2010 Marathon des Sables Results and Commentary

iRunFar presents news and result updates for the 2010 Marathon des Sables.

By on April 9, 2010 | Comments

Marathon des Sables logoThe 25th Marathons des Sables is now in the history books and it was our pleasure to cover it. As usual, many newcomers made waves in the sandy dunes of the Sahara, but not all of the experienced racers would be left in the dust. Lest we spoil the story of the world’s most compelling trail race, we’ve sequentially provided updates for each stage in the 2010 Marathon des Sables. Click on any of the links below to jump to our coverage of a particular stage.

You may also enjoy our video interview with Mohamad Ahansal, four-time MdS champion, from the day after his third consecutive win! In addition, we’ve previous collected Marathon des Sables tips, training advice, and a personal account of the 2009 MdS.

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If you’ve found a great resource, photo gallery, interview, or competitor blog while following MdS, please leave us a comment letting us know about it! Likewise, we’d love to hear from MdS ’10 competitors with their thoughts about this year’s race. We’d also like to know what you think about our coverage of this year’s MdS. What did you like? What would you want to see done differently in the future?

* * * STAGE 1 * * *

Stage 1: Irhs/Khermou – 29 km (18 miles)
According to one competitor, it was a hot (105-110F day), but not unbearable especially with a nice breeze.

Men – Stage 1
Despite the huge field of 1013 starters, the top spots from this first stage were filled with names familiar to those who followed last year’s 24th Marathon des Sables. Defending champion Mohamad Ahansal won the stage in a blazing time of 2:11:08. Next across the line was Michael Wardian, a full eight and a half minutes behind Mohamad. Last year, Michael finished 8th overall, the highest finish ever by an American. Just 38 seconds behind Wardian, Salameh Al Aqra of Jordan matched his third place overall finish from last year’s race. Only a few seconds behind Al Aqra, Spain’s Jorge Abueso Martinez finished first among those who did race last year. Rounding out the top five was Aziz El Akad, the Moroccan who finished second to Ahansal by only four minutes and 14 seconds last year. It should be noted that El Akad was seen limping heavily in bivouac after Stage 1.

Here are some other notable finishers from Stage 1:

  • 6th – Mustahpa Ait Amar (MOR +13′ 01″) Last year’s 5th place finisher.
  • 7th – Lorenzo Trincheri (ITA +13′ 19″) His great long stage last year helped him earn 6th place.
  • 8th – Mohammad Alswaiti (JOR +15′ 40″) We’ve got nothing on this guy.
  • 9th – James Cracknell (GBR +17′ 04′) A two-time Olympic gold medalist… in crew!
  • 10th – Julio Gomez Camacho (SPN +17′ 33″) Julio rounded out the top ten last year.
  • 12th – Anton Vencelj (Slovenia +21′ 00″) Anton’s fourth place finish last year was the top placing by a European. MdS article profiling Anton.
  • 14th – Marco Olmo (ITA +25′ 04″) This two-time Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc champion also has three third place finishes at MdS (’96, ’97, ’99). Last year, he finished an incredible 12th at MdS as a 60 year old!

We’ve been getting daily updates on Michael Wardian’s progress. Key events through Stage 1 include his luggage being lost with a subsequent scramble for compulsory items, such as a knife and lighter, as well as ants infiltrating his first bivouac tent and his food forcing him to throw some away. For more on Wardian, check out his travel and Stage 1 updates on The North Face website.

Michael Wardian MdS 2010 Stage 1

Michael Wardian finishing second in Stage 1 of the 2010 Marathon des Sables. (photo by Cimbaly/Moleda)

If you like, you can peruse the full men’s results of Stage 1.

Women – Stage 1
In Stage 1, Spain’s Monica Aguilera proved that she’s one of the world’s best trail runners no matter what the terrain. After finishing third at last year’s Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, Aguilera bested last year’s MdS champion Touda Didi by just under three minutes. (Rumors were that Didi appeared to be injured and was running with difficulty.) Jolanda Linschooten of the Netherlands also finished ahead of Didi, but only by four seconds. Jennifer Salter of Wales finished fourth, nearly 20 minutes behind Aguilera. Alessia Bertolino of Italy was fifth on the day and enters Stage 2 half an hour behind the leader.

