two hours of lead)
- Salameh Al Aqra (Jordan) 15:29:45
- Mohamad Ahansal (Morocco) +21:38 (MdS profile)
- Carlos Sa (Portugal) +1:27:05
- Lorenzo Trincheri (Italy) +1:29:04
- Antonio Filippo Salaris (Italy) +1:40:40
- Christophe Le Saux (France) +1:43:32
- Aziz El Akad (Morocco) +1:46:50
- Anton Vencelj (Slovenia) +1:53:03
Women’s Stage 4 Results
Laurance Klein (France) looks to make it a clean sweep as she won her fourth straight stage. However, not all that far behind was fellow Frenchwoman Karine Baillet (+20’49”) in second. Moroccan Meryem Khali (+51’57”) was third just ahead of the UK’s Jen Salter (+55’39”), both of whom were within an hour of Klein. Susana De Oliveira Simoes (Portugal +1:10:19) made a strong showing for fifth, while Meghan Hicks (US +1:28:04) unofficially finished in sixth.
Women’s Overall Rankings through Stage 4: (all runners within four hours of lead)
- Laurence Klein (France) 20:02:19
- Karine Baillet (France) +1:36:43
- Meryem Khali (Morocco) +1:55:32 (MdS profile)
- Jen Salter (UK) +2:28:55
- Meghan Hicks (US) +3:12:11
- Susana De Oliveira Simoes (Portugal) +3:38:04
Meghan Hick’s Stage 4 Report from the MdS Bivouac
Happy Thursday morning from the bivouac. I can’t actually see camp as I type, even though I’m in it, for the blowing sand. I hereby name this year’s MdS as the year of the wind. And, where there is wind, there is sand. It will take days to remove all the sand from our bodies for certain.
It’s Day 2 of the long stage, an even 50 miles. The cutoff for this stage is this evening, so perhaps a hundred or so competitors are still out there battling this ferocious wind. Many people completed the stage late last night and are using today as a day of recovery.
Yesterday’s route was all about sand: sand dunes, sandy riverbeds, dunettes, and other sand terrain. I estimate we ran on sand for 75% of the time. One other fantastic terrain feature of yesterday’s course was an 800-ish foot glissading descent off a steep sand dune at the edge of a jebel. Wow, was that good fun!
I wish I could put you in my pocket for a day to show you what this piece of Earth is like. Stark, prickly, arid as hell, yet filled with enough beauty to make my heart ache. How does that work? That the most challenging bits of life are the most rewarding? Here in the Sahara, I have no answers, I just know this as truth.
The men’s race in the long stage took a tragic turn. Rachid El Morabity led the race from line to line, building a massive lead over the course of the day. Unfortunately, he incurred a major upper leg injury approximately one kilometer from the finish. We don’t yet know what happened, but race administration confirms that he abandoned the race and has been transferred to a hospital. Since Rachid has become a friend of mine in these weeks, my heart goes out to the guy. So sad to see someone with a commanding lead and the kindest of hearts encounter a major issue.
Salamah Al Aqra finished first in the stage and Mohamad Ahansal second, with their overall places shifted up to first and second after Rachid’s abandon. Rounding out the top three was Japan’s Waturo Iino, who had been running well all week but who clearly had a breakout day.
Laurence Klein led the women’s race from line to line, as per her MO for this race. France’s Karine Baillet had a strong showing, finishing just 20 minutes behind Laurence. Meryem Khali rounded out the women’s top three.
I had what I would call a decent day. I didn’t feel outstanding for the first 25 kilometers or so. I felt hot and thirsty and just plain slow. In starting the long stage among the top 50 men and 5 women three hours after the regular start, this placed me at the back of that group for a while. The great thing about ultra races is that, if you treat yourself right and you keep plugging along, you’re probably going to feel better. Sure enough, by about 30 kilometers in, I was feeling like myself again. My day’s result, 6th place in the stage, I think shows exactly how I felt. A slow start and then a nice comeback, but not quite nice enough to finish 5th again.
I want to take a moment to mention how much the women’s competition is evolving at MdS. Between two years ago and now, I’m sure that the women’s field has grown perhaps three times as deep. The energy among the women is so strong and positive and just plain wicked awesome, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.
It’s about midday as I write and I’ve got some serious eating on my agenda for this afternoon. Until next time from the sandy Sahara!
