Mohamad Ahansal of Morocco is a fixture at the Marathon des Sables having run the race 16 times, won it four times, and finished second 10 times! He ran MdS once again this year, finishing second to Salameh Al Aqra. In the following interview he shares how he feels about finishing second for the second straight year, how his race went, what he thinks about Rachid El Morabity’s (Mohamad’s close friend, last year’s winner, and the race leader for through Stage 3) injury, and how many more times he might run MdS.
Mohamad Ahansal Post-2012 Marathon des Sables Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Here we are with the Marathon des Sables 2012 second place finisher, Mohamad Ahansal. Congratulations! Felicitacions! How are you feeling today?
Mohamad Ahansal: Thank you very much! I feel extremely happy. I came out of the race very healthy. Second place for the second year is an honorable lot that I’m really happy with, so I’m a happy man.
iRF: You’ve been at this race for how many times, for how many years?
Ahansal: This is the 16th time. I’ve won it four times. Second place 10 times.
iRF: I think it makes us better just by being in proximity with you. I can feel myself getting faster. Well, let’s talk about this race for a moment. How did you feel out there day-by-day? Which stage was a good stage and which stage was the hardest for you this year?
Ahansal: This year I was a bit hesitant from the beginning. I did not feel I was at my 100%. I felt the temperature more than I normally do. I had a bit of a fever, so I wasn’t really sure how my body would do. I just ran my rhythm and let the results take care of themselves. I just wanted to run safely and make sure I crossed the line without injuries or serious problems and what happened was I came out in second place. I’m extremely happy.
The longest stage, I had a bit of a problem with my knee, so I decided just to run smartly and to finish the stage and finish the race. When I got there I heard about Rachid El Morabity and, of course, it was a very sad and low moment for him in the race.
iRF: Yes. Back to how you felt in the race for just a moment before we talk about Rachid. As the race went on did you feel your own personal condition stayed the same, got worse, or improved? How did you feel day-by-day?
Ahansal: Since the first day I didn’t feel very good, as the race went on I realized the rhythm of the race was just a bit too high and I didn’t want to keep up with it otherwise I wouldn’t be healthy. So I decided to keep my health hoping the next day would be better. It didn’t get worse, but I didn’t feel I was improving every day. So I kept my rhythm and kept a stable force and I got where I got.
iRF: Well, I’m impressed. To not feel 100% and to still achieve second place in the stiff men’s competition is very impressive, Mohamad.
Ahansal: The tough part in reality after that was keeping the morale and then mental effort continuing—trying to push, but nothing was coming out with the push. So it was tough from that point of view, but I’m happy with it. Especially in the Marathon des Sables, it’s all about the mental power and morale of the person. If you have the morale and the mental power, then you can seriously push even if the body is not at 100%. However, the muscles can play at 100% and you’re mentally not there it’s not the same. That’s what happens.
iRF: MdS is a mind game as well as a physical game.
Ahansal: Yes, of course, training is very important but the morale is, too.
iRF: What? Off the couch, I can’t do it? (Translator: I was hoping I’d get better next year!)
iRF: Let’s talk about your friend, Rachid El Morabity, who suffered a race-ending injury at the end of the long stage. Now, out at the race, we got to see a TV report that showed your reaction to Rachid’s injury and on this television cast you were crying. It made me cry to see how emotionally affected you were by Rachid’s injury. Talk about Rachid’s injury for a moment. What happened to his body, and what has happened to him since the race? Has he received surgery? Where is he at right now?
Ahansal: The first thing I did when I got to Ouarzazate was to call Rachid and I called Rachid’s brother. The actual report said there were two types of injury. One was a compound fracture of the femur plus a torn quadriceps muscle. It was a complex injury and, unfortunately, the delay in the transport was a factor in the injury. He had to go through an eight-hour surgery to fix the compound fracture there. Unfortunate, but he’s going to have to have his time to recover. As an athlete we can understand and relate to all of that.
iRF: Certainly my heart goes out to Rachid and I’m certain that iRunFar.com and all of its supporters and viewers are saddened to hear that news. I hope that you’ll extend my thoughts to Rachid for his speedy recovery and also for his staying mentally strong through what must be a difficult time.
Ahansal: I know Rachid well and I think that he is stubborn enough, strong mentally enough, and he will recover. I will certainly deliver your message to him as soon as I’m able to be there.
iRF: Those things are good news. Let’s talk about the future for one moment. A little birdie might have told me this morning that you have plans to return to the MdS in the next couple years. You have some victories, you have a whole bunch of second places, are we going to see you racing again here?
Ahansal: I know that the 30th birthday of Marathon des Sables will be coming in a few years, and that should be a big one, so I want to stay until then. After that, I might just add another one so I can reach number 20. More than 2000km!
iRF: I was going to say that’s a lot of kilometers in the legs!
Ahansal: And I hope my knee stays healthy so he can do it.
iRF: Well, I want to say congratulations to you on your second place in the 2012 Marathon des Sables and I hope your recovery goes well. We hope to see you out here in the desert in future years.
Ahansal: Thank you for your covering the race and thank you for all the broadcasts you have given! And say hello to America! I’m coming to the Teton race with Jay and Lisa in September!
iRF: Well, if you come to the Teton races in September, I’ll come to the Teton races in September! I only live a short distance from there, so we’ll see each other in September.
iRF: Inshallah. Thank you again and congratulations. And thank you again, Amar, for your second translation.
Amar: Anytime! I’ll be the official Arabic translator from now on!
Ahansal: And congratulations for your race (fifth place woman!), as well!
iRF: Thank you.