Meghan Hicks (US) and Luz Perez Carbajo (SPN) picked up their rivalry where they left off last year when the pair finished MdS in third and fourth, respectively. On Stage 1, the order was reversed with Perez finishing 45 seconds ahead of Hicks to put the duo in sixth and seventh. Luisa Balsamo (ITA), Laurence Archambault (FRA), and Isabelle Degrand (FRA) closed out the top 10 for Stage 1.

After the stage, Hicks reported, “I’m well and very happy to be here. Feeling good. All the body parts and mind are content.”

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

* * * STAGE 2 * * *

Stage 2: Khermou/Jebel El Oftal – 35.5 km (22 miles)
All but five of the 1013 runners who started Stage 1 returned for Stage 2. Here’s how they fared.

Women – Stage 2

Monica Aguilera Viladomiu Stage 2 MdS 2010

Monica Aguilera after finishing Stage 2 of the 2010 Marathon des Sables. (photo by Cimbaly-Moleda)

Spain’s Monica Aguilera again bested the rest of the women’s field for second straight day. She finished three and half minutes in front of Touda Didi (MOR). Jolanda Linschooten (NDL) crossed the line a quarter hour after Aguilera. Jennifer Salter (GBR) and Alessia Bertolino (ITA) again finished fourth and fifth with only two minutes separating the pair. They were fifty minutes behind Aguilera on the day.

An hour behind the stage winner, Meghan Hicks finished 6th to once again be the top American woman. The rest of Stage 2’s top 10 consisted of Laurence Archambault (FRA +1hr 7′ 50″), Luisa Balsamo (ITA +1hr 17′ 26″), Luz Perez Carbajo (SPN +1hr 18′ 10″), as well as Michele Hilger Henricy (LUX +1hr 34′ 56″) and Josee Beauregard (CAN +1hr 34′ 56″) who finished together in tenth.

Full women’s Stage 2 results are available.

After two stages, the overall women’s ranked as follows:

  1. Monica Aguilera (SPN) 6h 58’ 45″
  2. Didi Touda (MOR) +6′ 17″
  3. Jolanda Linshooten (NDL) +17′ 28″

Men – Stage 2
Stage 2 saw a repeat of Stage 1 in the top three spots with Mohamad Ahansal (MOR), Michael Wardian (USA), and Salameh Al Aqra (JOR) going 1, 2, 3. Wardian was 9 minutes and 4 seconds behind Ahansal, while Al Aqra was 12 minutes and 8 seconds behind the Moroccan. Wardian had been in third place for a majority of the stage before passing Al Aqra. Michael further reported:

Today was great, I ran strong but Mohamad got away (think he has 8 minutes) on a climb and I thought I would roll him up on the flat (like the other guys), but he was strong and ran smart. I am feeling fantastic and while I ran hard I didn’t expend all my energy and have been able to eat and rehydrate since the finish, so I will be in good shape for tomorrow.

Michael Wardian Stage 2 MdS 2010

Michael Wardian finishing Stage 2 at the 2010 Marathon des Sables. (photo by Cimbaly-Moleda)

The North Face has a more detailed report on Wardian’s run in Stage 2.

Spaniards Jorge Abueso Martinez (+17′ 53″) and Aurelio Antonio Olivar Roldan (+25′ 42″) took fourth and fifth in Stage 2. Other Europeans took the next three spots as well. Lorenzo Trincheri (ITA +28′ 28″) was sixth, British Olympic Gold Medal Rower James Cracknell finished an impressive seventh (+29′ 37″), and Anton Vencelj (+31′ 39″) of Slovenia took eighth. In ninth, Stuart Gibson (32′ 16″) headed the Australian contingent, while Julio Gomez Camacho (SPN +36′ 59″) placed tenth. Marco Olmo (ITA +39′ 36″) once again finished 14th in stage.

A few top finishers from Stage 1 dropped off significantly in Stage 2. Of most significance was the withdrawal of last year’s second place finisher Aziz El Akad (MOR) from the race. He had been seen walking with great discomfort in bivouac the evening after the first stage. Mustapha Ait Aram (MOR) finished fifth overall in 2009 and finished sixth in the first stage of 2010; however, he placed a disappointing 18th finishing more than 57 minutes behind Ahansal.

Here are the full men’s Stage 2 results.