Additional Information – Stage 4
- The “Roadbook” (map) for Stage 4
- Official Stage 4 Press Release (Day 1) (Day 1 Special Release) (Day 2) (Day 2 Special)
- Stage 4 Photos (Day 1) (Day 2)
- Stage 4 Videos (Day 1) (Day 2)
Another hot day with lots of blowing sand in strong winds. It’s one thing to run over sand dunes… it’s a whole ‘nother thing to have to run though them! ;-) Tomorrow (and, for some, the next day), competitors will face the “long stage” of this year’s MdS, which will be about 50 miles. Time for the racers to rest up!
After our men’s and women’s daily reports, Meghan Hicks shares her Stage 3 report on the action from the bivouc.
Men – Stage 3
Moroccan Rachid El Morabity won his third straight stage… but not by much. He bested Jordanian Salameh Al Aqra by a scant 59 seconds with Moroccan Aziz Akad (+1’36″) following another 37 seconds behind Al Aqra. Mohamad Ahansal (+7’25″) was unable to hang with the leaders today as he finished 7 minutes back, despite hanging with them through the first checkpoint at 12 kilometers. Lorenzo Trincheri (Italy +13’52″) edged out Carlos Sa (Portugal +14’10″) for fourth. Not far back in sixth and seventh were Antonio Filippo Salaris (Italy +14’47″) and Anton Vencelj (Slovenia +15’42″).
Men’s Overall Rankings through Stage 3: (all runners within 90 minutes of lead)
- Rachid El Morabity (Morocco) 7:53:38 (MdS profile)
- Salameh Al Aqra (Jordan) +13:07
- Mohamad Ahansal (Morocco) +17:20 (MdS profile)
- Aziz El Akad (Morocco) +46:23
- Carlos Sa (Portugal) +50:33
- Lorenzo Trincheri (Italy) +54:10
- Anton Vencelj (Slovenia) +1:03:33
- Antonio Filippo Salaris (Italy) +1:05:45
- Christophe Le Saux (France) +1:17:44
- Jean Sebastien Braun (France) +1:21:43
While El Morabity retains the overall lead heading into tomorrow, anything can happen during the long stage.
Women – Stage 3
We’d gotten in the habit of suggesting that the race atop the women’s field was over… unless something happened. Well, in Stage 3 Laurence Klein (France) continued her domination with a 10 minute victory on the day. On the other hand, something DID happen to Jen Salter of the UK’s seeming lock on daily and overall second place finishes. Salter was the tenth woman across the line in Stage 3, more than an hour behind Klein.
Morocco’s Meryem Khali (+9’46”) made a go of it in Stage 3, as she finished less than ten minutes behind Klein in second. Karine Baillet (+21’30”) of France continues her strong run with a third place finish on the day.The UK’s Nicola Boyd (+36:52) bested Meghan Hicks (US +38’33”) for fourth.
Women’s Overall Rankings through Stage 3: (all runners within 2 hours of lead)
- Laurence Klein (France) 10:29:38
- Meryem Khali (Morocco) +1:03:36 (MdS profile)
- Karine Baillet (France) +1:15:55
- Jen Salter (UK) +1:33:17
- Meghan Hicks (US) +1:44:08
STAGE 3 IS DONE! My, what a day, what a day! I wish I could articulate how windy it is today. Sandblasted we all are. Some sort of weather system is passing through, creating several days of fierce winds. The wind abated to a gentle breeze for sleeping last night, and an overcast sky kept the sleeping temperature warm. I slept on top of my sleeping bag for half the night! The wind was with us from the start, but it was either a tailwind or a sidewind all day! Intermittent sandstorms caused small portions of the course to disappear! For about one mile after the second checkpoint, visibility was about 50 feet. It was a fun (and not dangerous) adventure. Also, whatever weather system this is kept the temperatures mild and below 35C (95F).
Rachid El Morabity continued to fortify his spot at the head of the race, increasing his overall lead to 13 minutes. I spoke with him this afternoon, and he said his mind, heart, stomach, legs, and feet are all perfect. When I reacted in amazement that he had no problems whatsoever, his response was hilarious and equally incredulous, « C’est incredible! C’est incredible! » Today, Salameh Al Aqra and Mohamad Ahansal were in hot pursuit.
