The Sahara Desert’s Marathon des Sables (MdS) is as scorching as it is revered. After an October comeback last year following a 2.5-year COVID-19-induced hiatus, the race returned to Morocco again this March.
Temperatures well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit and plenty of blistering sunshine are hallmarks of the seven-day, 155-mile desert stage race. Finishing it — or simply running in it — is no joke. Each year, race organizers deploy 120,000 liters of water, a support staff numbering in the hundreds, and a wide array of vehicles, aircraft, and even camels to monitor the action and keep runners safe.
Last year, brutal heat and a virulent stomach bug caused an unusually high 40% dropout rate. In this edition, conditions in the field appear somewhat more stable. However, challenging desert weather still wreaked havoc at times throughout the week of racing.
The 2022 Marathon des Sables started with fair weather on Sunday, March 27. But high heat and howling wind beset the race’s second stage the next day. Though only moderately long, Stage 2 also negotiated plenty of steep terrain.
The wild second stage scrambled runners, especially some perennial race favorites. Eight-time MdS winner Rachid El Morabity (Morocco) led the field coming out of Stage 1 but lost 9 minutes during the marathon-length Stage 2. He landed in third place behind his younger brother, Mohamed El Morabity, a first for the pair as Mohamed has finished second in this race four times, and each behind his winning brother. Mohamed maintained his lead — by a razor-thin margin of 37 seconds — through Stage 4 on Wednesday.
On the women’s side, first-time Marathon des Sables entrant Anna Comet (Spain) was untouchable. Comet ran in a league of her own for the majority of the race, building a lead of up to 53 minutes by the end of Stage 4. Sylvaine Cussot (France) set an equally solid course all week, generally finishing several minutes behind Comet but well in front of the rest of the field, to hold in second place all week.
The gun sounded at the 2022 Marathon des Sables’ fifth and final competitive stage on Friday, April 1. The first finishers broke the tape in the early afternoon, Moroccan local time. The final, noncompetitive Stage 6 takes place on Saturday, April 2.
2022 Marathon des Sables Men’s Results
Rachid El Morabity stormed back to win, outpacing the rest of the field — and his younger brother — in the race’s final stage. Mohamed led by around half a minute at all checkpoints on Stage 5, but Rachid overtook him late, and then pulled away.
His Marathon des Sables dominance continues — it’s the ninth time he’s won the race.
Mohamed El Morabity played second fiddle yet again. He claimed his fifth runner-up MdS finish all-time.
Aziz Yachou (Morocco) was the only other runner to finish under 19 hours cumulatively. A strong Stage 5, where he took second, left him 4 minutes back of Rachid El Morabity’s week-long pace. This is Yachou’s second MdS effort, and he improved on his fourth-place debut in 2021.
Merile Robert (France) took fourth and missed the podium for the first time since 2017, and Jordan Tropf (United States) took fifth.
- Rachid El Morabity (Morocco) — 18:33:28
- Mohamed El Morabity (Morocco) — 18:34:34
- Aziz Yachou (Morocco) — 18:37:46
- Merile Robert (France) — 21:12:33
- Jordan Tropf (United States) — 21:19:37
2022 Marathon des Sables Women’s Results
Thanks to Anna Comet, the 2022 women’s Marathon des Sables was never close. She came into Stage 5 leading by almost an hour, and then broke the tape over an hour before second-place finisher Sylvaine Cussot in the cumulative rankings.
Aziza El Amrany (Morocco) rounded out the podium, a sharp debut performance for this Moroccan breakout runner.
2021 MdS women’s winner Aziza Raji (Morocco) finished fourth and Manuela Vilaseca (Spain) came in fifth.
Bethany Rainbow (United Kingdom) finished sixth as the only other woman to run the race in under 30 hours. She ran a valiant final stage to come in under the gun, finishing just 4:30 behind Comet for second place in the stage.
- Anna Comet (Spain) — 24:18:33
- Sylvaine Cussot (France) — 25:32:34
- Aziza El Amrany (Morocco) — 26:31:52
- Aziza Raji (Morocco) — 27:29:35
- Manuela Vilaseca (Spain) — 29:38:27