Here are the men’s overall rankings through Stage 2:

  1. Mohamad Ahansal (MOR) 5h 00’ 14’’
  2. Michael Wardian (USA) +17′ 35″
  3. Salameh Al Aqra (JOR) +21′ 18″

Additional Information – Stage 2

  • The “Roadbook” for Stage 2
  • Official Stage 2 Press Release
  • Stage 2 Photos
  • Stage 2 Videos

* * * STAGE 3 * * *

Stage 3: Jebel El Otfal/Taourirt Mouchanne – 40 Km (25 miles)
If it weren’t for the impending long stage in Stage 4, this would have clearly been the definitive stage of the 25th Marathon des Sables. Runners were dropping like flies… and that was before the stage even started! In all 32 runners abandoned the race before or during the stage.

Women – Stage 3
The most notable withdrawal was two-time defending women’s champion Touda Didi. Didi finished Stage 2 in second overall only three and a half minutes behind leader Monica Aguilera. With their first steps in Stage 3, Jolanda Linschooten of the Netherlands and Jennifer Salton of Wales moved into second and third overall. As luck would have it, Aguilera, Linschooten (+14′ 04″), and Salton (+17′ 26″) all matched their on-the-course overall positions in Stage 3.

Touda Didi 2010 Marathon des Sables withdraw

Touda Didi withdrew from the 2010 Marathon des Sables prior to Stage 3. (photo by Cimbaly)

Alessia Bertolino (ITA +32′ 00″) and Laurance Archambault (FRA +41′ 43″) ran strong to take the fourth and fifth spots in the stage. Michele Hilger Henricy (LUX +58′ 56″), sixth, and Meghan Hicks (USA +1h 00′ 23″), seventh, both finished about an hour behind Aguilera. Last year’s third place woman, Luz Perez Carbajo (SPN +1h 35′ 26″), suffered mightily on the day. While Perez Carbajo fell out of contention, she remained in the race.

Take a look at the full Stage 3 women’s results.

With Didi’s withdrawal and both Hicks and Perez Carbajo suffering in the heat… not to mention an infusion of world class female competitors, the podium will surely be topped by three new women when the runners return to Ouarzazate in the few days. Absent Didi, the trio of Aguilera, Linschooten, and Salton have been steady and have finished in the same relative positions each stage. The three look like they are “it,” but anything can happen on the long stage!

Women’s Overall Rankings through Stage 3:

  1. Monica Viladomiu (SPN) 11h 17’ 32’’
  2. Jolanda Linshooten (NDL) +32′ 32″
  3. Jennifer Salter (GBR) +1h 25′ 04″

Men – Stage 3
During long efforts in hot weather the body must balance blood flow between the muscles, the stomach, and the skin, where heat is radiated from the body. If you push any one side of this triangle too far in one direction, the whole pyramid comes crashing down. Michael Wardian learned such a lesson in Stage 3. He tried to hang with the top runners as long as he could. He even took the lead at times. (Video proof) Then the wheels came off en route to 16th place finish in the stage. Here is how his wife relayed Michael’s stage after a brief phone call via sat phone.

He said the lead group went out strong and kept a fast pace. He held on for as long as he could, but the heat got to him. He regrets not slowing down sooner. He thinks if he had backed down 10 seconds per mile, he would have had a stronger finish, but in true Mike fashion said, “I couldn’t let them just run away from me.” He walked into Checkpoint 3, vomited a few times, and kept walking for quite some time. He sounded weak when I spoke with him and was stunned to hear he was as far back as he is. He assured me that he’s OK, that has been drinking a lot of water, and that he will be able to handle tomorrow’s long stage.

Michael later summed up Stage 3 as follows:

Only 40K today, but very hot and Mohamad/Salameh/Mustapha brought it. I was running tough with them (I even led I thought I’d do some damage, but was wrong about that.), but then I overheated between Checkpoint 2 and Checkpoint 3 and lost contact with them. I got sick right after Checkpoint 3 (fending off the doctors) and couldn’t cool down. I had to walk for approximately 40 minutes, but then was able to recover enough to jog in the last 5K. Very frustrating as today suited me. It was basically fast and flat, but the temps soared, the surface was reflecting the heat, and I went from running fast and strong to surviving.

An update from The North Face provides a more complete report on Michael’s day.