Though Laurence Klein maintained her increasing and powerful lead, a shake-up in the second, third, and fourth place ladies occurred. According to Jennifer Salter’s tentmates, Jen felt ill early in the race and had to stop and re-group at the first checkpoint. This caused her to drop to fourth place overall. It also appears that Moroccan Meryem Khali made a push out there today, separating herself from the rest of the women’s field. Finally, Britain’s Nicola Boyd finished fourth in the stage, with me right after. I wonder if this is a sign of more to come from Nicola?
My day was great, smooth. My energy levels were good and my blisters did not get worse. I attempted to run even easier today in anticipation of tomorrow’s 50-mile stage. I hope this pays off, but I suppose only time will tell. Hah!
Thanks some more for your continued support! Your email messages have been so touching and enthusiastic. I can’t wait for tonight’s mail delivery. For now, I’m off for a recovery walk around camp. I have a little bit of extra recovery time as I join the top 50 men and top 5 women for the delayed start at noon tomorrow. I’m crossing my fingers that the wind gives us a break (again) tonight!
PS. You won’t hear from me again until Thursday, as I’ll be running through the afternoon and evening tomorrow. Send your best juju my way in the meantime!
Additional Information – Stage 3
All but four runners who started Stage 1 returned to toe the line for the 24 miles of Stage 2. Those 849 runners faced a warm start (20C/69F) and all but the top 10 would still be on the course as temperature climbed above 100F/38C. In that heat, the runners faced their first dunes of this year’s MdS.
Today, we start out with the women, before going on to the men and, then, Meghan’s great report from the field.
Women – Stage 2
Defending champ Laurence Klein (France) continues to build her lead over the rest of the women’s field, adding another 13 minutes to her overall lead today. Jen Salter (UK +12’47”) again finished second, thereby solidifying herself in the number two position overall. Although it’s early, it would surprise no one if Klein and Salter ran one/two all week… but anything can happen.
It looks like the real women’s battle is shaping up for third through fifth. Karine Baillet (France +24’12”) swapped Stage 1 positions with Meryem Khali (Morocco +27’35”) with the Frenchwoman finishing third and the Moroccan finishing fourth in Stage 2. Meghan Hicks (US +30’03”) was fifth for the second straight day.
Here are the full women’s stage 2 results.
Women’s Overall Rankings through Stage 2: (all runners within 1 hour of lead)
- Laurence Klein (FRA) 7:10:32
- Jen Salter (UK) +32:12
- Meryem Khali (MAR) +53:55
- Karine Baillet (FRA) +54:26
- Meghan Hicks (US) +1:05:35
Men – Stage 2
Rachid El Morabity (Morocco) won the stage for the second day in a row, this time with a margin of 2:14 and a total time of 2:50:24. Jordanian Salameh Al Aqra (+2’14”) bettered Moroccan Mohamad Ahansal (+3’18”) to finish second. The pair had finished third and second, respectively, in Stage 1. These three men have shown that they are the class of this year’s MdS and one of them should win the overall title.
Just below the podium, things are all but settled. Aziz El Akad (Morocco +9’55”) finished 14th in Stage 1, jumped to fourth in Stage 2. Similarly, Italian Antonio Filippo Salaris (+19’03) moved from 13th in Stage 1 to fifth in Stage 2 in a tie with countryman Lorenzo Trincheri, who was sixth in Stage 1.
Here are the full men’s stage 2 results.
Men’s Overall Rankings through Stage 2: (all runners within 1 hour of lead)
- Rachid El Morabity (MAR) 5:17:44 (MdS profile)
- Mohamad Ahansal (MAR) +9:55 (MdS profile)
- Salameh Al Aqra (JOR) +12:08
- Carlos Sa (POR) +36:24
- Lorenzo Trincheri (ITA) +40:18
- Aziz El Akad (MAR) +44:47
- Anton Vencelj (SLO) +47:52
- Antonio Filippo Salaris (ITA) +50:59
- Christophe Le Saux (FRA) +57:31
Bonjour from the Stage 2 bivouac! It’s a hot, hot, hot day out here! And another incredibly windy afternoon! Whether you’re an athlete in camp or out on the course, the wind and the waves of sand it pelts you with are a major challenge. Race officials report today’s high as « just under » 50 degrees C. Oh wow!
