Lhoucine Akhdar Pre-2013 Marathon des Sables Interview

Lhoucine Akhdar is a native of Zagora, Morocco, a town not too far from where the Marathon des Sables takes place each year. The 2013 edition of the MdS is his fourteenth go at the event. In this interview, learn about Lhoucine’s training for this year’s race, the team on which he’ll be competing for a team ranking, and what he thinks about his home in the Sahara and his “hometown race.”

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Lhoucine Akhdar Pre-2013 Marathon des Sables Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Hi, this is Meghan of iRunFar here in the Sahara Desert of southern Morocco. I’m here with one of the 2013 Marathon des Sables top potential competitors, Lhoucine Akhdar. Salaam alaikum.

Lhoucine Akhdar: Salaam, Meghan. How are you Meghan?

iRF: Good. How are you?

Akhdar: Fine, thanks.

iRF: Good. It’s the end of a beautiful day in the Sahara Desert. How are you feeling?

Akhdar: Very happy. I feel so good. I’m very happy to be here in the desert.

iRF: You’re very happy to be in the desert. This is your home. The Sahara Desert is yours.

Akhdar: Yes, I was born in the desert not far from Zagora. I like the desert. I LOVE the desert.

iRF: Right now, we’re about 100 kilometers south of Zagora. We’re not too far from Algeria, you tell us.

Akhdar: Yes. We are not far from Algeria. We have maybe 45k from Algeria. Here, we have maybe 65k to Zagora.

iRF: We’re way out there right now. We’ve just had about a 12 or 13k training run. We carried our heavy bags for Marathon des Sables. How did you feel running with your heavy bag today?

Akhdar: Today, running with the heavy bag, I feel so good. I have good legs, good head, so I feel so good.

iRF: You have had a strong season of training in preparation for this edition. How are you feeling fitness-wise?

Akhdar: I started my training for Marathon des Sables in December. I train in France in December, and then I come to Zagora to finish my training and visit a little bit in the mountains.

iRF: This is, we think, your fourteenth time running the Marathon des Sables. How does your training compare this time as compared to other editions? It is good? Bad? Average? WHOOOO, there’s a beetle on my leg!

Akhdar: Ahh, many peoples of the desert—so nice. It’s inviting you to drink tea.

iRF: How’s your training been?

Akhdar: I’ve trained very hard this year because I want to go through this race with my brother, Samir Akhdar. I hope to make it a good race this year.

iRF: Your top finish at Marathon des Sables is third in 2005?

Akhdar: Yes, I was third in 2005. Maybe twice I was fifth I think… just after I was third. I’ve been fifth, sixth, seventh.

iRF: You’re racing the Marathon des Sables on a team with your brother, Samir, and with Mohamad Ahansal. Do you have a team strategy? This is an individual race and also a team race. You also want to win as a team. Is there any strategy there?

Akhdar: Me and Mohamad, we have a good team for this year, but we haven’t a strategy for the race. I run alone, Samir is alone, Mohamad alone, but we hope to win the team competition in Marathon des Sables. We hope to have the podium.

iRF: The sun is going to go down here in the Sahara Desert in a couple of hours. The shadows are long. We’re actually very fortunate that we’re spending the night out here tonight. We’re sleeping in a very remote bivouac out here. What do you have to say to the 1,000 people who are coming to your country to run the race next week? What do you have to say to them about your land and its beauty?

Akhdar: First, I want to tell them you’re welcome in Morocco! We’re very happy to see them and to tour with them.

iRF: You’re happy to run with them, even though you’ll be running in front of almost all of them.

Akhdar: Maybe we can say that. We have one week before Marathon des Sables and the first stage. I’d just like to say we’ll make a good race together.

iRF: Yes, there is no race if everybody isn’t here. Good luck to you!

Akhdar: Thank you, Meghan.

iRF: Best of luck to you in the 2013 Marathon des Sables. We’ll look for you in the top results.

Akhdar: Thank you! You’re welcome!

iRF: Thank you! Sorry if we’re looking a little goofy out here. I’m a white person and I haven’t adapted to the desert. I have to wear goofy gaiters. Thanks.

Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com’s Senior Editor, the author of ‘Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running,’ and a Contributing Editor at Trail Runner magazine. The converted road runner finished her first ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world’s wildest places. For more information on Meghan and her adventures, please visit her personal website.

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