Mohamad Ahansal Stage 3 2010 Marathon des Sables

The Sultan of the Sands, Mohamad Ahansal, en route to winning Stage 3 of the 2010 Marathon des Sables. (photo by Cimbaly)

Meanwhile, Mohamad Ahansal once again flew across sand and stone. It appears he cannot be stopped. The other top competitors try to run with him for as long as they can, which is never the entire length of the day’s stage. Once free, Mohamad does not need to decimate his competition. Instead, his significant lead in the overall standings (more than 17 minutes going into Stage 3) means he can relax up front, conserving energy for the assault his competitors will unleash the following day. Ahansal has said that he has trained harder than ever and is better prepared than for an previous MdS… and he’s won two! Like we said, he cannot be stopped.

Salameh Al Aqra (JOR) again made a spirited attempt to vanquish Ahansal. Again he failed, this time by a mere 70 seconds. With Wardian out of the hunt for the day, Jorge Aubeso Martinez (SPN +8′ 43″) picked up his first top three placing in this year’s MdS. Mustapha Ait Amar (MOR + 9′ 43″) finished only a minute behind Aubeso to take fourth. Julio Gomez Camacho (SPN +21′ 11″) moved up one spot from Stage 2 to round out the top five.

Here are some other notable Stage 3 finishes:

  • 6th – Mohammad Alswaiti (JOR +26′ 35″)
  • 7th – Anton Vencelj (Slovenia +33′ 52″)
  • 8th – Abdelaziz Ait Abdelouahed (MOR +33′ 54″)
  • 9th – Kurt Ploner (ITA +34′ 47″)
  • 10th – Gabriel Santamaria Manso (SPN +36′ 54″)
  • 17th – James Cracknell (GBR +46′ 52″) – A brilliantly candid video of James after Stage 3
  • 18th – Marco Olmo (ITA +49′ 16″)

Full men’s Stage 3 results are available.

Men’s Overall Rankings through Stage 3:

  1. Mohamad Ahansal (MOR): 08h 01’ 19’’
  2. Salameh Al Aqra (JOR) +22′ 29″
  3. Jorge Aubeso Martinez (SPN) +35′ 53″

Additional Information – Stage 3

  • The “Roadbook” for Stage 3
  • Official Stage 3 Press Release
  • Stage 3 Photos
  • Stage 3 Videos

* * * STAGE 4 * * *

Stage 4: Taourirt Mouchanne/Oued El Djaid – 82.2 km (51 miles)
Men – Stage 4
Mohamad Ahansal has clearly established himself as the best of the best over the past three Marathons des Sables. With his win of the “long stage,” Ahansal is now four for four in stage victories this MdS. While no match for Ahansal, Jordanian Salameh Al Aqra is establishing himself as being above all mortals with efforts that put him closer to the Moroccan than to the rest of the field. Yes, Al Aqra finished 17 minutes and 49 seconds behind Ahansal in Stage 4, but he bested third place by 1 hour and 7 minutes and fourth 1 hour and 46 minutes. Amazing!

Mohamad Ahansal Stage 4 Marathon des Sables 2010

Mohamad Ahansal winning the long stage of the 2010 Marathon des Sables. (photo by AFP / Getty Images / Pierre Verdy)

Speaking of amazing, Michael Wardian’s (USA +1h 24′ 55″) third place finish in Stage 4 is just that! After heat stroke and a horrendous performance (for him) in Stage 3, he recovered overnight and made another go of it. One bad stage will not dampen his race. Kurt Polner (ITA +2h 04′ 06″) ran a breakthrough stage to finish fourth. Spain’s Aurelio Antonio Olivar Roldan (+2h 18′ 54″) ran well enough for fifth.

On his rest day after the long stage, Wardian reported the following:

Feeling terrific and bounced back huge yesterday. I ran I think one of the best 50 mile races in my life. I let Mohamad/Salameh crack the 1st group and I just ran within myself and cleaned up the scraps. I was extremely mindful of the heat and was taking all the water they provided (2 x 1.5 liters whenever offered) and I used every drop. I was so spent at the end, it was terrific, felt like I really pushed the whole way and ran as fast as I could given the heat and terrain. The 50 was so sandy and challenging, but I really excelled and think I put myself in a great position to podium. Besides that, I am doing ok on food and have enjoyed most of my meals, the PowerGels have been working great. I am planning to rest a lot today to be ready to mix it up the next two days and come home with a podium finish. I am dreaming of watermelon/smoothies/pizza/fresh bananas/berries and juice of all kinds…

Michael Wardian Stage 4 Marathon des Sables 2010

Michael Wardian is neither short nor stout. (photo by Cimbaly)

Other notable finishes from Stage 4 include:

  • 8th – Abdelaziz Ait Abdelouahed (MOR +2h 37′ 54″)
  • 10th – Jorge Aubeso Martinez (SPA +2h 40′ 29″)
  • 12th – Marco Olmo (ITA +2h 53′ 21″)
  • 13th – Mohammad Alswaiti (JOR +2h 59′ 13″)
  • 17th – James Cracknell (GBR + 3h 04′ 50″) – By far this rower’s longest run ever… and he was in 5th through 25 km.