Information travels a little slow here in camp, so I wanted to provide a little update on yesterday’s [Stage 1’s] men’s race. I learned that Rachid ran together with Mohamad and Salameh for almost the whole stage until the final climb about six kilometers from the finish. He, apparently, took off on the climb and the final 1.5-mile flat, open crossing, putting six minutes on Mohamad and more than that on Salameh.
Also, I wanted to share an update on the Russian runner Leonid Shvetsov, who finished 5th yesterday and 15th (+41’31”) today… prior to administrative penalties. Yesterday, he was yesterday issued a penalty for forgetting to bring a mandatory item (his ECG, though I understand extenuating circumstances exist regarding this, that he submitted an appeal, and that his appeal was denied). I’ve also learned that he may have received another penalty today for something water-related. (I don’t know the circumstances yet, but I know that runners are issued penalties for needing extra water.)
Today’s men’s race showed Rachid holding strong and finishing first again, with Salameh and then Mohamad in hot pursuit. I haven’t seen any of the top boys today, so I haven’t any news on how the race played out.
Laurence and Jennifer finished first and second in the women’s race, with a switch-up in the third and fourth place women. I spoke with Jennifer last night and she was in super spirits. I remain confident in both Laurence and her’s respective positions at the top. There is a distinct break between Laurence and Jennifer in time, as well as a distinct break in time between Jennifer and the other top girls.
Today’s course was 38.5 kilometers and featured complete flatness! First it was rocky reg, then a series of low dunes, then a long, white, salt flat, then a riparian area containing residual water and mud from last week’s weather, and, finally, another five or so kilometers of dunes to the finish. Though the course was flat, the loads of sand and the long salt flat made for the day’s greatest terrain challenge.
The race administration notes 20 drops from today’s stage, which is a very high number. Sometimes only 20 people drop from the entire Marathon des Sables! The race administration says that heat was the day’s limiting factor for many people.
My day of running was good. I felt happy and solid for the entire day. I’m unfortunately accumulating blisters, which is always a problem for me. Knock on wood, they are on non-critical places of my feet. I’m continuing to work through recovery and am looking forward to another day out tomorrow.
If the wind died down and gave us a peaceful evening that would be outstanding. At present, visibility is about a half-mile because of the sand, which has totally blocked the sunshine. The sky is filled with tan sand, making it look a lot like a gray day in my Utah home. Hah!
Okay, y’all, you sent some amazing messages via email yesterday, thank you so much! I read them twice last night, then once this morning before the race. Then, I channeled all of your positive energy out on course today.
As I write this, it’s 5:15 pm and I’m watching finishers appear out of the sandstorm and into the finish. I’m not gonna lie, these are challenging, challenging conditions. I’m confident, though, that a positive attitude is everything, so I wish that for everyone who is coming across the finish now.
Additional Information – Stage 2
Meghan Hick’s Stage 1 Report from the MdS Bivouac
Bonjour from the Stage 1 bivouac. It is late afternoon as I write and some of the day’s later athletes are trickling across a black-rock reg, or flat plain. There’s not a single cloud in the sky and it’s in excess of 30 degrees C. A fierce wind is blowing waves of tan-colored sand across the flat. Lucky for runners, it is a tailwind. Here in the bivouac, athletes are working hard on recovering.
Today’s course featured series of low dunettes early, two jebels, and several black-rock regs. Though the distance was a bearable one, the terrain made for the greatest challenge. After several days of mild desert weather, the heat and aridity is now back. Thermometers on course reportedly hit 40 degrees C (104F).
Race administration notes that a significant number of runners have dropped from the race, between five and 10. The Marathon des Sables usually has a wicked-low drop rate. Not today, sadly. My heart breaks a little for any athlete who has to drop from what is a dream race experience for most.
In the men’s race, Rachid El Morabity led from line to line, running aggressively from the start and putting seven minutes on his friend and running mentor, Mohamad Ahansal. Here at the finish line, Rachid said he felt strong all day. When asked what challenged him the most today, he said it was the heat! I haven’t seen Mohamad here at the finish line, but he told me he was very ready this morning before the start. Today’s third place runner, Salameh Al Aqra was spotted laughing and joking with his Jordanian friends here in the bivouac. Suffice it to say, he looks good!
France’s Laurence Klein took the women’s race out hard from the start and Great Britain’s Jennifer Salter was in hot pursuit. I spotted Jen here at the bivouac and, though we didn’t speak, I’m certain that she’s feeling strong. I’m predicting hot performances out of both Laurence and Jen at this year’s MdS.
My day was a brilliant one! I felt happy and physically strong all day long running at an easy effort. I can tell that my heat acclimation is solid, as I was able to eat, drink, and be merry all day long. The race results show me in fifth place, more than 36 minutes behind Laurence and perhaps 15 minutes behind Jen. I feel good, so I look forward to what this week of racing brings! We haven’t yet received our email messages for the day, but I’ll say thanks to those of you who are sending your messages of support. You better believe I can feel it out here in the Sahara. Run on!
Men – Stage 1
There were no surprises atop the men’s field in stage 1. In fact, the stage played out exactly as last year’s overall standings. Defending champ Rachid El Morabity of Morocco won the stage in 2:26:32, while four-time MdS champ and last year’s runner-up Mohamad Ahansal was 6:35 behind his fellow countryman. Salameh Al Aqra of Jordan crossed the line third nearly ten minutes (9:55) after the winner. Carlos Sa of Portugal was the top European finisher in fourth 13:46 back. Last year’s fifth place finisher, Mustapha Ait Amar, was also fifth in Stage 1 and sits 20:55 off the lead.
Here are some other notable finishers from Stage 1:
- 6th – Lorenzo Trincheri (ITA +21’15”) – Sixth place at 2009 MdS.
- 7th – Anton Vencelj (SLO +24’01”) – Fourth place and top European in 2009 MdS.
- 8th – David Pasquio (FRA +28’23”) – Second at UTMB and fourth at MdS in 2005.
- 9th – Jean Sebastien Braun (FRA +28’46”) – A huge jump after finishing 30th at the 2010 MdS.
- 10th – Damien Vierdet (FRA +29’06”) Fourth and top European at last year’s MdS.
- 14th – Aziz El Akad (MAR +34’51”) Second place in 2009 MdS.
- 18th – Marco Olmo (ITA +40’59”) This two-time Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc champion also has three third place finishes at MdS (’96, ’97, ’99). We should note that Marco is 63 years old!
- Leonid Svetsov – The Comrades Marathon record holder appears not to be racing this year’s MdS.
- There are no Americans in the Top 50. [Editor’s Note: I need to go back next year! – Bryon ;-)]
If you like, you can peruse the full men’s results of Stage 1.
Women – Stage 1
Defending women’s champ and former 100k world champ Laurence Klein left no doubt that she is, once again, the woman to beat at this year’s MdS. The Frenchwoman won the stage by almost twenty minutes in a time of 3:19:22. By placing second in the opening stage, Jen Salter (+19’26”) of the UK took a great first step on improving her best ever third place overall finish from 2010. Moroccan Meryem Khali (+26’21”) looked strong in her first-ever MdS stage, finishing third on the day. Frenchwoman Karine Baillet (+30’14”) was fourth, while iRunFar editor Meghan Hicks was fifth (+35’32”).
Here are the full women’s Stage 1 results, if you like.
Additional Information – Stage 1
- The “Roadbook” for Stage 1 – The roadbook is what competitors use to navigate the course. It will give you a feel for the terrain they are traversing each day.
- Official Stage 1 Press Release
- Stage 1 Photos
- Stage 1 Videos: Start and In-Stage Video
Updates Log (Started 9 am MDT April 10)
- 4/10: 9 am – Added Stage 3 overview; added crude men’s and women’s stage results as database not working for top 100+ not working; added photos, roadbook, and press releases for stage 3; added videos for Stage 2. 10 am – Added full men’s and women’s Stage 3 and Overall standings and commentary. 3 pm – Added Meghan’s Stage 3 report, Stage 3 photos, and link to Stage 3 photos.
- 4/11: 1 pm – Added Stage 3 video link; added basic description of Stage 4 and first men’s finishers. 3 pm – Added Editor’s Note re El Morabity not being in the results. 5 pm – Added Rachid El Morabity dropped out! 10 pm – Added full Stage 4 results (for the elites) and Overall standings.
- 4/12: 8:30 am – Revised Stage 4 and Overall women’s standings to reflect Meghan Hicks’ official finish.
- 4/13 11 pm – Added additional Stage 4 resources; added Stage 5 resources, results, and Meghan Hick’s report
- 4/15 9 am – Added Stage 6/Final results
- 4/16 3 am – Added Meghan Hicks’ Stage 6 report; added Stage 6 video link as well as award ceremony links