Full men’s Stage 4 results are available.

Men’s Overall Rankings through Stage 4:

  1. Mohamad Ahansal (MOR) 15h 11′ 14″
  2. Salameh Al Aqra (JOR) +40′ 19″
  3. Michael Wardian (USA) +2h 29′ 00″
  4. Jorge Aubeso Martinez (SPA) + 3h 16′ 22″
  5. Aurelio Antonio Olivar Roldan (SPA) +3h 57′ 20″

It’s worth noting that Italy’s ageless Marco Olmo sits in 11th just 16 minutes behind his countryman Franco Zanotti. We’ve got our fingers crossed for Marco making the Top 10 by Ouarzazate!

Women – Stage 4
Women’s race leaders Monica Aguilera (SPA 11h 28’59”) and Jolanda Linschooten (NDL +1″) ran the entire stage together. Perhaps Aguilera had decided to sit on Linschooten’s shoulder and mark her every move. On the other hand, the two ladies could have called a truce. We suspect a combination of the two.

Last year’s runner up female, Meghan Hicks (USA), continued her strong efforts of previous days until near the final checkpoint. It then took her 10 hours to cover the final 10 kilometers. We’ve since received word that Hicks needed non-emergency medical attention at the final checkpoint. After recovering, she walked the final 10 kilometers to finish the 51 mile stage in 21 and a half hours. Below is an excerpt of an email she sent after finishing the stage. (As bivouac emails are of an extremely limited length, we’ve lightly edited the piece for better readability.)

Hot is the word of the week. Two days ago (Stage 3) temperature recorded at 46 C (115 F), yesterday recorded at 50 C (122 F). Michael Wardian blazed the long course yesterday. He paced himself regardless of what the field around him was doing. This allowed him to run tough all day. The results prove it. He rocks. As for me, I ran smooth until about 65k, moving steady through the field. Then I had to take an all night break at the last checkpoint. 8 hours. … I was a mess, but came around and managed the last 10k walking in, arriving at maybe 6:30 a.m.

Familiar names, Jennifer Salter (GBR +34′ 22″) and Alessia Bertolino (ITA +34′ 32″) took third and fourth on the long stage. Sixth place woman Jennifer Vogel (USA +1h 22′ 58″) picked the right day to have her best stage.

Full women’s Stage 4 results are available.

Women’s Overall Rankings through Stage 4:

  1. Monica Aguilera (SPN) 22h 47’ 13’’
  2. Jolanda Linshooten (NDL) +32′ 32″
  3. Jennifer Salter (GBR) +1h 59′ 27″
  4. Alessia Bertolino (ITA) +2h 27′ 21″
  5. Laurence Archambault (FRA) +3h 53′ 59″

In seventh, Jennifer Vogel is now the top American woman in the overall standings. She is 25 minutes behind sixth place.

Additional Information – Stage 4

  • The “Roadbook” for Stage 4
  • Official Stage 4 Mid-Stage Press Release
  • Official Stage 4 Completed Press Release
  • Stage 4 – Day 1 Photos
  • Stage 4 – Day 2 Photos
  • An excellent photo series by Pierre Verdy (AFP / Getty Images) on the Sacramento Bee (California, USA) website
  • Stage 4 – Day 1 Videos
  • Stage 4 – Day 2 Videos

* * * STAGE 5 * * *

Stage 5: Oued El Jdaid/Erg Znaigui 42.2 km (26.2 miles – marathon)
Keeping with tradition, MdS competitors ran the official marathon distance (26.2 miles/42.2 km) as a follow up to the preceding “long stage.”

Women – Stage 5
Stop the presses! Jennifer Salter (GBR) upsets Monica Aguilera (SPN) in today’s stage! Wow! Apparently adept at the marathon distance, the Welsh woman bested the seemingly unstoppable Spaniard by 4 minutes and 14 seconds. Aguilera was again challenged by Jolanda Linschooten (NDL), but held off the Dutch woman by a mere 21 seconds. It’s results like this that keep us so excited about the Marathon des Sables!

Italy’s Alessia Bertolino (+4′ 46″) and France’s Laurence Archambault (+14′ 55″) each matched the fourth and fifth place rankings they held in the general classification going into the stage. Bertolino finished the stage just 10 seconds behind Linschooten and an impressive 31 seconds behind Aguilera. American Jennifer Vogel (+18′ 08″) repeated her sixth place showing from Stage 4.

Meghan Hicks MdS 2010 Stage 5

Meghan Hicks running in good health during Stage 5 of the 2010 Marathon des Sables. (Photo by Cimbaly)

For those of you who may have been worried about Meghan Hicks after her rough Stage 4, you can now rest easy. She was the twelfth woman today, a respectable 36 minutes behind the women’s winner… Hold on a minute… The stars have aligned perfectly. Hicks called while we were typing this very paragraph! Really. Here’s what she had to say:

Going into the long stage (Stage 4), she thought she had a chance to move past Bertolino and Archambault in the overall standings. Due to the top 5 women starting 3 hours after the main field, Meghan wasn’t able to know her position relative to these women during the stage. She pushed hard in the early going in an attempt to clear as much of the extensive dune fields in the stage’s final 30k (19 miles) as she could before dark. Her downward spiral began not long before the final checkpoint. She believes that the initial cause of her difficulties was insufficient calories. She wisely observed, “It’s kinda hard to eat when it’s 125F!”

Meghan has also retracted a previous statement that she’s retiring from racing. However, she “will be focusing on setting a 50k PR.” Before the phone cut out, she added that she’s really enjoying herself!

As a bonus, below is an except from an email Meghan Hicks sent after Stage 5:

What a lovely day here. Cooler. Just 99 degrees F (37C). I had to put my windbreaker on to go back to cheer at the finish! You can tell the difference!

I ran easy today. I felt totally well, but no need to run hard and push, as it’s no longer a race for me.

Michael Wardian basically sealed the deal for third place overall by sitting on his closest competitor today. With such a competitive men’s field, it’s HUGE that he will finish so high. He’s just through the roof. The US should be really proud!

Just 13 miles to run tomorrow. Half of the stage is through the southern end of the Erg Chebbi dunes, which Bryon recalls from last year. Beautiful tall, red dunes.

Full women’s Stage 4 results are finally up.

As we predicted earlier there were not any changes in the top 5 places of the overall standings.

  1. Monica Aguilera (SPN) 27h 33’ 55’’
  2. Jolanda Linshooten (NDL) +32′ 54″
  3. Jennifer Salter (GBR) +1h 55′ 11″
  4. Alessia Bertolino (ITA) +2h 27′ 52″
  5. Laurence Archambault (FRA) +4h 04′ 41″

Top American woman, Jennifer Vogel, remains in seventh overall. Laurence Archambault’s (FRA) 22 minute on edge on Vogel for sixth place seems insurmountable at this point. Vogel has an 51 minute advantage over eight place.

Men – Stage 5
We’ve considered discontinuing men’s stage updates. You know and we know that another day means another stage win for the Sultan of Sand, Mohamad Ahansal. In Stage 5, the Moroccan broke away from Salameh Al Aqra (JOR) after Checkpoint 2 (24 km/15 miles) to once again win in convincing fashion. Ahansal put nearly a minute per mile on Al Aqra over the stage’s final 11 miles with 8 minutes and 56 seconds being his eventual margin of victory.

Mohamad Ahansal Salameh Al Aqra Mds 2010 Stage 5

Mohamad Ahansal (MOR) and Salameh Al Aqra (JOR) battle early during Stage 5 of MdS 2010. Ahansal went on to win the stage. (photo by Cimbaly)

Not heard from since Stage 1, Mustapha Ait Amar (MOR +19′ 12″) ran a great stage to earn a third place tie with fellow countryman Abdelaziz Ait Abdelouahed. However, this should not be seen as a surprise as Ait Amar had placed fifth overall at the 2009 Marathon des Sables. After a few unspectacular stages, Slovenia’s Anton Vencelj (+24′ 49″) ran his way to fifth place in the marathon distance stage.

Michael Wardian (USA +29′ 39″), solidly entrenched in third in the overall standings, seems content to have run evenly throughout the day. He was in eighth at the first checkpoint (13.1 km/8.1 miles) and seventh at the second checkpoint (23.9 km/14.9 miles). Probably a wise strategy after his rough Stage 3 and excellent run in Stage 4. According to his wife Jennifer, who saw him cross the finish of Stage 5 via webcam, “He looked great, laughing and smiling and high-fiving.”

An email from Wardian confirms our suspicion that he ran cautiously in Stage 5. It also points out that an unusually strenuous half marathon (even by MdS standards) remains between competitors and the finish. Here’s an excerpt from his message:

I ran right with Jorge (Spaniard in 4th) until he had to stop to take care of some business. Then I put some more time into him. I think that I should be able to hold my podium position as we just have 21K (13.1 miles) to go. That being said, it is not an easy 21K. We have a small section of dunes at the beginning of the stage and then after 14K we go over/through some of the most impressive/massive dunes in North Africa. That will end the race and one of the most memorable racing experiences I have ever had. This race really tests your fitness/dedication/commitment and I am so pleased with how it has gone. I feel like I have pushed myself to the limit (day 3 comes to mind), but that I can still improve.

Other notable Stage 5 finishes:

  • 7th – Aurelio Antonio Olivar Roldan (SPA +24′ 59″)
  • 8th – Franco Zanotti (ITA +31′ 07″)
  • 9th – Jorge Aubeso Martinez (SPA +32′ 08″)
  • 10h – Kurt Plover (ITA +32′ 26″)
  • 14th – James Cracknell (GBR +41′ 33″)
  • 16th – Marco Olmo (ITA +43′ 16″)

Full men’s Stage 5 results are available.

Men’s Overall Rankings through Stage 5:

  1. Mohamad Ahansal (MOR) 18h 21′ 48″
  2. Salameh Al Aqra (JOR) +49′ 15″
  3. Michael Wardian (USA) +2h 58′ 39″
  4. Jorge Aubeso Martinez (SPA) + 3h 48′ 30″
  5. Aurelio Antonio Olivar Roldan (SPA) +4h 27′ 09″

It’s worth noting that there could still be a battles for the fifth and sixth position on the final “short” stage. Kurt Plover (ITA) is in 6th, 5 minutes and 35 seconds behind Olivar Roldan. Abdelaziz Ait Abdelouahed (MOR) is only another 1 minute and 25 seconds behind Ait Abdelouahed. Likewise, a mere 38 seconds separate eight place Franco Zanotti (ITA) from ninth place Sebastien Nain (FRA). The British Olympian James Cracknell sits just outside the top 10 in eleventh, but has little chance of making up more than 13 minutes in the final stage. Finally, Marco Olmo currently ranks thirteenth and would need to make up just under 5 minutes in the final stage to move up to twelfth.

Additional Information – Stage 5

  • The “Roadbook” for Stage 5
  • Official Stage 5 Press Release
  • Stage 5 Photos
  • Stage 5 Video

* * * STAGE 6 * * *

Stage 6: Erg Znaigui/Merzoura 21.1 km (13.1 miles/half marathon)
It was a very tough final stage. While it was only a half marathon in length, it crossed the huge sand dunes of Erg Chebi. We would describe the dunes, but they are indescribable! Go run MdS and find out for yourself!

Men – Stage 6
Mohamad Ahansal of Morocco runs a perfect Marathon des Sables in 2010 by winning each and every stage of the race’s six stages. He truly is the Sultan of Sand. He completed the final stage in 1 hour, 33 minutes, and 20 seconds. As has been the case most of the week, Jordan’s Salameh Al Aqra managed to stay closer to Ahansal than anyone else. Al Aqra finished just over 2 minutes behind the Moroccan.

After biding his time for much of the race, Mustapha Ait Amar (MOR +3′ 13″) repeated his third place finish of Stage 5 and once again did it side-by-side with his fellow Moroccan Abdelaziz Ait Abdelouahed. Fifth across the line was Slovenian Anton Vencelj (+5′ 21″), the top European on the final day of this year’s MdS. The North Face’s Michael Wardian (USA! +13′ 10″) finished tenth for the stage… but was a full 23 minutes ahead of Jorge Aubeso Martinez (SPA), who started the day just behind Wardian in the overall standings. Fifth place overall runner Aurelio Antonio Olivar Roldan (SPA) was one place and one minute behind Wardian today.

Full Men’s Stage 6 Results are available.

Final Men’s Overall Rankings – Top 10

  1. Mohamad Ahansal (MOR) 19h 55′ 08″ – His third straight MdS title. Congratulations, Mohamad!
  2. Salameh Al Aqra (JOR) +51′ 22″
  3. Michael Wardian (USA) +3h 15′ 54″ – The best finish ever by an American at MdS!
  4. Jorge Aubeso Martinez (SPA )+4h 24′ 47″
  5. Abdelaziz Ait Abdelouahed (MOR) +4h 37′ 22″ – He overtook Spain’s Aurelio Antonio Olivar Roldan in the final stage!
  6. Aurelio Antonio Olivar Roldan (SPA) +4h 41′ 11″
  7. Kurt Ploner (ITA) +4h 45′ 55″
  8. Franco Zanotti (ITA) +5h 14′ 37″
  9. Julio Gomez Camacho (SPN) +5h 19′ 20″
  10. Sebastien Nain (FRA) +5h 24′ 12″

Other Notable Men’s Overall Finishes:

  • 11th – Stuart Gibson (AUS) +5h 36′ 37″
  • 12th – James Cracknell (GBR) +5h 44′ 26″
  • 13th – Marco Olmo (ITA) +5h 48′ 20″
  • 14th – Mustapha Ait Amar (MOR) +5h 53′ 18″
  • 16th – Anton Vencelj (Slovenia) +6h 30′ 53″

You can take a look at the Final Men’s General Classification Rankings, if you want to see deeper results.

If you want to see the overall result the Marathon des Sables can have on one’s feet, here’s third place finisher Michael Wardian unveiling his heavily blistered feet after the race.

Women – Stage 6
Bravo, Laurence Archambault of France for winning the final stage of the Marathon des Sables in a time of 2 hours, 15 minutes, and 20 seconds. Archambault raced to the line to beat Alessia Bertolino (ITA) by only four seconds! Fellow Italian, Luisa Balsamo (+1′ 12″), ran well enough to take third in this sandy stage. Fourth across the line was Jennifer Salter (GBR +4′ 09″), who capped off a fantastic week in the Sahara.

Speaking of great weeks, we take our hats off to Monica Aguilera’s (SPN +4′ 56″) performance! She finished fifth in a stage where she had nothing to prove. Likewise, the second place runner in the overall standings, Jolanda Linschooten (+8′ 00″) of the Netherlands, cruised the stage to finish seventh.

Full Women’s Stage 6 Results are available.

Final Women’s Overall Rankings – Top 10
As we suspected overnight (our time), the final stage brought no changes in ranking among the top 5 women.

  1. Monica Aguilera (SPN) 29h 54′ 11″
  2. Jolanda Linshooten (NDL) +35′ 58″
  3. Jennifer Salter (GBR) +1h 24′ 55″
  4. Alessia Bertolino (ITA) +2h 23′ 00″
  5. Laurence Archambault (FRA) +3h 59′ 44″
  6. Luisa Balsamo (ITA) +5h 24′ 25″
  7. Jennifer Vogel (USA) +5h 56′ 27″
  8. Tiffany Saibil (CAN) +6h 56′ 17″
  9. Valerie Lacarriera (FRA) +7h 54′ 20″
  10. Isabelle DeGrand (FRA) +8h 28′ 04″

Last year’s second and third place overall women, Meghan Hicks (USA – 2nd in ’09) and Luz Perez Carbajo (SPN – 3rd in ’09), finished much further down in the standings this year. While each had her hopes of another top finish dashed by great suffering, the two women valiantly persevered to the finish. In addition, despite finishing many hours behind the winners, the two were separated by less than an hour.

Here are the complete Final Women’s Overall Rankings.

Additional Information – Stage 6

  • The “Roadbook” for Stage 6
  • Official Stage 6 Press Release (brief)
  • Stage 6 Photos
  • Stage 6 Videos

Interviews with/Stories on Top Runners

  • 1st – Monica Aguilera (SPN):
    • Interview after Stage 1
    • Interview after overall victory
  • 2nd – Jolanda Linschooten (NDL)
  • 3rd – Jennifer Salter (GBR)


  • 1st – Mohamad Ahansal (MOR)
  • 3rd – Michael Wardian (USA)
  • 16th – Anton Vencelj (Slovenia)
Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.